Debunking common myths about HR
Engagement 4 minute read

Debunking common myths about HR

Megan Orr | January 19, 2023

Human resources has a reputation that precedes itself. Generally tasked with some of the less favourable aspects of a workplace—such as terminations, performance issues, and policy enforcement—HR can often be viewed with a mix of fear and loathing by employees and employers alike. This reputation is why there are so many myths about HR.

Forbes writes that “regardless of all the good they do, HR remains one of the most hated departments in the workplace today”. This is due in part to the difficult nature of some aspects of their role, but also is part of a misconception that HR is not an essential function, but rather one that only serves to support the organization itself—but not its employees. A common refrain on the Reddit sub r/anti-work is that HR protects the company, not the people.

This is, of course, false. Let’s unpack some other myths about HR. 

Myth 1: HR is not your friend.

HR Reporter published an article in August 2022 reminding people that “HR is not your friend”. Quoting Chris Williams, former VP of HR at Microsoft, the article advises against turning to HR about concerns other than things like payroll and benefits. Williams says that it’s easy to see HR as a friend, when “they're right there, they are a people person, and they will listen. But, simply put, HR is not your friend”.

It’s one of the most common myths about HR, and one that isn’t completely fiction. Everyone on the HR team is an employee too and generally their job is to support both employee interests and the interests of the company. However, this doesn’t mean that HR personnel don’t care about employee interests or that they can’t be trusted, as the HR Reporter article suggests. 

HR’s primary function is to bridge the gap between employees and leadership, acting as an intermediary. Whether an employee has questions about their compensation, is seeking resources for personal development, or is looking for support in reconciling a dispute with their manager, this is all something that a competent HR employee should be able to handle to the benefit of both employee and employer. 

If HR is continually acting in favour of leadership, no matter the circumstance, the issue is bigger than HR. Your organization is likely experiencing a dysfunction that goes beyond the human resources department and boils down to policies and culture. 

If your organization seems to have a pattern of employee disengagement or turnover after an employee deals with HR, take the time to evaluate your HR function as well as leadership, policies, and overall company culture. 

Myth 2: HR is spying on you

While many organizations do implement certain productivity monitors, such as Teramind or ActivTrak, these are usually only to keep track of specific triggers, such as search history or time spent on specific websites (ahem, YouTube or TikTok) or to check against time theft/fraud. 

Of course, time theft is a serious concern for organizations, but using time tracking softwares is usually a last resort—when an employee is struggling with their productivity and falling behind on tasks and other methods of improving productivity have not worked. A recent HR Reporter article looked at time theft in the workplace, citing an instance where an employee was terminated because the time tracking software on her computer found that she was billing for projects she hadn’t even worked on. 

In this example, the employee had asked for remuneration for being let go without cause, and the time tracking software was then used as a means to prove that she was terminated with cause and therefore was not eligible for severance. 

Generally, HR is not interested in reading your private messages or listening in on phone calls. And if you, as an HR professional, are doing those things, ask yourself why. Trust is a big indicator of a healthy workplace and it goes both ways. As much as employers need to be able to trust their employees, employees also need to know they are trusted and trust that their employer isn’t excessively monitoring them. 

Myth 3: HR isn’t that important 

Many HR or HR-adjacent functions may exist in other places within your organization. However, HR still plays an absolutely critical role in organizational success. 

As Forbes writes, HR has a vital role in the enablement and development of employees, as well as creating “environments for people to be and do their best”. HR is essential not just for implementation and enforcing policies; it’s also essential for employee development and reinforcing company culture.

Bring life to work, and your inbox.

Subscribe to our monthly email roundup of news and helpful resources on workplace trends, employee engagement tactics, and more.

Give your employees, and yourself, the experience we all deserve.

Book a demo