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Is your HR manager a dud?

The department that everyone loves to hate is HR, and for good reason too.
Vagueness, indiscretion, and paperwork fixations are all warning signs that you might have a dud human resources team in your organisation.

HR departments are often associated with duplicative and bureaucratic processes as well as acting as a handmaiden of the management team. Still, a good HR person – and there are some – can be invaluable when it comes to showing managers the ropes on people management techniques, giving advice on hiring staff and establishing programs that develop the workforce and allow employees to feel that they are engaged and part of a team.

But many would say those people are far and few between. The problem with HR in Australia is that it seems to put most of its focus on execution, in both senses of the word, instead of offering strategic advice to managers. In the end, it’s like any profession. There are good operators and there are duds. So how do you know when you have a dud?

Suzanne Lucas, otherwise known in the blogosphere as Evil HR Lady details some warning signs we should watch out for. “Here are 9 red flags that your HR manager is doing a terrible job.” she writes. “Ignore them at your own risk.”

The first is that the HR person seems very confident. They know everything and won’t run things past lawyers for advice on those ‘little’ issues like unfair dismissal and harassment. Secondly, they fail to review resumes and keep sending you unqualified candidates. Thirdly they know nothing about the business and give you blank stares when you try talking to them about it.

Other problems she cites include them sucking up to management, sticking blindly to rules, only spinning into action when there’s a crisis (like rejecting or ignoring applications for a raise until that employee resigns), failing to fire underperformers and instead making it the manager’s problem. She also warns that many are incapable of using hard data to evaluate programs because they’re not good with numbers.

Some employment lawyers warn the problem with HR departments is that they tend to take the path of least resistance because it means less work for them. “Ask yourself: if one employee were complaining about a hostile work environment, would it be easier to change corporate culture or take action against a mid-or high-level manager who’s causing the problem. . . or would it be easier to get rid of the complaining employee?” advises a US employment law portal.

“So you need to assume that HR will tell management about your problem. You should also assume that if there’s not good, solid evidence on your side, the natural, human tendency for HR will be to assume that the problem lies in you, not the company—since that makes less (sic)problems for them.”
Sound familiar?

The HR World newsletter identifies 18 bad habits of human resources staff. These include being indiscrete with the large amount of confidential information they come across, failing to deliver clear salary, benefits and job information, treating employees like the enemy, not having the same rules in their own department, playing favourites, delivering bad news by email and hiring the wrong sort of people because they have failed to analyse what the job entails.

Other complaints are that many fail to follow up employee requests or complaints, don’t implement systems that reward people for a job well done, have unclear policies and too many rules, and get caught up playing referee instead of letting managers take responsibility for sorting out problems with staff.

Leon Gettler
The Sydney Morning Herald

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