See If These Sound Familiar: The Biggest Lies You Always Hear From HR

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In my never ending quest to beat a blog series to death, let’s hope this is my last installment of “Top Lies.” (See How Job Candidates Lie, and the Best Lies They Always Seem to Tell, and, Please Don’t Hate Me! Here Are the Biggest Lies That Recruiters Tell).

At this point, I’ve completely pissed off “candidates” and made some fun of recruiters, so now it’s time to really have some fun with the easiest target of all — HR!

For the most, part my peers in HR have fairly thick skin. HR is actually used to being made the joke in the professional world. The only profession that gets made fun of worse is probably lawyers!

The top lies that HR tells

I could do an entire post on why HR lacks respect, but that has been done a thousand times, and in reality, having respect in HR isn’t a professional dilemma, it’s a personal one!

If you’re in HR and don’t have respect in your organization, don’t blame the HR profession — you need to look in the mirror!

All that being said, HR might be the king of the liars in your organization! Let’s break down a few of Top HR Lies:

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  • “In HR, we are here for ‘our’ employees” — HR is not an employee advocate. HR supports the organization’s leadership and mission. BTW – many HR Pros don’t even get this concept. When push comes to shove, HR will always support that way leadership wants to go, not the way employees want to go.
  • “You can tell it to HR because we are always confidential” — No, we’re not! HR has an obligation to look out for the best interests of the organization, not you. If you tell HR something “confidentially,” there is a very good chance that information will be shared with others in the organization. The reality is that HR has to mitigate the risk of the organization. Your craziness has risk to it.
  • We had no idea layoffs were coming…” – Sorry, but we did. But, we just can’t tell you that and create panic throughout the organization. So, we lie. It sucks, but there isn’t any other way.
  • No, you can’t change your health benefits until the next Open Enrollment. It’s the law” — Yeah, that’s kind of a lie as well. There are laws governing when we “have” to allow you to change your benefits (marriage, child being born, divorce, etc.), but HR can decide to change the plan rules and allow you to change something if we wanted. But, that becomes a logistical nightmare.

Even with keeping our plan rules intact, we can still get around it. Let’s say you are a young employee and chose the crappy, low-cost catastrophic major medical plan that basically covers nothing, but you’re young and nothing will ever happen to you. Then, something does happen to you. You come to HR and HR says, “We told you so! Sorry, you have to wait until next Open Enrollment; have fun with that cancer!

HR could actually fire you on a Friday, hire you back on Monday and have you sign up for the “new” insurance. Based on your plan there could be some audit risk based on IRS code, section 125, so check it out before you go do this. But, it’s not like you’re doing this all the time; this is maybe once a year for a desperate situation. I’ll take that risk (and  have) to help my employee in this situation.

  • “We fire people” — HR has never fired anyone, ever. Managers of employees fire people. HR just supports that decision, and frequently influences a manager to make that decision, but we don’t pull the trigger. Managers blame HR — “HR is telling me I have to do this” — but that’s a lie as well. HR advises managers of the consequences if certain actions aren’t taken. Ultimately, leaders make the final decision on what is actually going to happen.
  •  “Top performers get rewarded” — Actually, in most organizations even average performers get rewarded … and low performers, too. We have a compensation plan and don’t want to leave anyone out. So, you can be great and get a 3 percent raise. Your cube mate could be a slug and gets a 1 percent raise. How does that feel?
  • We treat everyone equally” — The reality is we treat certain employees better and give them more leeway to screw up, because they are more valuable to the organization. Not all employees are created equal. That was just something that sounded good on the poster for the break room. Some employees are actually substantially more valuable to the organization than you are. We treat them differently.
  • We value diversity and inclusion” — We actually really don’t give a crap about this. It gets shoved down our throats, legally, organizationally, etc. What we really care about is filling positions with solid talent. But leadership makes me provide a report that counts the color of faces, so now we have to care. So we care about the number of faces, not the true sense of diversity. Don’t hate the players; hate the game.

All right HR Pros – what big HR Lies did I forget?

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.

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