Why Does Everyone Hate HR?

i_am_hrMany people believe HR is:






Run by middle-aged women who like cats.

Some of that is true — especially the part about cats — but the majority of my colleagues were smart people with big hearts. More than 46 percent of HR professionals pursued graduate degrees. More than 12 percent have Ph.Ds or other post-graduate accomplishments. And not every “HR lady” is a lady. Some of them are dudes.

The external hatred for the modern-day HR department seemed emotional, irrational and arbitrary to me. I worked with interesting and intelligent people who had strong expertise in business and management strategy. I befriended HR leaders who ran small businesses on the side. And I made lifelong connections with HR professionals who had successfully defended dissertations, held patents and wrote books on the subject of leadership and human development.

When I left my final job in HR, I began researching, blogging and writing about human resources so I could answer a simple question:

Why does everyone hate HR and how can we fix that?

I think I have the answer, but you may not like what you read. My writing style is direct and honest. I don’t pull any punches. If you are easily offended, please stop reading. But I burned bridges in HR so I could light the way for you.

I hope you are ready to break stereotypes and reclaim HR.

Excerpt from I Am HR: 5 Strategic Ways to Break Stereotypes and Reclaim HRby Laurie Ruettimann (Rep Cap Press, 2014)

Keep reading: Download the e-book.

laurie_headshotAbout the Author: Laurie Ruettimann is a former Human Resources leader turned influential speaker, writer, and social media strategist. You may know her as the creator of The Cynical Girl and Punk Rock HR, which Forbes named as a top 100 website for women.

Laurie is a contributing editor for The Conference Board Review; a contributor to the TalentSpace blog and Business Insider; an advisor to SmartBrief on Workforce; and her advice has been featured in a wide variety of publications such as The New York TimesU.S. News & World ReportUSA Todayand AOL. Laurie is also recognized as one of the Top 5 career advisors by CareerBuilder and CNN.

Follow Laurie on Twitter @lruettimann or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Laurie Ruettimann is a former Human Resources leader turned influential speaker, writer and entrepreneur. She owns a consultancy that offers a wide array of services to HR departments and technology companies. Ruettimann is also the founder of GlitchPath, an early-stage startup focused on business insights and risk mitigation Follow her on Twitter @lruettimann or check out her LinkedIn profile here. You may know Laurie 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. She has been published in a variety of places including AOL, Business Insider, The Conference Board Review, CFO Magazine, Entrepreneur, Forbes, The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, Suicide Girls, The Wall Street Journal, US News and World Report and USA Today.  Laurie has keynoted, lectured and participated at business events around the world held by Harvard Business School, SXSW, Microsoft, Google, NBCUniversal, American Marketing Association, MediaBistro and many others. She is also recognized as one of the Top 5 career advisors by CareerBuilder and CNN. She is an appointed board member at TDn2K, which provides workforce data, business data and social data to the restaurant industry. She also sits on strategic advisory boards of firms focused on the areas of learning analytics, big data, and employee engagement.

8 thoughts on “Why Does Everyone Hate HR?

  1. Bruce

    Your comment about HR ladies and that there are HR dudes is true. Me being one as an example. However fir the 30 years of being in the HR profession, it really has transitioned to be the majority of positions are held by women. They hold well over 60% of all levels where I would. I remember going to a local HR meeting several years about and I was the only man in the room of 50+ HR professionals. So it's not a bad thing, but you can see where the perception comes from.

  2. Guest

    The reason employees hate HR is because HR is not focused on the employee as much as they are focused on the employer. Think about it. SHRM and it's teachings all focus on protecting the company from issues. Who pays HR the employer. Who will HR then satisfy? Employer. It's not thought of as an option but if employees paid HR their salary by it being a portion of their pay then maybe HR would be focused on employees and not employers. But what was that called? Unions. What is the focus of HR? Avoid Unions.

  3. Richard Kirby

    Hi, Laurie.
    I'm afraid you may have missed the boat, so to speak. IMHO, most non-HR people dislike HR for reasons other than what you propose. And they don't care if some are smart and educated and don't conform to the old (but still entrenched in many organizations) stereotype.
    People have moved beyond hating HR and now simply dislike and avoid them Sure, there are lots of smart and educations HR people who are actually effective, but this is the minority. The majority are disliked for the following reasons:
    1. They are closed-off regarding fresh ideas for improving things. Go to a SHRM event and you will see that the executives avoid contact with "the commoners" and that the attendees don't want to talk to vendors who have better ideas.
    2. They pursue positive change when instructed to do so, not of their own volition. They are not risk takers… and self-confident leaders take risks.
    3. They resist performance measurements that address concrete, meaningful data and cling to measurements. For example, recruiting organizations measure time to fill an opening but not "quality of hire."
    4. They don't network and share ideas among themselves, in pursuit of continuous improvement. Instead, they go to meetings and conferences and listen for the speakers to tell them what they should know and do.
    I could go on and on, but you get the picture. I believe these are concrete examples of why people dislike HR.
    Having said all that, I think HR is a noble profession and wish more HR people would wake up. Unfortunately, awakening the slumbering giant is difficult and I fear that the profession will remain under siege for the foreseeable future.

  4. bill

    As a 34 year third party agency recruiter I'll offer an opinion, having not read Laurie's book.
    HR and TPR interests are different creating an inherently conflicted relationship. TPR's want to make money providing their service whereas HR doesn't want to spend money instead finding people themselves justifying their existence.
    Then there's conflict over process control with neither side trusting the other to best ensure effectiveness/success.
    Comes down to conflict of interest for the most part based on money/control

  5. Guest

    "But I burned bridges in HR so I could light the way for you."

    Trading fake punk cred for martyrdom? Please.

  6. Claudia J. Samuelson

    I'm really surprised that you're proud of "burning bridges in HR". I think that the "us" and "them" mentality that you're promoting, Laurie is fueling further fire about why people hate HR. I've been an HR Director and also a third party recruiter and have seen first hand the negative perception that employees, as well as outsiders have toward HR, specifically being referred to as "catbert". So people are uninformed about all the work HR people did to get to be in HR. So what. People are uninformed about how hard it is to work for straight commission as a recruiter. People have opinions on Apple vs. Microsoft, Texas or Denver, politics, religion, etc. What really matters here is not trying to sell your book with fiery statements designed to pull readers in. What matters is really, helping leaders at companies use HR as a true business partner so that they can effectively help their companies succeed.

  7. Tony C

    I have not read Laurie's book just the brief posting above. I work in HR and I hate HR people too. The main reason I hate HR is because HR is without a doubt the most discriminatory profession in the world. While Laurie's statement, And not every “HR lady” is a lady. Some of them are dudes, is accurate it fails to address the huge demographic disparity in the profession and the flat out discrimination in the profession against male HR professionals. That sad thing is that the discrimination is accepted because it's women doing the discrimination. Everyone talks about the War on women, how about the war on men in HR for hiring! Some of them are dudes, yeah like less than 20% and in a lot organizations there are no dudes employed in HR. I find this so ironic because HR always advocates diversity in the workplace, just don't ask for the same diversity to be applied in Human Resources because HR is a sorority and men shouldn't be allowed into a sorority. Run by middle-aged women? It should be rewrote Run by middle-aged white women.
    Discrimination within the Human Resources profession isn't the only reason why I hate HR, I also hate HR because the vast majority of people in the profession are incompetent and don't know jack #$@# about HR, they were moved into HR because their company or organization didn't know what else to do with them so they placed them in HR. I can't tell you how many people I've encountered in HR who have no formal education in Human Resources or Organizational Development and put their employers at legal risk every day because of that lack of knowledge and incompetence. I just don't want to rag here, I want to change HR and make it a positive experience for employees. Here are some very basic suggestions that HR Dept's could implement tomorrow and start to create respect for the profession internally and externally. Mandate those with degrees specifically in Human Resources or Organizational/Industrial Management be targeted first when filling vacancies in HR.
    Don't accept employee transfers into HR until a they complete a PHR program. HR Leaders take your heads out of the sand, take a look around your office and if you notice that there aren't men employed in your HR Dept start asking why that is. What are the legal implications for our lack of diversity? If there are not men applying, ask why? Start an outreach initiative to create male applicant pool in HR. Conduct surveys from employees about their experience with HR, make them anonymous so employees can offer honest evaluations and be honest with yourself about the critiques and if the criticism is valid make genuine efforts to change. Communicate what HR is, the average employee probably has limited knowledge of what HR is and what it does. It doesn't have to be every day but perhaps during new hire orientation or on-boarding take 10-15 min. and explain what HR is and why it's important.


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