Otherwise Known as “What Not to Do as an HR Professional

While I know that most of my HR colleagues are at the epitome of professionalism, I want to dedicate this article to the NOT so professional and sometimes off-putting behaviors exhibited by some that claim the HR title. These behaviors are described slightly tongue in cheek, but are real situations that I have either seen, heard or got in mails from employees, managers & friends in various companies. Unfortunately, they did nothing to engender the perpetrator to their employee base.

First off, I have to say-if you see yourself in these descriptions, don’t get upset. Take it as an opportunity to improve. I can guarantee the people you work with will appreciate it. For everyone else, it will just be an amusing read. At the very least, I think we can all attest that we have seen one of these behaviors at one time or another. The main thing is not to take ourselves too seriously. We may be HR Managers, but we can still poke a little fun.

So, without further ado, here is my list of the “Top 10 HR Pet Peeves”, as described by staff and front line operations managers from a variety of companies.


Ques: Why does my HR rep talk to me like she’s a psychiatrist? She uses the most pacifying voice and it really grates on my nerves!

Ans: I think that your HR rep is actually trying to give you her undivided attention and show her concern. The problem is that some folks may go a bit overboard with the “I’m Listening” persona. But chalk it up to good intentions and bad acting.


Ques: My HR rep only answers emails if I CC the HR director and my department head. What’s up with that?

 Ans: Unfortunately, some people need an element of fear to perform. These are the same people who don’t pay the gas bill until they get a shut off notice and save preparing the big presentation until the night before the huge meeting. I’m sorry, but there is nothing you can do to change them. Just continue cc-ing their boss. I think they actually like it when you do. Otherwise they wouldn’t let it get to that point, now would they?


Ques: The HR Generalist in our company is totally inaccessible. It is known that she lets all calls go to voicemail- it’s a running joke amongst the managers. Once, I called her extension and didn’t get an answer, so I walked downstairs to the HR suite. What do I see but the Generalist you’re sitting at her desk painting her nails! She gaped at me with a look of surprise and nail brush poised in mid-air-BUSTED!

Ans: Wow, this one is a doozy. In her defense, HR folks are bombarded with calls, so it’s sometimes easier to let the machine get it and prioritize who to call back and deal with first, in order of importance. HOWEVER, if this person has a reputation for not answering, she’s gone to far. And you should NEVER polish your nails at work. I don’t care if there is an door on your office. Way unprofessional.


Ques: On numerous occasions, I have heard HR people discussing employee information out loud within earshot of others when stopping through the HR suite. Some people will even yell out of their office to the generalist seated 15 feet away-hey Barb, do you have that corrective action for so and so? I’ve picked up some juicy gossip that way, but boy, what happened to confidentiality?

Ans: This one is a no brainer. If HR can’t maintain confidentiality, what hope is there for the other 800+ employees of the company?  This is a sad, sad day.


Ques: My HR rep always promises to call me back with the answer to my question-then doesn’t. Please don’t tell me you’ll call if you won’t. It’s just a tease and makes me think the issue is being handled. I hen loose credibility with my reps.

Ans: Ouch, this one can really jam an operations manager up. But remember, that HR rep has a whole company to do research for. If it’s only an occasional thing, cut him some slack.


 Ques: Don’t conduct training in a subject that you are unqualified to speak on. For some reason my company sent the recruiter in to fill in for the Benefits Specialist in our Supervisor Training. If you can’t get the right person, don’t waste our time-reschedule.

Ans: Duly noted. Couldn’t agree more.


Ques: Every time I call the benefits specialist, she either tells me to call the corporate benefits hotline for more information, or she has to research it and call me back…..but I thought you were the benefits specialist?!!!

Ans: No arguments from me. I think the specialist should know more than the basics of the programs the company maintains. I’m not saying you have to have the employee handbook memorized, but a thorough knowledge of the benefits package is a must. Get a cup of coffee and get to reading!


Ques: As a Manager, I want to place someone on corrective action or terminate them, but HR is soft on the indiscretion, wanting me to give the employee what equates to 1000 chances to screw up before I can do anything.

Ans: Some managers don’t realize all of the legal angles that an HR rep has to protect the company from. One of those is wrongful termination. While we don’t like slackers any more than you do, we have to be careful. Also, in the employee’s best interest, we need to make sure they were given a chance to improve. Everyone deserves a chance, right?


Ques: When I quote a company policy to my employees and they go to HR for clarification, instead of backing me, they say “It’s at the discretion of your manager” What the?? I didn’t make the rule, HR did. And if it is at the discretion of every manager, there is the potential for a million and one interpretation. What happened to consistency in treatment?

Ans: Again, I agree with this one. I don’t like it when HR and Operations Managers can’t work together to implement the company policies. In my opinion, this type of HR person has “I need to be liked” syndrome, and doesn’t want to be viewed as the bad guy. But little does she know, she is undermining her relationship and credibility with the Managers. You’re not in this to make friends.


Ques: The HR clique. Almost like in high school, there seems to be a clique for certain groups, including HR. HR people seem to stick to themselves, and get eerily quiet when a non-HR person dares to enter their domain. Also, there seems to be a designated table in the cafeteria reserved for the HR clique. I can tell by the looks and whispers that they are talking about us employees.

Ans: I laughed out load at this one. Although most people gravitate towards people who have similar interest, I don’t know that there is an “HR Clique” per se. The HR reps may stop speaking when you enter because they were discussing confidential information about another employee. I’m sure if it were you they were discussing, you would appreciate the hushed tones in someone else walked in.

As far as the lunch table, I’ll give you the same advice I would give to a High School Sophomore: Be bold, go up to the cool table and introduce yourself. Sit down and have lunch and let the kids get to know you. You never know, you may be invited to hang out at the mall after school.

No members of HR were harmed in the writing of this post.