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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Don't be a Useless HR Jerk!

I can count to more than ten the number of times that friends and clients call their HR Managers either useless or jerk or both. Sometimes I wonder how many times I've been called that myself.

Here are some of reasons why HR people are called useless or jerks or both:

1. Useless when they don't go beyond the transactional or administrative nature of the job that include recruiting, timekeeping, payroll processing, records keeping and request fulfillment. People obviously expect more from us without easing our loads with these stuffs. That's why there's technology and automation, let's get our hands to them.

2. Useless when they fail to recognize what the employees need in order to work better. While I believe that human resource development and performance management is everyone's job, it is an important HR Manager's responsibility. If we are not into it now, well, we're not being very useful.

3. Useless when they fail to work with other managers in establishing usefull policies and tools for creating a productive and efficient workplace. A lot of the policies I see circulating are hand-me-downs, and copy-paste, no thanks to the power of technology. I think managers both HR and line, need to sit together and start questioning the usefulness of these policies and tools and retain only those that are useful and create new ones.

4. Useless when they ignore organizational issues that need to be resolved. Some people are naturally conflict averse but I don't think HR can afford to be like that. We need to confront issues and confront people if that is what is needed to make things better.

5. Useless when the HR policies they created and maintain are unclear and therefore useless. Well, if we can't explain the policy no matter how useful we think they are, they are not.

6. Jerks when they try to accumulate too much power for themselves. I've seen this quite a number of times. Some HR Managers tend to hog decision making specially in the area of employee movement, disciplining and policy making. This is just wrong. The more we are able to engage other managers in making these decisions, the better off we are in building partnerships.

7. Jerks when they block other managers developmental initiatives because they believe that organization development is the exclusive province of HR. A line manager thought of an incentive scheme for his staff, the HR Manager criticizes it or block it not because it's not good but because they're not his. That's childish.

8. Jerks when they play politics with the boss by acting as the "eyes and ears" of the boss and telling the boss how messed up the other managers are. To say that this is old school is an understatement.

9. Jerks when they implement policies that are meant to take advantage and impinge on the rights of the employees. Some HR Managers think that they are doing the company a favor by implementing policies that are antilabor like, seasonal employment contracts, unfair working conditions, etc. Well, they're not. They are setting the ground for eventual reprisal that come in many ugly forms. Besides, their souls will burn in hell if they don't stop doing this.

10. Jerks when they behave like taskmasters, making their rounds, finding faults without considering due process and chain of command. There is an old tagalog term called "katiwala" or "kapatas" which loosely translates to taskmaster. The mindset of taskmasters is that everyone is lazy, mindless and up to no good so they have to be watched over so carefully. Some HR Manager seem to think that they inherited this responsibility which they didn't. A taskmaster job is obsolete and an HR Manager who still does this is also obsolete.

I like the term HR Partner which I find being used more frequently now because it describes the role of HR more closely to how I see it. partnership gives the relationship an even ground. HR is not more or less powerful than the units they are partnering with, they are not more or less responsible and accountable. That's what we need to be, an HR Partner.


  1. Anonymous2:59 PM

    Hello Sir Ed,

    I'm a BIG FAN!!!

    I'm currently working in a start-up BPO company, being a pioneer I do not hold a specific tittle nor a permanent designation. I'm like there consultant. But I started out in Recruitment from hiring agents to director post, i was able to pull it all off...

    Now, as we go bigger in numbers, I feel that our HR is like a machine solely dedicated in producing payroll system and giving out reprimands... being a pioneer as much as I want to interfere, it's there turf...

    I wish you could advise me on how to handle this situation...


  2. @anonymous, I don't envy your situation. It is in deed difficult to install more progressive HR initiatives when all they expect from you is manage payroll and churn out disciplinary memos. Sometimes however, the reason why that's all they expect from us HR is because that's all we are showing, hence that's all they know how to expect. I suggest that you show a bigger scope of what you can do by making human resource development plans and present them your plans so they know you can do better. If they see it and tell you to go back to payrolling and sending out memos, you have a choice between going back or applying your plan elsewhere. :)

  3. Anonymous3:22 PM

    I think it all depends on the personality of the HR MANAGER - HR tasks are easy to deal with if the idea to you is one of your interest - that is if your are a true blooded people person - you would do well in your organization.
    There are HR Managers who tend to forget that they should be the GUIDE to other bosses :) lol - they act as if they were just BULLETS fired by the gun held by other managers . . .


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