In Business Success, Employee engagement, Employee Satisfaction, Employees, human resources, Leadership Development, Organizational Change

Where are the “people” in human resources? The pendulum has swung and is stuck, in favor of companies managing employees as human capital. In other words, nameless commodities. Many HR teams support this while trying to garner executive approval. I believe it has caused them to lose their way. It is wreaking havoc with employee trust and engagement. As a result, disengagement is 85% globally.

A Google search of the question, “What is the purpose of the Human Resource Department?” yielded the following response at the top of the page.

“The mission of Human Resources is to maintain a fair, equitable, and positive work environment for all employees, in support of the mission of the organization. It is based upon the belief that the success of any organization, and its ultimate value, is primarily dependent upon its people. Furthermore, that the development of the greatest potential for each employee will create job satisfaction. In addition, this maximizes the career opportunities for individuals and provides maximum benefit to the organization.”


To me, HR was created for this important task of providing protection, development, and opportunity for all employees. That is not the case today. A poll by CareerBliss.com showed 72% of employees see HR has a management pawn. Plus, only 7% say it looks out for employees. HR seems highly focused in three areas quite different from what they must do.

Recently, while discussing 7 Types of Bad Bosses, I stated that an option in dealing with a bad boss is to consult with the HR team. The show’s host immediately showed a look of disbelief. Later she confided in me that there is no way that she would trust their HR group to listen without reprisal. A LinkedIn post I wrote, 6 Proven Ways to Deal with a Bad Boss, included a step to contact HR. That generated a few comments like this-“contacting HR is a quick way to derail your career.” Numerous radio interviews since reveal similar negative comments.

During consulting engagements, our staff hears time and again from managers and employees alike that HR is the last place they will go for assistance. Mocked, maligned, and disparaged profanely, the reputation of HR teams seems to be at all-time low. In contrast, I know numerous talented HR professionals and they want to do good job. Many of them a have their hands tied.


Government size proliferates to enact legislates related to tons of labor regulations. (Fair Labor Standards, Equal Employment Opportunity, Occupational Safety and Medical Leave, and others) All of these areas concern HR and must be executed appropriately.  Likewise, add in a lawsuit-happy world, and too many HR departments are focused on documentation, and limiting litigation. Unfortunately, this means damage control to their organization’s reputation not talent development. However, this has led HR to become the “organizational cops” or henchmen that hinder productivity and creativity.

For example, in a $1 billion dollar company I consulted with, field managers resist working with HR because policy non-compliance is severely punishable. Their HR teams lead like bureaucratic IRS auditors. The message, manage the same way or risk reprimands, budget cuts, and lack of executive favor.


Who Took The Human out of Human Resources?An HR leader gave guidance to an experience and talented manager on how to conduct a performance review on a employee doing poorly. The manager delivered the needed constructive criticism. Yet, the employee filed a formal complaint. Because of that, the manager’s boss fired her. If you must perform a risky role HR does not have your back, what can you count on them for?

The managers in some of my clients’ businesses, literally do not know who in HR supports them. New managers complain about being promoted with no training, guidance, or support to execute HR programs and policies. Yet, many manage a large geographically dispersed teams. The jobs confront dangerous and technically challenging situations. As an emerging trend involves digitizing all HR functions. Then, HR as with my clients, delegates the implementation and follow-through. HR manages the reports.

HR lacks a bottom-line. One study found HR groups only spend 15% of their time on strategic issues. Too many HR leaders focus on the number of online training sessions, compliance to policies, and EX scores. Only a few prioritize alignment with executives on business revenue, growth or profits. So, executives do not  take them seriously. HR sits the throne of a back-driver position.


  1. Unwillingness to trust. This means, of course, that employees will always save their best for themselves. Without their engagement and commitment, companies get only what employees will give them to get by.
  2. Lack of openness. When people are repeatedly ignored or punished for bringing up issues, they learn not to “trouble you” with it. Employees and managers alike learn to tell their leaders only what they want to hear once they get hammered for telling the truth.
  3. No ownership. Employees and managers will lack commitment, hard work and persistence that is essential for today’s competitive marketplace. In conclusion, productivity, sales, customer service and profits suffer.

WHO TOOK THE HUMAN OUT OF HUMAN RESOURCES?None of us wants to feel alone and at the mercy of arbitrary, incompetent, and sometimes cruel workplace behavior or management practices. Harassment, discrimination, bullying, psychological intimidation, emotional terrorism, office violence – these are just a small list of very real challenges in business.

I believe that HR needs to be repurposed. Why not focus on partnering with and inspiring the greatest resource of any organization–people? HR must advocate for people and become the collaborative coaches that you can count on. Company leaders need the help. Just review the evidence of low employee engagement scores, disappearing customer service, lagging employee retention and the lack of trust in senior leadership. Our workplaces do not need less humanity and guidance to improve performance they need more. Only when employees feel safe, appreciated, and valued will they bring their absolute best.

By the way, do you want to learn proven approaches? Do you want to become a better leader? If so, I suggest you check out this complimentary eBook: How to Motivate-No-Inspire Employees: 10 Keys to Employee Engagement.

Or, do you want to benchmark your career with the habits of successful people? If so, check out this complimentary inventory and guide: Success Practices.

For details on Rick’s latest book, click here: Superstar Leadership.

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