Bob Goldman




Human Resources, You Serious?

What's the easiest way to get fired? You could tell your managers what you really think of their policies and personalities, or if you really want to speed up the process, you could simply tell human resources.

As the only department with a "human" in its name, the HR department positions itself as an oasis of safety in the business battlefield. Marketing is the home of marauding Mongols. The executive wing is populated with rabid Genghis Khans. But HR is full of helpful Heidi's. HR is the Switzerland of office geography, and they're only here to make your work life better.

Or are they?

If you still cling to the notion that HR people are on your side, it's certainly understandable. When you first came into the company as a bright-eyed, optimistic applicant, it was through the HR birth canal. And when you leave the company, a bitter, broken husk of your former self, it will be through the HR disposal unit. The lifeblood of our careers is spilled in the hallways of the HR department, but that doesn't mean we also have to spill our guts.

Amy Levin-Epstein, a writer on CBS MoneyWatch, agrees. In her recent article, "4 Things Never to Share with HR," Levin-Epstein blows the whistle on why HR blows. "HR is there to help you deal with your manager," she says, "but they're also there to help your manager deal with you, so don't count on privacy."

No. 1 of the four things not to share is anything "you wouldn't share with your direct manager." In other words, if you expect HR to keep your opinions of your manager confidential, you've got another thought coming and another job coming, as well.

"HR works in that difficult space between employees and management," Bruce Clark, CEO of a human resource management firm, tells Levin-Epstein, "and must act on serious issues they learn about, whether you want them to act or not."

If you want to know on which side of that "difficult space" HR invariably leans, ask yourself the following question. Who pays the HR person's salary? If it isn't you, you shouldn't be too surprised if the confidential concern about your supervisor's sanity that you whisper into the shell-like ear of an HR person quickly makes its way into the in-basket of the same, insane supervisor.

"Go to HR for help in solving problems," CEO Clark suggests "but not as a substitute for a best friend or a neighbor." Or a pet beagle, or a talking bagel, or a complete stranger on the bus, none of whom will have any idea of how to solve your problem, but they won't go running to your manager, either.

Bob Goldman

Bob Goldman is a business humor writer.

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