The Biggest Lie We Tell in HR (and Why Need to Stop Telling It)

I believe that telling lies can render a person insane. Seriously.

When a person makes a habit of lying, they eventually begin believing their own lies, and then they become a little crazy, unable to distinguish fiction from reality.

And so it goes with HR folks who insist on perpetuating the lie that money doesn’t matter.

BS walks … all the time

Word on the street is that it’s a candidate’s job market.

Hmmm …

I’ll believe THAT when I stop getting crappy job offers.

But what’s worse than getting a crappy job offer? It’s hearing an HR “pro” claim her offer isn’t crappy because she doesn’t see pay as reflective of my value.

Well, how magnanimous of you. I’m calling BS.

Culture instead of cash?

I can’t agree with Laurie Ruettimann that company culture is a myth, but I did nod my head at this line in her recent article:

We pay employees in culture when we can’t pay them in cash.

I nodded because I know from first-hand experience that some HR folks are still touting the untruth that culture is as valid a medium as a fair wage.

And with that untruth comes another untruth, namely, that the amount of moola an employer is willing to assign a position is all about financial ability and has nothing to do with how the employer views the function or the candidate.

Yeah, I know it sounds nuts, but that’s what the employer wants the candidate to believe when the employer tries to undercut the candidate and then says: “We’d like to pay more, but we just can’t afford it.”

Cut the baloney, please.

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Wanting something for nothing

Money always tells a story. In 99.999 percent of cases, if an employer isn’t willing to pay at least the market rate for talent, the employer doesn’t value the talent, or it doesn’t value the function. Period.

And said employer shouldn’t waste his breath talking trash about budgets, financial constraints, diminished sales, or funding cutbacks, because for every poor, underpaid sucker slugging away for culture instead of cash, someone else on that same payroll is being paid handsomely. Trust me on that.

So please, let’s stop lying to ourselves and to candidates.

It’s rude. It’s disingenuous. It’s a waste of time. It causes good employees to bolt. And, it makes us look silly.

I don’t want to hear it

Money talks. It always has, and it always will.

And no, I don’t begrudge an employer the right to assign a dollar amount to certain positions, or even to certain people, as it sees fit. These distinctions are necessary.

But please, don’t tell me your job offer doesn’t confer value.

That’s just a big fat lie.

Crystal Spraggins, SPHR, is an HR consultant and freelance writer who lives in Philadelphia. She also writes at her blog, HR BlogVOCATE. For the past 15 years, Crystal has focused on building HR departments in small- to mid-sized companies under the philosophy that "HR is not for wimps." She is also the CEO and Founder of Work It Out! and partners with HRCVision, a full-service HR consultant practice specializing in leadership and diversity training. Contact her at