One of the biggest drawbacks to corporate work is that, if you're not careful, you develop narrow corporate vision. You get so busy with projects and deadlines that the things that get short changed are usually visiting with you in all the buildings and workplaces. After all, that doesn't give us an immediate return, and we have all these looming deadlines. First thing you know, you've lost touch on certain issues. One of those, and it came home to me this past week, is that we assume that everyone knows some fundamental rules about how we operate in HR regarding issues that come to our office. After all, we all know these rules, and the people who work in our same building and that we see every day know them, and our friends know them, so doesn't everyone? Well, no, and so I want to say this plainly and explicitly for those of you who may not know.
1. Who Can Come to HR? Anyone! You don't have to go through your supervisor, you don't have to get permission, you don't have to be of a certain rank in the company. HR is for everyone. People come to vent about their supervisor, supervisors come to vent about their people, and we have very sensitive personal issues that come up from time to time from people of all ranks. Our doors are open...
2. What Can be Discussed in HR? Anything! If its on your mind and it bothers you, that's one of the main reasons why we're here. We may not always agree with you, or maybe we will. Regardless, come get it off your chest. Maybe we can help. We also act as a clearinghouse for resources such as retirement planning with Merrill Lynch, the Employee Assistance Program for personal issues, medical resources for benefits problems, etc... People trust us every week with a variety of issues.
3. Will What I Say to HR Stay Confidential? That depends on the subject matter. If we hear a serious violation of company policy, or any violation of any laws, we're obliged to be agents of the company and act on that information. If, however, what you tell us falls short of policy or legal violations, what you say in HR stays there unless or until you give us permission to act on that information. We're kinda like Vegas that way... If you say you're boss touched you inappropriately, for example, you don't get to say, "but don't tell anyone". If you say, on the other hand, "I think my boss is a jerk" that stays with us.
4. Can I Complain About Friends of the HR Department? No workplace friendship outweighs our obligations to the company and to the workforce. Having been here almost six years now, certainly I've made some good friends. I'm also harder on them than I am those whom I just consider to be co-workers. If you're having a problem with someone who is close to any of the HR staff, me included, rest assured on two things: they won't hear your complaints if you want it kept confidential (see 3 above), and if you do want something addressed we'll be more frank and forceful with our friends than with anybody else.
5. Can I Complain About a Company Leader? Aren't They all Protected? Don't They all Stick Together? I work for Mike Hyatt. I can tell you emphatically that making money and being financially successful is too low a performance threshold for Mike. He wants us to succeed, but insists that we do it the right way. "Winning ugly" at the expense of people and/or in a way that contradicts our corporate values is not acceptable. As such, nobody is above the law.
So there you have it. These are things that we live by and have for years. None of this is new information to the HR staff and those with whom we interact daily. Will you hear differently at the water cooler? Probably, but not often. Not everyone with whom we come in contact likes their outcomes, and so we get our fair share of criticism to be sure. But also be sure that we strive always to be a group of dedicated professionals whose mission it is to recruit, retain, and provide a positive work experience for the greatest possible percentage of our workforce. When we fall short, I want to hear about it. But when we fall short it will never, and I mean never, be because we can't keep a secret, because we have buddies, because we cover for the powerful, or because we don't have everyone's (both yours and the company's) best interest at heart.