Why I Hate HR

Periodically we see a slate of blog posts and articles with titles like the above. Incidentally, a good way to get hits on your blog is to put inflammatory words like “hate” in the title. “Sex” works too.

Pundits, frequently without any HR knowledge, castigate an entire discipline with a few snarky comments, wipe their hands and walk away.

Not so fast. Would you put down the entire accounting profession because you don't get accounting? Write off marketing if you don't understand it? Sales? Okay: never mind the sales question.

If you want to apologetically wear the hairshirt of 'HR sucks' taking it off only long enough to roll around naked in the briar patch a la St Benedict, be my guest. I happen to love what I do.


We make a difference


  • We have to interact with every part of the organization. We need to speak their language and understand their business for us to have any impact. We have to be plugged in. We don't get to choose whom we work with staying close to only those we like (or prefer): the organization is our customer.
  • We have to consider the entire organization's needs when making decisions on policies and practices. Sometimes the right thing for the company to do is for a department or team to not do what they propose. HR has to say no in the right way, but be clear, we say no. Thinking organization-wide requires it. Other people have organization-wide perspectives too: they're called the C-level.
  • We have to coach and counsel leaders and yet know when enough is enough. Its hard but we have to make the call when someone is no longer effective in their role, and may be damaging others. We don't make the decision to remove someone but its our job to start that conversation. That's a heady responsibility. Wimps need not apply for this role.
  • We protect the company and care for its people. This seemingly trite statement is the hardest thing we do: we have two different and sometimes conflicting needs and yet, its a fundamental role we play. We need to be fair to all our constituents even while knowing life isn't always fair, or fun. We're not dealing with resources – we're working with people.

Business is the greatest drama in the world

On any given day greed, passion, desire, vision, manipulation, trust, faith and belief all manifest in the workplace. From people at their best to their worst we see it all. There's nothing more exciting than trying to bring people together under these circumstances.

Most of the HR professionals I've worked with feel the same. The expectation is that day in and day out we commit to our best knowing each day is another roller coaster ride.

And while we don't do as well as we want to every day, our commitment can't waver.

I love what we do folks.

We make a difference.



7 thoughts on “Why I Hate HR

  1. Christopher, I presume the title of your post is a hat-tip (or at least a reference) to the infamous “Why We Hate HR” article… that, despite being anonymously written by “staff” of the magazine it was in, publicly shamed a poor conference presenter, giving her name and employer. It suffers the same fate – search for “IT Doesn’t Matter” and you’ll find pieces in the NY Times and HBR on the them.

    I think both HR and IT suffer from being caught between their obligations to be strategic enablers of business strategy, and their obligations to be gate-keepers and guardians of the organisation at the same time… often, as you point out, you need to say no (the right way). I think, however, that the special brand of acerbic commentary directed at HR is because while bad IT is frustrating, bad HR has serious implications for people’s quality of life. Working in HR is an honor and a great responsibility – great HR practitioners wield it wisely!


    • As usual your points are on-target and well-though-out Alex. HR is a great responsibility and I have never gotten the popular story about HR as slowly out of touch people dictating rules and so forth. The HR I’ve been doing – or attempting to – in my career is as you suggest: strategic yet focused.

      Thank you so much for your comments Alex! (And keep writing your blog!)

  2. I doubt that many people would disagree with what it is HR is supposed to do – just whether they are any good at it.

    That often boils down to the calibre of the individual HR people.

    I think, like many things, HR has allowed itself to evolve to a point where some kind of affirmative action needs to happen. By that, I mean for HR to start changing its own gene pool.

    That might mean that they stop hiring their own staff from the ranks of the vocationally HR-trained, and instead, start hiring people from the business – people who have practical hands-on experience (from the other side of the divide) of some of the issues HR have to try to resolve.

    If HR had more hard-nosed business people working in its ranks rather than glorified ambitious administrators, it’s probably more likely to be taken more seriously as a function that can have real strategic impact.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Mitch: I appreciate them. And I agree that HR could use some hard-nosed business types as long as they manage people with care. With the benefit of grey hair now I can say “ruthless” as an operating strategy has a poor long-term ROI.

      Yes, affirmative action is renewal and HR could benefit. My point – which I already made in the post so I’ll be brief – was that we should be careful about castigating an entire discipline based on subjective expereince.

      Your points are noted Mitch.

      Thank you for reading – and for taking the time to comment!

  3. Talk to me ( ok write…) as I want not to dislike my HR. I work abroad for a US company. I was moved here. And now that I am here only one person in HR returns my email. I am trying to get the official story on work visas. I want to understand how to communicate with them so we are not frustrated.
    Hang in there, Sandra in Chile

    • Well Sandra, it sounds as if you need more support from your HR team. At least someone to return an email! Have you tried calling and telling them you need some information? Most HR people are very helpful once they know there is a need!

  4. Pingback: Hold Page 9: Do we still hate HR? | Don't Compromise

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