What Are the 7 Deadly Sins of HR?

April 22nd, 2013
Ben Martinez
Video Interviewing

HR sits at the valuable intersection between being able to help people and grow a business-- but it doesn’t always have a good reputation. Many companies can tell stories of ineffectual, mistrustful, and useless HR representatives, which makes things much harder for those who are in HR trying to do their jobs well. If you'd like to be effective, here are seven deadly sins to avoid.

1. Staying old school.

Embracing the ways of the old “personnel department” by focusing on files and paperwork and forgetting about being an advocate for employees and management and embracing new technologies is a great way to ruin your reputation. The HR field has changed tremendously in the past few years. Use every technological tool at your fingertips to minimize the time you spend on paperwork and maximize the time you spend working with people face-to-face.

2. Acting like a “Hall Monitor”.

While many companies have guidelines about employee behavior, there's no need to go overboard on enforcing all the rules all the time. We're not saying you should ignore the rules that your company has in place, but disciplining people for small mess-ups like coming in late, taking a lunch that went a little too long, and checking their Facebook page is a great way to cultivate bad feelings. Now, if someone is consistently late, that's one thing-- just don't enforce the rules so strongly that you crush morale.

3. Ignoring the business.

You’re in HR, but that doesn't mean you don’t need to know about how the business runs, the customers, the market, or other business functions like Finance and IT. Don't stay in your office processing payroll and filing your I-9s-- make sure you know how the business really works.

4. Being a corporate spy.

This goes back to acting like a hall monitor. Watching your employees like a hawk and reporting to management on every move they make is another big morale buster. Try to coach employees through their issues instead of tattling on them to their boss-- helping people out is the best way to build positive relationships with employees.

5. Plugging your ears.

Too many HR personnel simply toe the corporate line and show no empathy to employees. What your employees have to say matters. Listen to them.

6. Staying silent.

If you see something amiss, call it out. Help the management team build effective relationships with people, motivate their workforce, and improve all-around performance. Speaking up to senior leadership about what you think is right can be difficult, but key to success-- yours, the employees', and the company's.

7. Hiding in your office all day.

This is a big one: it's important to socialize with employees. Show interest in their careers, development, or comfort in the office. Make sure everyone knows your door is always open, even if just to talk. One way to do this is to prop your door open and keep candy or other snacks on your desk-- and, when someone talks, listen.

HR isn't just about recruiting employees, it's about retaining them. Helping you employees grow personally and professionally is key to a happy, effective workforce, so do what you can to emphasize the humanity in human resources.