5 Things Never To Talk to HR About
Human resources: depending on your level of cynicism, it either sounds like a government agency in a dystopian novel or a place to get the tools you need, in order to do your job right. In reality, most HR departments are someone between the two. HR is a great place to learn about your benefits, get training to take your career to the next level, or find a mediator for conflicts on your team.
It’s not, however, the answer to every problem you’ll ever experience at work, and here’s why:
HR is not here for you. HR is here for the company.
One you understand that, you’ll have a much better chance of using human resources as, yes, a resource for your career, without letting them unnecessarily complicate your working life.
Here, for example, are a few times you should never, ever, contact HR:
1. When you want a very specific solution to your problem.
Want a new boss, and have a specific candidate in mind? HR might not be the answer. When you escalate an issue beyond your department, you’ll often get a solution to your problem … just not necessarily the one you wanted.
If you think you’d work better with a different manager, or on another team, or in another function, the first person to talk to is the woman or man in charge. This is where tact comes into play, especially if you’re trying to escape a specific co-worker or set of co-workers. Frame your potential move as a positive (you want to learn more about this role, or develop these skills, etc.) and not as a negative (if you don’t get away from George, you’re going to scream).
2. When you just need to vent.
Dealing with HR is like having a relationship with a very practical person: you might just be having a rough day or week on the job, but what you perceive as blowing off steam, HR will consider a cry for help. Worse, they might decide that you’re a complainer, and ignore you when you really do need help.
Don’t be the employee who cried wolf. Pick and choose your interactions carefully, and if you need to complain, pick someone outside the company as a sounding board. Then, make sure you’re not using company email, computers, or phones as a means of communication. In general, you don’t want to say anything at work that you wouldn’t print out and tape over your desk.
3. When you’re the problem.
Have your last three managers been total idiots? Are your co-workers always lazy, unreasonable, or real party poopers? If you keep running into conflicts, and other factors are changing, the issue might not be them — it might be you.
It’s hard to consider that we’re the cause of our own problems, but the good news is that it’s easier to fix issues that are close to home. Even if it turns out you’re not doing anything wrong, a little self-reflection is always a good idea, before bringing in outside parties.
4. When there’s no pattern of behavior.
We all have bad days. If your otherwise wonderful manager, report, or teammate snaps at you before a deadline, don’t create a mountain out of a molehill.
5. When you haven’t tried to fix the issue yourself.
Unless there’s a serious power differential involved or you otherwise feel unsafe — for example, in cases of sexual harassment – you owe it to yourself and your co-workers to try to solve the problem before escalating it up the chain. Put yourself in others’ shoes: how would you feel if the first time you found out about an issue was from HR? Probably not inclined to work things out in a reasonable manner, that’s for sure.
For most conflicts, going to HR should be a next step, after trying to communicate about the issue on your own.