Myths and Misunderstandings About Human Resources

Misunderstandings About Human Resources

Every business organization has employees, and no matter how many employees are on staff, every organization benefits from a well-run HR department. Unfortunately, too many leaders and workers do not fully understand what HR does and why it is so valuable to business productivity and profitability. Here are a few of the most common myths about HR that continue to confuse operations everywhere:

HR Only Manages Personnel

The evidence for this myth is in the very name of the department: human resources. HR professionals are tasked with managing the humans within an organization, and to many people, that means HR should and must focus entirely on issues pertaining to personnel management.

When HR departments were new, they might have functioned merely as personnel departments — meaning they were focused on hiring, firing and other fundamental management tasks. However, in the 21st century, HR is so much more than personnel management. Because the workforce is unquestionably an organization’s most valuable resource, HR has the potential to be highly strategic in its maintenance and engagement of employees.

HR Focuses on Enforcing Existing Processes

A common depiction of HR professionals shows them following existing rules with unwavering diligence. HR representatives do tend to know an organization’s policies back to front and will enforce the rules when necessary to ensure that everyone is working productively toward mutual goals — but HR is not oblivious to the concept of gray areas.

HR professionals are not mindless robots programmed to uphold current policies and procedures. Rather, most HR workers are highly sensitive to every situation they encounter, looking to understand the details before making any type of ruling. Because the ultimate objective of HR is to ensure that a business is performing well, many HR reps will bend or break existing rules for the sake of productivity and peace.

HR Is Eager to Levy Punishments

Similar to the myth about enforcing processes is the belief that HR exists only to punish misbehaving workers. This concept of HR is prevalent in media — movies and television series set in workplaces that need an unredeemable villain — so many less experienced workers tend to develop this view of HR as a tool for maintaining some kind of corporate police state. Unfortunately, this depiction can cause workers to fear HR, which means those workers fail to take advantage of the support available through HR.

How HR behaves is almost entirely a function of the broader corporate culture. Though some malicious business leaders might compel HR reps to inflict undue punishments on misbehaving employees, the truth is that most HR departments are eager to look for nuance and make judicious recommendations that preserve everyone’s integrity.

HR Makes Decisions

No department better understands the needs of the workforce than HR — but in most organizations, HR has essentially no power to effect positive change for workers. Instead, HR makes recommendations to other business leaders, who then determine the best course of action.

Fortunately, some organizations are making changes to how HR is allowed to operate, and more HR managers are being invited to contribute to business strategy. HR workers eager to gain more authority might pursue a Master’s in Human Resources, which will equip them with the knowledge, skills and credentials to rise into the decision-making ranks of their organizations.

HR Is a Substitute for Effective Communication

Communication is easily the most important skill for any professional to develop and maintain — but it is also a skill that is frequently lacking in professionals at all levels of an organization. Unfortunately, instead of building greater communication skills, many professionals opt to funnel their communications through HR. For example, managers might instruct HR to inform employees that their performance is not meeting expectations, or workers might expect HR to manage conflicts with their coworkers.

HR can facilitate effective communication between professionals who continue to struggle to understand one another; many HR professionals are experienced in coaching communication strategies to help workers have more productive conversations with one another. However, HR should not be assuming responsibilities of managers, who need to step up and demonstrate effective communication for their teams.

The role of HR within organizations is shifting as organizations shift how they view their workforce. Hopefully, the workforce can develop a more realistic view of HR, in turn.

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