Some Foolproof Ways to Avoid HR (and Find Your Own Solutions)

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Everybody hates HR until they need help.

In my own career, I have hundreds of examples where someone walked into my office, asked me to get involved and then complained about how I solved the problem. Ugh.

I know you feel like you deserve concierge service at work; however, your local HR lady isn’t a psychologist, accountant or a mom. She’s just an office worker trying to help your company make some cash.

And you should know that Human Resources is the destination of last resort. If HR gets involved, it is almost too late for a positive outcome.

5 ways to find solutions and avoid HR

So here are some foolproof ways to feel empowered, find solutions and avoid HR.

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  • Use Google. When you ask your HR lady a question, the first thing she does is Google it. Also check out your company’s intranet. (That’s where she is headed, too.)
  • Go up the chain of command to someone with power. For ethical issues, contact your company’s ombudsman or chief compliance officer. An ombudsman is often responsible for investigating and addressing complaints. A compliance officer is responsible for your organization’s conformity with the law. Between the two of them, one has the power to solve your problem. Or they might refer you back to HR.
  • Don’t rely on Human Resources to run your business. From recruiting to head count to performance management, you should own this. Be ready with a name when someone resigns from your group. Recognize performance. Nip problems in the bud. And build a better, leaner and more flexible budget so that the annual merit increase process doesn’t come as a shock to the system.
  • If you see something, say something. Why does HR have to talk to your racist, smelly or offensive colleague? Is your spine broken?
  • Walk into HR with an outcome in mind. Nobody likes a whiner. If you’re having a problem at work, come to Human Resources with an ending to the story. If your boss is a pervert, ask for him to be fired. If you feel like your compensation is unfair, demand specific action. Is your paycheck messed up for the 100th time? Don’t leave that office without talking to someone who is accountable.

One more tip: Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are designed to help you manage your personal problems such as divorce, addiction and family drama. Guess what? They are staffed with real psychologists and therapists who can help with problems at work, too.

Give them a call for concierge-like assistance. And Xanax. That’s where your own HR lady goes to avoid HR.

This was originally published on Laurie Ruettimann’s The Cynical Girl blog.


Laurie Ruettimann (LFR) is a former Human Resources leader turned influential speaker, writer and strategist. She owns a human resources consultancy that offers a wide array of HR services to human resources leaders and executives. Check out her LinkedIn profile here. You may know Ruettimann as the creator of The Cynical Girl and Punk Rock HR (retired), which Forbes named as a top 100 website for women. You may have also read her book, I AM HR: 5 Strategic Ways to Break Stereotypes and Reclaim HR. (RepCap Press, 2014.) 


19 Comments on “Some Foolproof Ways to Avoid HR (and Find Your Own Solutions)

  1. Wow. Sad. I think there must be a real difference in ethos between a smaller company like mine at 100 employees and wherever Laurie comes from. In a company this size, it’s my JOB to be a resource, a listening ear, and an educator. I can choose to wear the HR hat or leave it on the shelf when I talk to an employee, taking action only when I officially HAVE to notice what’s going on and otherwise providing advice and direction for our staff and management without writing anybody up. I actually LIKE helping young supervisors develop into decent and productive managers who care about their people.

    I get it…encourage your people to try to solve their issues on their own first. That means taking the time to educate them and train them on how to do that effectively in the first place, however. After all, common sense is usually anything but common…show them the way.

    Then when they come back to you for the fourth time, make them read this article.

    1. Chad, thanks for the comment. I think your role is important. I was trained in HR to do what you’re doing. But as we automate and move to a world based on professional employment organizations, your job might be seen as a luxury.

  2. So I agree with the general premise – own your business! As a manager, you owe it to yourself, the people you manage and the company that pays you to deal with “stuff” – PROactively. Oh, and taking care of this business/stuff also happens to be your job. It’s in your job description, especially the part that says “other duties as may be required”.
    But I do have a nit to pick. Duh, you didn’t think I’d take the time to just post “Bravo!”. HR should not be the destination of last resort. If you engage HR as a partner and advisor BEFORE there’s a high speed fecal impact with a multi-bladed rotary air distribution mechanism, you might find that a good HR person can help you own your business. They’ll actually enjoy being your consultant and helping you go do that voodoo that you do so well.
    But hey, crappy managers reap what they sow.

  3. This ==> If you see something, say something. Why does HR have to talk to your racist, smelly or offensive colleague?

    Sure HR could be the conflict resolution department but what’s the real benefit in that. Better to empower employees to handle issues like adults and talk directly to the person with whom there is an issue.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Where’s HR for HR? I never have to be empowered by HR to do the right thing and talk to people like adults. Neither should my colleagues.

      (Also, I have done HR for HR — and that job is thankless. Sigh.)

  4. I tend to agree with Chad on overall impression of this article. I firmly believe that we should be teaching guiding employees to handle conflicts on their own to a certain extent as well as teaching our managers how to take responsibility for their own areas, however, I think this article puts HR in the evil last resort seat and that is just not how I view the function. HR should be both a resource for the business as well as for the employees — its a fine line and one I gladly walk.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Wait, who taught you how to handle conflict? Who taught you how to take responsibility for your own area of the business? Who’s your resource?

  5. I do feel this paints HR in a very negative light. I do agree that employees could and in some times should try to handle certain things on their own; and that they feel HR is the benefits concierge service (I had to explain why I could not call the health insurance company for an employee to look into problems with the doctor’s coding of her medical issue).. but at the same time, HR can be a problem solver. We are working more to empower employees and supervisors, not just be the people with the closed door and dour looks on our faces saying ‘no’ all the time! If you have an employee who has a difficult time with confrontation, they should feel comfortable asking HR questions. And not ALL HR managers are going to google or check the intranet to answer the questions they have. If we are experienced at all, we should know the answers…and I’d be more likely to check SHRM or the Dept of Labor before I google a question! As an HR manager I get joy in education, not dictation. I look forward to ways to improve the work environment that benefits both the employees and the organization. That’s why I’m in this field.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I love education but HR is not made up of educators.

      Believe me, after 100 times of being asked, I didn’t have to check the holiday schedule for a manufacturing plant in another country. But why are people asking me that?

  6. The organization I work for has a mission and vision statement. I used too envision HR as the last resort too. I suppose like anything else Human Resources are different everywhere but I would like to believe that HR is in place to guide employees when needed good or bad situations.

  7. HR is the place where employees start thei career and end it in any organization. It is the father and mother of each employee including CEO’s.
    If you need help, it is the place to go where it should have people with the real spirit of the company. It is the physical presence of the vision and mission

  8. I find this article completely irrelevant and subjective. Quite simply, opinions like this add no value to anyone other than the author and simply build on the myths and stories that have built negative perceptions of HR. The HR you refer to in your article no longer exists in most organisations – they are becoming functional partners to organisations rather than simply transactional process employees or IR specialists. I’d recommend you reconsider whether it is smart to share tainted opinions like this, as well as the stereotype of a ‘HR lady’. You are doing nothing more than contributing to the problem.

  9. The “mom and dad of the business”??? No, no, no! It’s Human Resources, not human services. HR unequivocally exists to protect an organization’s best interests. Period. All the other “stuff” is essential for meeting that goal. If you really “get” HR’s role, you’ll appreciate this article in the spirit it was meant. The real issue is, too many non-HR people are masquerading as your company’s HR person. When you are lucky enough to come across a true HR professional, you’ll get it.

  10. BMH — Agree. You have to understand Laurie’s style of writing — typically rather cynical to make a point. When you have been in HR you have the right to want to make it better and therefore focus on the bad things to encourage change.
    On non-HR being in HR which is viewed here as a negative. Google states that they only allow 1/3 of its HR function to be populated by people with HR training and HR experience—- and it works. Others put non-HR people in the top HR position or rotate management through HR as part of their executive training.
    I would argue that we now have 2 parts of HR and both are essential
    1) Traditional HR — much needed as a foundation and service
    2) Strategic HR — focused on data and business strategy — not many companies have #2 and it is badly needed
    If we only had #1 or #2 HR would not be balanced. My 2 cents.

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