HR Management & Compliance

Why Is HR Often Viewed Negatively by Employees?

To those working in HR, it might be common knowledge that HR staff are often looked upon with scorn by some employees. Employees, even though they need to work with HR and know that HR provides access to valuable services and benefits, may still mistrust the department as a whole. Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons this happens and why it sometimes doesn’t matter how professional the team is.

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Why HR Is Often Viewed Negatively by Employees

Here are some reasons HR may be viewed negatively by some employees:

  • Many have had a previous bad experience with someone in HR. Either they’ve encountered someone who was less than competent and caused a real problem or they encountered an unfortunate situation—either way, it may leave them untrusting of HR in the future.
  • Some people may end up in a job they’re not entirely competent at, including HR professionals. When employees have the misfortune of dealing with someone in HR who shouldn’t be in that role, the mistrust can be long-lasting and affect even the best of HR professionals later.
  • The HR department is often seen as overly bureaucratic and full of red tape because HR is responsible for ensuring compliance with form completion. HR often requires forms to be completed, surveys to be done, paperwork to be filled out, etc.
  • Some HR teams can be seen as overbearing and too rigid in rule enforcement.
  • Some HR teams can be seen as cold and uncaring. This reputation comes from the role of rule enforcer—often done without exceptions. This may also happen because HR professionals may be focused on efficiency and metrics, which don’t always provide the most caring of outcomes.
  • Gatekeepers may come across as unfair. It often falls on HR to approve things like leaves of absence or vacation or even promotions. While these approvals require someone to be objective and consistent, it may not always come across that way.
  • HR gets the reputation of doing anything to protect the employer, even to the detriment of current and/or former employees. This reputation may even make employees afraid to bring up issues because they fear it will lead to a cover-up instead of a fair resolution.
  • Many people end up interacting with HR when there’s a problem, so their impression is going to be that HR deals with negative issues. HR is often involved in disciplinary situations, for example.
  • HR is seen as a problem when there is a bad applicant experience. HR has gotten a bad rep for years for ghosting job applicants or not replying to candidate applications and queries.
  • HR is seen as the company’s face during layoffs. Seeing HR in a meeting you’re invited to can be chilling and worrisome—not a great impression.
  • The HR department is often responsible for implementing cost-cutting measures or is blamed by employees for the lack of a budget for raises and the like.
  • People don’t know how much effort it takes to stay in compliance or to administer standard benefits and payroll. In other words, they take the work they should appreciate for granted.
  • Employees don’t always feel they’re communicated with in a trusting way.

As you can see, there are a lot of reasons HR is often viewed negatively by employees, even in instances when the current HR team did nothing to create that view. It’s something HR professionals combat and manage every day, but helping to understand the basis behind it can go a long way toward not taking it personally.