4 Misconceptions About HR Professionals

Today, September 26th, is #HRProfessionalDay. It is a day dedicated to everyone who works in HR and an opportunity to appreciate HR professionals for the work we do in organizations.

Unlike many HR professionals who “fell” into the profession, I like to say I chose HR. During my undergraduate study, I majored in Business Administration, but I had an Accounting concentration. Through my business program, I got exposed to different aspects of business management, such as Marketing, Finance, Human Resources Management, and others. Though my concentration was Accounting, I realized that I connected more with Human Resources Management (HRM). Through HRM, I dealt with real people issues, and I saw my ability to lead and motivate people through workplace issues. 

When I discovered my love for HR, it was too late to switch my concentration from Accounting to HRM. So, when it was time to take an advanced degree, I chose to study Human Resources Management, and that’s my little story of how I got here. My friends often tease me about how I constantly “think and talk” about HR. Lol!

Well, my journey hasn’t been a smooth one. Since I joined the HR profession, I have questioned my career choice a few times, and for different reasons. One of them, which I’ll address through this blog post, has been limiting in a few ways. It has to do with the way people view HR professionals. Often, I get a sense of disapproval and preconceived notions when I tell people I’m an HR professional. People have made statements like these:

“I know HR to be about hiring, firing, and spying on people. Why would you want to do that?”

“You work in HR? I didn’t see you as that kind of person.”

“Of all the courses to study, why Human Resources Management?”

I understand that there are valid reasons for such sentiments; however, I think it’s unfair for people to put all HR professionals in a box even before we prove ourselves.

In honor of this day, I’ve taken the opportunity to debunk some of the misconceptions about HR professionals.

Policy Police

One reason people don’t like HR professionals is that we are known for creating and enforcing organizational policies. Some policies cover disciplinary issues such as absenteeism, tardiness, ethical conduct, and dress codes. Other policies cover hiring, promotions, compensation, leaves, internal and external communication, and termination. However, many employees liken these policies to “policing” since some HR professionals use their roles to exert control, fish out policy breakers, and punish them. I want to debunk this misconception by saying two things:

  • First, not every HR professional is a custodian of HR policies. The profession is so broad that many people specialize in different aspects, and they may never have to enforce policies.
  • Second, HR policies exist for good reasons. The policies are designed to provide fairness to all employees, enable managers to make quick and consistent decisions, and guide everyone’s behaviors.

Vindictive People

I asked someone why she wants to practice HR, and she said she desires the power to determine who joins the company and who stays (worse for them, if they get on her wrong side). This a very flawed reason for practicing HR! So I can see why some people see HR folks as vindictive people. Some employees have shared how former employers gave malicious information to their prospective employers during background investigations, to hinder them from getting ahead in their careers. I will address this misconception about HR professionals by saying that being vindictive has nothing to do with being in HR. A person with malicious tendencies will always demonstrate it regardless of their profession. It’s just unfortunate that some HR folks misuse their positions for the wrong motives.

Administrative Experts

In less enlightened organizations, all HR professionals are put into an administrative box. The traditional role of HR was to perform administrative duties such as handling employees’ files, keeping official records, or planning office parties. While there’s nothing wrong with administrative work, it might help to know that HR’s role has evolved! HR professionals now play strategic functions and contribute to the company’s bottom line—this entails understanding the business and creating HR strategies that align with its objectives, influencing change and driving high-performing teams, developing talent, demonstrating financial and technical skills, and advising the company on workplace issues.  

The CEO’s Ally

Many employees believe that HR professionals care about the CEO’s interests and do whatever the CEO says. In other words, we have created the impression that HR professionals are allies of company leaders and not employee champions. To address this one, I will say that HR professionals have to show commitment to the company’s values, goals, and needs, but at the same time, we should be supporting employees’ needs and creating an environment of trust. We can serve BOTH sides—the leaders and the employees.

I hope that I have been able to debunk some of those misconceptions you have about HR professionals today. 🙂

Happy #HRProfessionalDay to every HR professional! 🎉 My special shout-out goes to all the members of the #SHRM19Blogger Squad. Keep being the incredible HR Professionals that you are!

To celebrate this day, I’m encouraging you to give a shout-out to any HR professional you know.

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