How HR Can Avoid Becoming Cynical

Long time HR people always find it amusing when interviewing someone who is just starting out in the profession, who answers the “why do you want to work in HR?” question with, “I just love people!” Look, we all loved people, and then we became HR people.

People ask me why I chose the moniker “Evil HR Lady,” and I say, “Would you read the “Warm and Fuzzy HR Lady?” But I didn’t just choose it for the shock factor.

People often view their HR managers as evil – after all, we’re the ones who employees blame for low raises, short breaks, and inflexible work schedules. “HR said no,” a boss will say when explaining to an employee while the hoped for raise didn’t happen.

The reality is, HR did say no, but the manager never gives the true reason.

To keep reading, click here: How HR Can Avoid Becoming Cynical

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11 thoughts on “How HR Can Avoid Becoming Cynical

  1. Nice article and the truth really hurts — I have never seen one, that’s right not one, HR department that operates in the fashion you advocate.

    Perhaps, when all the baby boomers retire and companies have to deal with the up and coming generations (all of which seem to change jobs at will) things will change, but I would not count on it.

    1. Thanks! I had the privilege of working for an exceptional HR department. Exceptional. Where do you think I learned it all?

      I realize such departments are not the norm, but they should be!

  2. Not in HR; But, I’ve worked with HR over the years.

    That “HR said no” is so spot on – I’ve had to bite my tongue when I hear a manager say that knowing full well that I just came from HR and know that they were never even made aware of whatever it is the manager is talking about.

    One day, I will just blurt out – “No, they didn’t!” And, I’m sure that I will be “reported to HR” for that insubordination.

  3. I’ll define cynicism as a “general distrust of others’ motives.” How might HR staff members develop cynicism of the motives of other employees? Three observations:

    First, since HR controls the HR policies, I have witnessed egregious and self-serving actions by HR executives to manipulate the HR policies in their favor. Some of these were of highly questionable ethics.

    Second, in my 31 years working in factories I have only very rarely ever seen anybody from HR take a stroll through the manufacturing spaces, the warehouses, the loading docks, the labs, get on airplanes to visit remote locations. If HR staff members fail to connect with employees in the far corners of the organizations, then mutually held cynicism will surely arise.

    Third, I’ve never seen anybody from HR in any of the 7 companies at which I worked take the time to market to the rest of the employees what they do and what their responsibilities are. One could call this setting expectations among the employees. Many employee grievances with HR arise from simply not understanding what HR does, what they can do, what they can’t do. In addition, many employees fail to understand that HR is not their advocate. The duty of the HR team is to the executives and the shareholders. Employees’ misunderstandings of the HR activity contributes to cynical feelings among employees and in HR in reacting to the behaviors of employees.

  4. This article has put ME into a bit of a cynical mood. During my career I have gone from being an “employee” to being an “associate” (anyone remember Total Quality Management?) to being a “resource”. I fought that last one tooth and nail because it is so dehumanizing. When a manager would ask me what resource I wanted I would rephrase as, “Do you mean which person I want on this project?” But it was all for naught. I finally realized I had lost that war when a new template was given to us for ordering “resources” – and along with hardware and office supplies were listed people. And I wish I was joking about that.

    I’m not sure what part HR played in that devolution; perhaps none, perhaps it was all driven by the business side. But however it came about, we are not people any more, we are resources, and I think that colors so many thoughts and attitudes now in the business world.

    1. Totally agree!

      It really started way back when, and I’m sure it was before Evil’s time, when there wasn’t a “Human Resource Department.” It was called “Personnel” because the employees were “persons,” not a resource to be exploited.

      The name change reflected the new reality – folks are resources to be exploited. Well, okay, maybe the name change was not the cause – it simply reflected that they were now admitting it!

  5. “My manager rated me exceeds expectations and I really think I just met them.” – I actually did this once when I first started working. Never say never…

  6. I would suggest a “Going Green” policy that has nothing to do with energy savings.
    HR will be smiling all day long!

  7. I mentioned that to someone who’s a management consultant and she said ‘oh no, it’s supposed to mean that employees have a human resource to whom they can turn’.

    And they wonder why people are cynical … .

    1. Whoops – this was supposed to be in reply to the name change from personnel to human resource.

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