From “the complaint department” to “the principal’s office,” HR has been subject to the full gamut of buzzkill stereotypes. However, modern HR is working diligently to break down those misconceptions one by one, as they strive to build a workplace that motivates, rewards, and advances employees.
What better way to tackle these outdated notions of HR than to face them head on? These 10 industry professionals don’t shy away from the stereotypes, but call out the most heinous HR fallacies and explain why they simply aren’t true.
The Fun Police
“HR is so often seen as ‘the fun police’ and viewed as limiting or not allowing activities. I was the first HR person at my company, and the team did not know what to expect or if they could trust the person that would be in this position. It took time to develop that trust, which I did by clearly explaining any changes I made or policies I created, so employees would know that these things were meant to help create a safe and happy workspace.”
-Ariel Lopez, HR Manager, Geek Powered Studios
Watch Out For HR
“I always hear, ‘watch out, here comes HR!’ First of all, I'm not scary, and second, I don't even have the authority to fire anyone. In the worst case, I can still only assist our managers to exit a staff member who is not performing well.”
“The stereotype I encounter on a regular basis is that people in HR hate technology, fear innovation, or will do anything to fight the threat of disruption. As a startup CEO working with HR leaders, I often am asked: ‘How can we introduce technology into this industry?’ People are often incredibly surprised when I say the HR space is crying out for innovation. They want to be better at their jobs, spend less time on administrative tasks, and add value to the company.
An excellent HR executive is one with incredible emotional intelligence and extraordinary empathy. Does this mean they fear innovation? No. They know that innovation and technology cut the time they spend on the non-human aspects of the job. Technology means more time for hiring and developing talent. This myth needs to go. HR is one of the most forward-thinking departments of any company.”
-Xavier Parkhouse-Parker, CEO, PLATO Intelligence
Us Against Them
“I think people feel like HR is the enemy, or they're only there for the company's best interests. I always try to explain to employees that I'm there as a resource to help them.”
“One of the worst things I've heard people say about HR is that it's the place where creativity and ingenuity go to die. I want to help people realize that HR is a place to find answers, guidance, support, and most importantly, HR should be where great ideas start and are allowed to bloom.”
-Lauren Nuttall, Head of US People Operations and Culture, Omnia Media
“We have a very employee-centric company culture and don't like to have a lot of red tape or rules. Our employees are adults, and we trust and value them. We aren't here to be hall monitors or fun police. We are here to create a fun, safe culture that promotes high engagement and development.”
Isolated and Illusive
“I’ve heard that HR is the one department that’s isolated from everyone else. HR generally keeps to themselves, except when it’s time to lay down the hammer (whether that means taking away corporate lunches or firing your best friend).
Employees should recognize that HR has a tough job, and we are often relegated to the position of ‘bearer of bad news’. An unpopular HR department is probably an indication of a deeper problem within a company. It might be a negative company culture, or perhaps uncooperative managers force HR’s hand and make them out to be ‘the bad guy’ to save face.”
-Harrison Brady, Communications Specialist, Frontier Communications
The Firing Department
“People say that we’re only here to let people go, which is completely untrue. It makes me sad to hear about bad experiences with HR. Our role is to guide and help employees, not just be a rule enforcer or hire and fire people.”
The Complaint Department
“Most people tend to think of HR as ‘that place you go when your paycheck hasn’t cleared’ or a general center for complaints and queries. In truth, HR is really about ensuring that the inner mechanisms of a company are functioning well and efficiently. This means everything from ensuring employees are happy, to enforcing the rules of the company, to being a place for employees to go to discuss any problems in private and in confidence.
A good HR department can help boost employee morale, maximize efficiency, and minimize administrative tasks. HR departments can help break the stigma by holding group discussions with their staff. HR should be a personable and friendly place.”
-Caleb Backe, HR Representative, Maple Holistics
A Virus for the Company
“I have heard many negative things said about HR, but one of the worst was that HR is ‘a virus for the company.’ I always try to remind employees that the work that HR does is the most difficult in the company. People are complicated, delicate, and often unpredictable. All people have good days and bad days, and HR is always there to help employees find solutions. We should respect and admire the work of each HR professional.”
-Cristian Rennella, CEO, elMejorTrato.com
So don’t just take it from us—the field of HR is filled with dedicated professionals who want to support and engage employees. It’s time to push past these stereotypes and understand how strategic modern HR has become.