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The human resources department is one of the most misunderstood parts in the any corporate setting. It's a work role that people never quite understand, simply because HR reps do so much for a typical company.
When there are issues with a coworker, you go to HR. When you need to hire a new person, you go to HR. If you need a letter of recommendation, HR's the place to call in many situations. They're mediators, resume readers, and at times, the people who determine raises.
As much as people think they know what HR is all about, there's a lot of things HR won't tell you. Here are some of the biggest secrets human resources keeps, and why you should know them.
"We're not here to protect employees."
Most people are under the assumption that human resources personnel are there to protect employees and make them feel at home. This is actually not true. Surprised? Don't be.
The reason HR sticks up for employees is because they are there to protect the company from employment-based lawsuits and boost productivity. One of things HR does is that they take care of issues before it heads to court—or otherwise dissuading employees from suing.
By ensuring problems get taken care of efficiently, they boost productivity, maximize profits, and also cover management's behinds. Knowing this, you can actually work with HR better.
"Your job security is based on your relationship with your boss."
HR may argue otherwise, but it's true. You might have even suspected it to be true, and now, it's confirmed. How well you get along with your boss matters just as much as your ability to do the job when it comes to job security.
If you've been fired recently, maybe it's time to take a look at how your relationship was with the higher-ups. Even if your boss swears that it wasn't their choice when they fired you, chances are that they called that shot.
On a similar note, many managers will actually hire people they know rather than hire people they don't know. This is because people tend to want to go to the "tried and true" method rather than someone who might be a disappointment.
"If the interviewer asked a bunch of odd questions and never called back, we never really wanted to hire you at all."
Have you ever attended a job interview that involved employers asking you to show them how you'd plan something or write something out? Or, maybe, they asked a lot of questions about people you worked with—even mentioning them by name?
Believe it or not, this wasn't an interview for you, per se. Many HR staffers will interview people when they want free information on other candidates or to get free services. This is actually called "career phishing," and it often happens to the unemployed.
If you're not sure whether it's legit, check for signs the job offer isn't real. Career phishing will often display similar symptoms.
"Please don't stalk us."
Because HR reps have a lot of sway in the office, they often will end up getting the occasional worker who feels like it's a good idea to get on their good side by sticking to them like glue. This might seem like a good idea if you're terrified of being fired, but it's not.
Just like any other person out there, human resources workers really don't like people who get too friendly with them or corner them in a bathroom.
"If you enforce policies, we'll call you high maintenance and get annoyed."
Policies are made to be enforced, but at times, they just don't make sense to keep up. If a company policy is a "blue law," then it's often best not to try to enforce it. This kind of behavior will often get you labeled as "high maintenance" by HR—and it will often harm you more than help you.
If a transgression is serious, it only makes sense to want to talk to HR about it or to bring it up to higher-ups. This is doubly true about ethical issues and the desire to whistleblow. There's a reason why whistleblowers often find their careers wrecked.
HR won't tell you that this behavior can often cause serious problems for your career. Even if it's not necessarily legal to retaliate, HR reps will often side with management out of fear for themselves. For whistleblowers, that often means you'll be the one terminated.
"We're terrified of giving references."
References are sticky situations for HR reps, and that's one of the more surprising things HR won't tell you when you ask for a referral. Referrals can easily become cause for a lawsuit—which is why many human resources departments have a policy against them.
At the very least, most companies will be willing to say if someone is eligible for rehire. This allows other reps to read between the lines. If you aren't eligible for rehire, then most reps will assume you were fired due to bad behavior.
"Yes, we saw your Facebook photos."
Legally speaking, there is absolutely nothing that's keeping HR from searching you up on social media or online. That means that most employers can and will search your name up when they decide to figure out whether they hire you.
You should clean your Facebook a bit before you decide to fill out that job application, simply because online checks are a standard part of the hiring process these days. The reason why this is one of the things HR won't explicitly address is simple: it's common knowledge.
"The first 90 days, we're going to be watching you like hawks."
When you first get hired at a company, you already know you're on probation. Most companies will say that your probationary period will last 30 to 60 days, but that's not really true.
One of the things human resources won't tell you is that the real probationary period is closer to 90 days for most companies. So, if you immediately slack off after your probationary period, you can expect that the boss will notice—and that you'll get fired.
"If we want to fire you, we will—legal red tape, be damned."
There are a lot of employment laws that are supposed to protect workers from being fired unfairly, including laws that bar people from being laid off due to medical issues. However, there's always a loophole that people can use to get rid of you and HR reps are brilliant at that.
Doing things like setting you up for failure, locking you out of conversations that you really should be aware of, and just creating policies that oust you can all happen. When they do, they are letting you know it's time to go.
If you notice signs your company wants you to quit, or if you notice that work has gotten ten times harder, it's time to recognize it for what it is. HR is trying to get rid of you.
"If you got a formal performance plan, then we're trying to get you to leave."
It's clear that getting a formal performance plan is not something that bodes well for workers. It's a literal written warning that tells you that you've messed up.
Among the many things HR won't tell you is that performance plans are also a way to tell employees that it's time to dust off the ole résumé and start looking up job interview tips.
In most cases, it doesn't matter if you improved at all. At this point, HR has already made its decision. This is a common way your hiring manager will try to hint that you're going to be laid off.