Radio 4 recently listed HR as the second most loathed profession. The primary reason for this is that they are seen as the executioner of jobs. When it comes to the day that someone with a job must learn that they don’t have one anymore – it’s HR’s job to deliver the bad news. The messenger instantly is framed as the perpetrator of the decision – so what are the other reasons HR is disliked?

When you are asked the immortal question, ‘What do you do’ and the answer is ‘HR’, the sad reality is that you probably don’t get met with a, ‘Wow that must be exciting’, or ‘You are so lucky to work in HR’?  Sadly, unveiling yourself as an HR professional can be met with suspicion, indifference or even hatred, even though you probably decided to work in HR because you like people.

I was listening to a Radio 4 programme this week on the jobs people love to hate. There were the usual suspects in there, estate agents, tabloid journalists, referees and stand-up comedians – I was surprised to see ‘corporate downsizers’, however, those whose job it is to fire people, all day, every day come in at number two just below estate agents. The senior HR Executive at consulting firm, RSM, talking on the programme says her job is to take the ‘dirty job’ of giving someone the flick away from front line management. In essence she is saving their skin so they continue to build good relationships with remaining staff who might be forgiven for being unnerved when their colleague is frog-marched out of the office by the person in HR.

Like Voldemort in Harry Potter it’s a reputation of darkness that is hard to shake but it’s not just that they are the department that do the sacking, there are other reasons that people say that HR is not top of the popularity stakes:

  1. No-one knows what they do: HR is working hard at stepping up its role as strategic business advisors but for many organisations there lingers a culture of suspicion that the department that sit in the top of the office don’t contribute to the base-line profits.
  2. HR is just about being nosey and knowing what everyone gets paid: we all know the stereotype of HR – the office gossip who just loves to know everyone’s business and exactly what everyone is paid. After all they are the profession that get to see everything, they issue the contracts and deal with all the personal issues, it’s hard to find a hiding place from HR and people aren’t usually comfortable with that.
  3. HR only turns up when the bad stuff happens: if a scandal hits, or the company is losing profits, HR is parachuted in to clean up the mess. This ‘dip in, dip out’ approach obviously doesn’t sit well with most employees that dislike it when HR is only seen when things start to turn ugly.
  4. They hold the key to the holiday allowances: as the record keepers of the precious annual leave chart they can dismiss your request for time off with little consideration that you have already booked your tickets to Glastonbury and are half-way there already, even worse, they may have recorded some of those half-days when you thought your absence from the office had gone unnoticed on the holiday chart. This does not win points in the popularity stakes.
  5. They have banned company away days and replaced them with team bonding ‘cake baking’ initiatives: you quite fancied a white water rafting trip or a day playing golf but instead you have to wrestle with flour and eggs because HR has cut the ‘fun budget’.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on whether you feel HR should be ranked just below estate agents in the most hated professions? Is your opinion of HR similar to this?  Let us know.

By Annie Hayes, HR freelance writer and expert.

Global Lingo supports Human Resource departments during grievance and disciplinary meetings and business restructurings. Working with Financial Institutions, Intergovernmental organisations and global Companies we provide specialist Minute-Takers for on-site or remote attendance delivering a detailed and accurate account of confidential and sensitive meetings.