Why Your HR Manager May Hate You

Last Updated Aug 24, 2011 7:21 AM EDT

So, hate is a strong word, and of course your HR manager doesn't hate you. You are a model employee. But, your coworkers--that's a different story. Your HR manager most likely hates them. The reasons are quite plain--HR is tasked with both helping the business through recruiting, retaining and developing the best employees and with making sure the company is in compliance with hundreds, if not thousands, of laws and regulations around those employees. Sometimes those two tasks can be in conflict and it seems like the very people we are tasked with helping to succeed are trying desperately to destroy the company as fast as they can.

Wayne Turmel, the Cranky Middle Manager, recently asked me why HR hates people. I, of course, denied any feelings of hatred whatsoever, but this is a lie. There are people HR can't stand, and here they are:

The Perpetual Whiner. There is nothing that goes right for this employee. There's always someone harassing this person or perhaps merely assigning unpleasant tasks. This person comes in late, leaves early and complains all day about how overworked he is, even as his coworkers work twice as long as he does. The first few complaints of discrimination from the whiner get thoroughly investigated, but after the third time we go through the process only to find out that the whiner is the problem, his complaints fall on deaf ears.

The Never Wrong Manager. This manager knows everything. She's smart and accomplished and graduated magna cum laude. Therefore, she is utterly convinced that she is never, ever wrong. She handles everything herself and refuses to admit a mistake. Because she truly believes she's never wrong, when she does make a mistake it takes 10 times the effort to fix the problem as it should. She refuses coaching and takes the fact that her turnover is sky high as further proof of her brilliance. (Because if her employees were just smarter they would see that she is right!)

The Doomsayer. This person resembles the whiner, but his focus is on the big picture. The new product launch is never going to work, so why bother? The new hire will certainly fail in his role, so he won't bother training this person. The economy is tanking, so we might as well get used to the idea of eating cold cracked wheat for every meal, if a drought in the midwest doesn't destroy the wheat crops first. This person is a drain on everyone's morale and certainly contributes to a self-fulfilled prophecy.

The Tattle-Tale. This person is eager to let HR know every fault that every other employee has. She appears in our office if someone takes a 1 hour 3 minute lunch. She is there to let us know that someone else was on Facebook and that John and Jane are both married to other people, yet she saw them eating lunch together twice last week. If anyone's wearing open toed shoes the world just might come to an end and the tattle-tale makes sure HR knows about it. Of course, if there was actual illegal behavior going on, she wouldn't recognize it and would never report it.

The That-Doesn't-Apply-To-Me Executive. This person thinks the VP title means he does not have to follow the rules any more. Sure, if the CEO doesn't care if you take more than your allotted vacation time, we don't either. But, your benefits open enrollment form? It's due the same time as everyone else's. The mandatory sexual harassment training? Yes, mandatory means you have to come. You can't fire people at random--you must follow the guidelines in the employee handbook or it opens the company up to lawsuits. Sarbanes-Oxley regulations? Yep, you must follow those too. Your title does exempt you from some things, but get your darn paperwork in on time and stop being a jerk.

The Super Nice Manager. This manager is lovely to go to lunch with. She's positive and friendly and never says an unkind word to anyone. Seems like a dream, right? Well, except when employees need actual correction, which she doesn't give. She lets things go on and on and on until it's so horrible that she can't take it any more and wants to fire the person right now! The only problem is there is no documentation and the employee has no idea she's done anything wrong because the manager never said a thing until the problem is so large it's difficult to fix.

The Law Breaker. He wants to fire women when they get pregnant, not pay overtime and not allow any reasonable accommodation. He doesn't think through the consequences of his actions, especially when dealing with legalities. And heaven forbid HR should try to correct this law breaker. No one short of legal counsel can convince him that the law is what the law is and therefore, all other opinions aside, he must follow the law. Even if this means allowing an employee to move a computer three feet.

The Employee Who Thinks HR=Therapist. She has problems, but that's not the problem. HR will steer this person towards the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or ensure time off so she meet with a therapist, but we cannot solve your issues. We're sympathetic to your issues, but we don't want to hear about your troubled childhood. It's not because we're mean, it's because we're not therapists. In fact, we don't provide marriage counseling either. We'll help you get along with your boss, but that's where it ends. So, please, call the EAP and follow their advice.

Honestly, we like most employees. We like working with people--that's why we became HR people in the first place. But, some employees are not our favorites. Stay out of these categories and you should hear no complaints from us.

For further reading:

Photo by sergis blog, Flickr cc 2.0