HR has a bad reputation, partly thanks to the thankless job of always being the messenger and partly due to a general inability to communicate, according to one popular HR blogger.
Suzanne Lucas, who has been blogging as the Evil HR Lady for more than six years, said she chose the title because it’s catchy, and because it plays on the common perception of HR.
“You never hear people say ‘I love my HR department’ or ‘I understand why they’re making us fill out these 476 form.’ Instead people tend to think of their HR departments as being, well, evil,” Lucas said. “I picked the name to poke fun at the profession and also to indicate that I’m going to give it to you straight, which may not be warm and fuzzy.:
But how can HR change that dynamic? Communication is key, Lucas said. Unfortunately, HR isn’t very good at explaining themselves. Employees rarely understand what HR’s role is and why they’re asked to complete specific tasks or forms.
“People often think we’re sitting in our offices making things up when really we’re trying to comply with a massive amount of regulations that the company is required to abide by,” she said. “People get really annoyed at some of the things we do when really we’re just following the law and protecting the company but we don’t explain that very well.”
Sometimes the “evil” label comes from the fact that HR often has to be the bearer of bad news. It’s not easy to implement performance improvement plans or terminations, not to mention HR is usually the one telling employees they found porn on their work computer, or that they smell bad.
Lucas spent three years doing layoffs for a pharmaceutical company and while they did everything possible to make it a smooth process for the terminated employees, at the end of the day those people still lost their jobs.
“Even though we did everything possible we could to smooth their process, it was never my choice. It was management who said we need to eliminate this department or we’re going to close this site. But who do they see carrying that out?” Lucas said. “HR is often the messenger of bad news that was decided by someone else. How we do it makes a big difference and that’s something many HR people can improve on: the how.”