Who does HR really work for?

imagesSUMMARY: HR managers and executives primary responsibility is to the company and its shareholders.  If HR fails to identify and weed out bad managers than they are short changing the brand, the company and other employees.

Anne had worked at the same company for three years and had recently been promoted. She was considered a top performer and had stellar reviews, but her new manager was causing her to have doubts about staying with the company.

Her manager often emailed her after 7PM and expected responses no matter what time of day or night.  When Anne went on vacation, she was told that she had to call into two meetings during the middle of the day.  In addition, she found out that her manager had taken credit for a project that Anne led.  The last straw came when Anne called her manager and told her that she was working from home because of a major snowstorm. Her manager, the next day, put a written warning in her file.  For Anne, that was it.


Anne made the mistake of going to HR.  She had documentation and was very professional when she met with her HR manager.  Two days later Anne was called on the carpet by her manager for “going over his head” to HR.  As Anne later told me, “that was not a pleasant conversation”.  She resigned a day later, took a month off and quickly found a new job.  She had also learned that at least three other people had gone to HR to complain about the manager. Their response? They sent her to a management conference.

Did HR do their job here?  Obviously not.  Despite the political ramifications they should have talked with both the manager in question and her supervisor.  At some point in time someone should have come to the conclusion that she was in the wrong position.  By not taking the appropriate action the company lost four people and had 100% turnover within a crucial department.


All too often HR takes the side of management and implements policies or actions that they know are wrong.  Why? Fear mostly.  Fear of losing your job or fear of rocking the boat and being seen as “not being a team player”. HR can make or break your organization , but it’s up to executives to ensure that they have HR people who understand the difference between what is right and what is politically right.

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