9 Signs Your HR Manager is Terrible

9 Signs Your HR Manager is Terrible

by Suzanne Lucas

HR departments are often maligned as glorified paper pushers, but a good human resource manager is an invaluable resource, advising you on your people, management techniques, hiring and developing programs that will help you succeed.  

What--you say your HR manager isn't doing that? Then it may be the time to show him, or her, the door. 

Here are 9 red flags that your HR manager is doing a terrible job. Ignore them at your own risk.

First up:  He Never Says, "We Need to Ask the Lawyers."

Photo by gcoldironjr2003, Flickr cc 2.0

9 Signs Your HR Manager is Terrible

He Never Says, "We need to ask the lawyers"

He Never Says, "We need to ask the lawyers"

Employment law is complex.  It's always changing and always open to new interpretations.  Heck, just when companies all figured out that the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was for employers with 50 or more employees, the EEOC said that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) now can be construed as requiring medical leaves as well. That means smaller business could end up being required to give medical leave too.  If you don't comply? Fines and legal bills.

Red flag: If your HR manager is confident that he knows everything he needs to know and never needs to run anything by an attorney, you need a new HR manager. Now.

Next:  She Sends You Unqualified Candidates to Interview

Photo by Steve Punter, Flickr cc 2.0

9 Signs Your HR Manager is Terrible

She sends you unqualified candidates to interview

She sends you unqualified candidates to interview

One role of an HR person is to find qualified candidates for the hiring manager to interview and choose from.  Of course, the HR recruiter won't know as much as you do about the opening in your department, but the candidates that he or she sends to you should all be qualified.

Red flag: If the recruiter can't do a quality phone screen, or review a resume, or understand the difference between "must have" qualities and "nice to have" qualities, it's time for some new blood down in recruiting.

Finding well-qualified candidates is never easy, but if your HR person is sending you unqualified ones, she's wasting everyone's time.  

Next:  She gives you blank stares when you talk about the business.

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9 Signs Your HR Manager is Terrible

She gives you blank stares when you talk about the business

She gives you blank stares when you talk about the business

There is a ton of HR knowledge and skill that is applicable across industries, like how to conduct performance appraisals, EEOC requirements and proper interview skills. However, your HR manager also needs to understand your business if she is going to help you find, develop and retain the best employees. She should attend meetings that aren't directly related to HR in order to learn what the needs of the business truly are.

Red flag: If her responsibilities are over the sales force and she's never been on a sales call, that's a bad sign (She doesn't have to make the sale, of course, just accompany the salesperson.) Likewise, if she has responsibilities for a manufacturing site, but hasn't been down on the floor, that's a problem. After all, how can she address the needs of employees if she doesn't know what they actually do?

Next:  He always agrees with you.

Photo by Sarah G., Flickr cc 2.0

9 Signs Your HR Manager is Terrible

He always agrees with you

He always agrees with you

It's totally flattering to your ego to have the HR person always agree with you. You also may sincerely believe that since you are the boss, of course, you know best. And the HR person's job is to help the business, so  shouldn't he defer to you?  

Absolutely not. It's HR's job to help the business, and sometimes business people are wrong. An investigation of a performance appraisal may discover that the manager is at fault, not the employee. The bonus structure that brings in a lot of money may also be illegal. Either of these situations could end up being very expensive mistakes if not corrected.

Red flag: A good HR manager stands up to management when need be and explains what the consequences of a policy or action could be. Ultimately, it's your decision what to do, but if your HR manager is always saying yes to you, be wary. He's probably not paying close enough attention to the true needs of the business.

Next:  She never approves an exception.

Photo by Torley, Flickr cc 2.0

9 Signs Your HR Manager is Terrible

She never approves an exception

She never approves an exception

Rules are the rules are the rules. So, your HR manager follows the letter of the law when it comes to sexual harrassment allegations. She never allows racially charged remarks or discirminatory hiring practices. And she never approves a pay increase outside of the annual--wait. This last one is a problem.

Yes, rules and policies should all be followed, generally speaking.  Sometimes, however, an exception is necessary. An off cycle raise, for instance, can sometimes mean the difference between keeping a quality employee committed and focused and having that same employee start looking for a new job.

Red flag: No eating at your desk is good for customer facing customer service reps, unless your employee is diabetic and having quick access to food can be the difference between life and death.  Everyone must be in the office no later than 9:00 is a fine rule, except for the east coast employees who support west coast clients and are in the office until 8:00 or 9:00 in the evening.  Or a million other rules that are generally good ideas, but sometimes an exception makes sense.

If your HR manager balks at all exceptions, get a new HR manager.

Next:  He only fixes messes--that he created.

Photo by shaymus, Flickr cc 2.0

9 Signs Your HR Manager is Terrible

He only fixes messes--that he created

He only fixes messes--that he created

Is your HR manager the type who refuses to act until the moment of crisis? So he ignores or rejects your rejects your request for a raise for an employee--until that employee submits his letter of resignation? Or he fails to warn you that a particular bonus plan was problematic--until a class-action suit was filed. 

Red flag: Spinning into action when there's a crisis is a great trait--but not if the crisis was created in part by your HR's failure to act in the first place. One of the main functions of HR is to avert problems, which often requires foresight. If she only works on fixing the problem when it happens, it's time to go. Of course, not all problems can be prevented, but you should be regularly briefed on potential ones.

Next: She never approves firing anyone.

Photo by AKA Kath, Flickr cc 2.0

9 Signs Your HR Manager is Terrible

She never approves firing anyone

She never approves firing anyone

An employer can fire anyone--male, female, black, white, old, young, pregnant, sick--providing the reason for the firing doesn't violate the law. For example, you can't fire a woman because she's pregnant, but you can fire her for insubordination during her pregnancy.

Of course, you need to be cognizant of the legal ramifications before terminating a worker (and consult a lawyer, if necessary), but HR should help you fire a problem employee who doesn't respond to coaching.

Red flag: If your HR manager's response is to stick it out and hope the poor performer quits, or suggests transferring the employee or punishing the manager rather than deal with the problem,you need a new HR manager.

Sometimes, bad apples need to be tossed out.  If she can't help you do that, she's not helping the business.

Next:  He never met a number he liked.

Photo by michaelnpatterson, Flickr cc 2.0

9 Signs Your HR Manager is Terrible

He never met a number he liked

He never met a number he liked

Some HR people don't like numbers. It's why they aren't finance people.  But, if your HR manager can only tell you what he "thinks" about turnover or "feels" about one insurance plan versus another, he's not doing his job. Hard numbers are available. There should be data regarding turnover rates, time to hire and costs of health insurance.

Red flag: A good HR manager will be able to use the soft skills to teach and coach and have the hard skills necessary to show you why the training programs are working--or not. If he can't figure out how to evaluate a program or policy, using hard data, then he's not capable of doing his job.

Next:  His reaction to any problem?  Write up a new policy!

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9 Signs Your HR Manager is Terrible

His reaction to any problem: Write up a new policy!

His reaction to any problem: Write up a new policy!

Yes, HR people love policies because it helps bring order to the workplace. But does HR use them to avoid confrontation? Let's say an employee dresses inappropriately, does the HR manager coach you on how to talk to the employee or address the employee....or Is your HR manager's response to write up a new two-page document on dress codes and emails it to the entire company? 

Sending out blanket emails is the non-confrontational route that almost never works.  Employees who are clueless enough to dress inappropriately won't recognize themselves in the email blasts from HR--if they even read the messages. 

Red flag: Yes, policies are necessary, but simply issuing policy statements rather than addressing actual behavior lapses means your HR manager isn't doing his job.