Memo to HR: ‘You’re a bunch of corporate suck-ups who say a lot and do very little’

Anti-human resources venom in reader comments on newspaper website raises question: Why is HR such a popular punching bag?

By Todd Humber (todd.humber@thomsonreuters.com)

Why is HR such a popular punching bag?

In 2005, Fast Company magazine ran a scathing piece entitled “Why we hate HR” that stirred up quite a bit of controversy in the profession.

Fast forward six years, and HR still isn’t feeling much love from the general public. Canadian HR Reporter teamed up with the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) to conduct a Pulse Survey on problem managers.

In 2005, Fast Company magazine took a run at the HR profession with this provocative cover story. Six years later, human resources isn't feeling much love from the public, if one uses reader comments on a daily newspaper as a barometer.

The Toronto Star picked up on the story, and ran a version of it on their website. But what was telling was the comments from readers.

The majority of the comments were sharing stories about bosses from hell, or just griping in general, but more than a few comments took a run at human resources.

Here’s a sampling:

•“Ha, what a joke! Not only are bosses cutthroat and abusive nowadays, but worse are the HR reps! From government to private, the HR department represents the coldest, inhuman part of an organization.”

•“I find some of the HR people are from hell. My section of the company is unionized. (HR) hates it and it shows.”

•“I’m both surprised and shocked that HR departments are reporting this. It is a very difficult to bring up a bad manager with some HR departments, at least where I work.”

•One reader suggested that everyone “disliking” the anti-HR comments on the story were HR professionals. “Disagree all you want whilst you do your 9-4 job while others that actually do something and actually work will continue to ensure you have a job… dead weight!!”

•“But what about HR from hell? These people who are way overpaid and way underworked are the true enemies. Think they are there for you the employee? Think again! Make a complaint against your employer through them and you’ll be the next to go. HR’s a bunch of corporate suck ups who say a lot and do very little.”

•“You know what takes up too much time? Human resources. When did HR managers start making more than the people who actually drive the business? Uh, thanks. We need a total makeover of our corporate identity. Useless HR complaints and forms and feelings are what drives real managers crazy. Ha!”

•“I haven’t met an HR employee/manager/executive that wasn’t a little (to a lot) odd. I would take their observations and recommendations with a grain of salt. As the motto goes — those that can do and those that can’t go into HR!”

•“And when did the HR department start to care? This whole thing has been happening right under their noses and they did squat. HR is not there for you, HR is there to do what the boss tells them to do.”

Venomous comments on media websites should, of course, be taken with a grain of salt. But do you think HR professionals get the respect they deserve? And if not, why?

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. For more information, visit http://www.hrreporter.com.

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3 Responses to “Memo to HR: ‘You’re a bunch of corporate suck-ups who say a lot and do very little’”


  1. 1 Brian Kreissl January 25, 2011 at 1:16 am

    I read many of those comments myself, and I think there are at least three reasons for this:

    1. Many people don’t really understand what HR actually does. They’re familiar with the hiring and firing part, but some of the more strategic aspects of the HR function are still unknown to many people.

    2. A whole lot of people totally misunderstand the mandate of the HR department. They think of HR as being employee advocates and psychologists/social workers. People then get surprised when HR comes down on the side of management (or if the HR professional actually talks to the other party when there is a workplace dispute, rather than just listening to the employee vent). Many members of the general public (and even some HR professionals themselves) fail to realize that human resources is a management function. Sure, HR is there to counsel Neanderthal line managers when their conduct crosses the line, but ultimately the reason for that is to protect the organization from liability.

    3. When people are unsuccessful in applying for a job or they’re downsized, they often blame HR. A hiring manager can refuse to hire an excellent candidate for a ridiculous reason, but somehow it’s HR who gets the blame. A CEO decides that headcount needs to be reduced by 5%, but again, HR gets the blame.

    It really is down to education. As a profession, we need to do a better job of educating managers, employees and the general public about what we do and whom we are ultimately there to serve.

  2. 3 Monica November 12, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    The trend I see is the increasing role HR playing in screening job applicants. Rarely, are they qualified to perform this vital function, often relying on such dumbed-down tactics as “screening resumes for keywords”. Reviewing resumes and screening applicants should always be handled by the hiring manager. HR should support this role, but NOT be responsible for it.


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