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An examination of the query “Is HR Human?” revealing intriguing and rather unsettling perspectives from everyday workers, akin to your own experiences.

Opinions on HR are varied, acknowledging both exceptional and dedicated professionals alongside dissatisfaction with issue handling. Our investigation aimed to explore the human aspect of HR, revealing that there is room for improvement. While the short answer suggests room for enhancement, there are straightforward ways to make positive changes benefiting both employees and businesses. We conducted a survey of 926 Americans, delving into:

1. Their perceptions of HR professionals’ job performance.
2. Whether they would seek HR advice for various work-related issues.
3. Insights into the most unusual situations they’ve reported to HR.

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“HR, We Have a Challenge”
Certain workplace problems can be irritating, while others border on criminal. The willingness to report such issues to HR varies. To address this, we compiled a list of scenarios and inquired whether respondents would report them. The scenarios were categorized into criminal issues, coworker problems, and personal issues. The infographic illustrates the percentage of respondents who indicated they would not report each scenario.

A concerning 37% of individuals wouldn’t report workplace sexual harassment, and 43% wouldn’t report discrimination—an alarming trend, considering the role HR plays. The question arises: why are employees reluctant to report such incidents to HR? The 2019 Employee Experience Survey by HR Acuity sheds light on possible reasons, including:

1. Fear of retaliation: 46% expressed concerns about facing repercussions if they reported their problems.
2. Lack of objectivity: 39% were worried their complaints wouldn’t be impartially addressed.
3. Gender bias: Complaints raised by men were 26% more likely to be investigated, while women’s complaints faced a higher likelihood of being ignored, as highlighted in a received comment.

Given the reasons for employees’ reluctance to report issues, it’s understandable, but reporting harassment and discrimination is essential. Why?

1. Legal responsibility: Failing to follow reporting procedures might limit your ability to hold the company legally accountable.

Here’s what to do:

– File a complaint: Follow your employee handbook’s procedure or contact HR if no procedure exists or if the designated person is the harasser.
– Protect your rights: Reporting harassment triggers legal obligations for the company to take action and assumes legal responsibility for subsequent harassment.
– Self-protection: Filing a complaint legally shields you from being fired or demoted solely for reporting the issue, strengthening any future legal claims.
– Seek legal advice: Employment lawyers can guide you through potential courtroom scenarios and recommend the best course of action.

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Let’s delve into personal issues, where bereavement scored remarkably low, with 87% expressing reluctance to discuss it with HR. Surprisingly, more individuals would report a coworker wearing a MAGA hat than going through a divorce. This disparity suggests that, in certain situations, personal issues are underreported.

This reluctance can be attributed to various factors. The HR Acuity survey mentioned earlier indicates that people may know where to report issues but lack confidence in the reporting process. Additionally, stringent HR policies contribute to this underreporting, such as demanding “proof” of death in bereavement cases, which can be emotionally distressing.

It’s reasonable to assume that factors hindering the reporting of harassment/discrimination also apply to personal issues. However, employees shouldn’t assume their employer will be heartless and uncaring. Instead, they should take proactive steps in addressing personal problems that may affect their work environment.

Inquire about the company’s guidelines regarding bereavement. Unfortunately, there is no legally mandated bereavement leave in the U.S., making a stark comparison to Canada, where all employees are entitled to paid bereavement leave after meeting specific eligibility criteria. However, many companies adopt a more compassionate approach, so it’s crucial to be aware of your employer’s policies, especially if a loved one has a terminal illness.

Explore options under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which may provide you with up to 12 weeks of unpaid but job-protected leave to address counseling or health-related issues following a bereavement. If HR fails to offer assistance, consider seeking legal advice. Managing personal issues effectively is not just about HR being more humane; it significantly impacts mental health, reducing anxiety and depression, thereby preventing a substantial loss in productivity.

Personal issues can have a profound impact on mental health, leading to increased anxiety and depression. Poorly managed personal issues can result in a considerable loss of productivity. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity annually. Improving support for employees’ well-being is not just a matter of compassion; it also enhances the bottom line.

Transitioning to the issue of seeking advice and assistance from HR, one matter significantly stood out among the rest.

Inquire about your company’s guidelines regarding bereavement leave. Unfortunately, there is no legally mandated bereavement leave in the U.S., which contrasts starkly with Canada, where all employees are entitled to paid bereavement leave once specific eligibility criteria are met. However, many companies adopt a more compassionate approach.

If you’re aware that a loved one has a terminal illness, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with your company’s policies promptly to be prepared. Additionally, consider utilizing the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which may provide you with up to 12 weeks of unpaid but job-protected leave to address counseling or health-related issues following a bereavement. If HR fails to offer assistance, seeking legal advice is advisable.

Personal issues can significantly impact mental health, leading to increased anxiety and depression. Poorly managed personal issues can result in a substantial loss of productivity. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity annually. Improved support for employees’ well-being is crucial not only for compassion but also for enhancing the bottom line.

Human resources departments must elevate their standards. Compassion and competence are not only essential for employees’ well-being but also for boosting the bottom line.

Turning to the issue of seeking advice and assistance from HR, one matter significantly stood out among the rest.

Fair Weather Friend

For this section of our survey we took a look at some of the most commonly cited criticisms of HR. Then we formulated these into statements, and asked if workers agreed. 

Here’s what we discovered.

Statement

Disagree

HR is trustworthy

50%

HR is up to date on technology

43%

HR gets too involved in office politics

44%

HR is consistent in their decision making

50%

HR has the info you need readily available

42%

HR staff lack experience in working with actual humans

55%

HR focuses on procedures rather than people

52%

HR provides effective career planning advice

44%

It’s hard to get a straight/timely answer from HR

60%

HR puts their own department above regular employees

64%

HR takes the side of the employee

69%

HR staff lack experience with the business side of things

66%

If the preceding data didn’t convince you that HR is far from human then this should. Workers just don’t have any confidence in their HR teams. The most telling statistic is this—

Translating this sentiment to workplaces across America underscores the substantial effort required to reverse these statistics.

Ultimately, HR must embody its name to reshape its reputation. It needs to regard its resources as human.

Interestingly, HR professionals seem to acknowledge this challenge. A survey of HR professionals conducted by the SHRM identified maintaining employee engagement as the foremost human capital challenge.

Both rank-and-file employees and HR professionals recognize the need for change. The system is flawed, but what steps can be taken to rectify it? Here’s a starting point, drawing from Dr. John Sullivan’s insights:

1. Make a business case for increasing trust: Quantify the negative business consequences of diminished employee trust in dollars and leverage these figures to drive behavioral change.

2. Become data-driven on employee trust: Utilize data to identify effective ways to measure employee trust and pinpoint the specific factors contributing to it.

3. Monitor the media: Stay attuned to major media discussions on workplace issues and address employee concerns promptly, such as fears related to layoffs and remote work during crises like the threat from Coronavirus.

4. Become more responsive: Address the pervasive frustration among employees regarding HR’s perceived lack of responsiveness by measuring and continually improving response times and ensuring satisfaction with responses.

5. Develop effective listening mechanisms: Identify the forums, processes, and mechanisms viewed by employees as optimal for HR to become active listeners, utilizing data for guidance.

6. Be more proactive in communications: Proactively communicate with employees through various channels to address potential issues before they escalate.

7. Be transparent: Recognize that transparency is increasingly expected, particularly by younger employees. Provide detailed information on HR’s goals, the necessity of rules and policies, and how HR processes operate.

8. Fully explain the role of HR: Clarify HR’s role and goals during onboarding, highlighting any biases towards management and business results, and emphasizing areas where HR acts as a neutral party.

9. Help increase productivity: Transform HR into a productivity improvement center, focusing not only on rules and legal compliance but also on actively assisting employees and managers in becoming more effective and productive.

Certainly, restoring HR’s tarnished reputation demands substantial effort and genuine engagement from all parties involved. However, the rewards—happier, more productive workers and more profitable businesses—justify the endeavor.

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The Most Unusual Problems Reported to HR

We included one open-ended question at the end of our survey to ensure we covered all bases. Participants were asked to share the most unusual problem they had reported to HR. The responses provided insight into the nature of workplace challenges.

Highlighting the Most Noteworthy Issues

Here are the top 5 problems most frequently reported by our survey participants. It is important to acknowledge that racism/discrimination is a criminal act and far more serious than the other issues mentioned here.

Rat Surgery, Cat Videos, and Trash Can Twerking
Here are some of the most bizarre responses that emerged from our survey, proving that work can be anything but dull:

1. Changing clothes in other people’s work cubicles.
2. Taking time off for my girlfriend’s pet rat’s surgery on Valentine’s Day.
3. Boss’s dog peeing on the break room floor.
4. Watching cat videos.
5. Being stalked by a coworker who attempted murder.
6. Dealing with atrociously bad breath.
7. Twerking in a trash can.

The Valentine’s Day rat surgery certainly gives the classic excuse “the dog ate my homework” a run for its money.

Conclusion
Our survey revealed several troubling trends:

1. Employees hesitate to report serious issues at work.
2. Few seek advice from HR, only reaching out when financial matters are involved.
3. There’s a significant lack of trust in HR’s objectivity and reliability.
4. The workplace is filled with a variety of strange and amusing problems.

Fortunately, there is a path forward, demanding effort and dedication from both employees and HR. Resolving these image problems will benefit both parties involved.

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