Don’t You Know Human Resources is the Enemy?


Now that I have your attention, I hope you will continue to read this article. The above statement is an actual declaration of a fellow employee to me when he asked what my role was with the company. Like it or not, this is a perception by many, and explains in a small way the adversity that human resources directors face.

As I pondered this statement a little further, I did what I usually do, and that is try to dig to the base of the rationale and thought stated. What would make someone feel that way? Although there are many layers to that onion, indulge me to share what I consider the base of the issue. In a nutshell, it is the past vs. the future. There is no doubt, human resources is often the culprit of change. Whether it is policy, personnel, or training to reshape employee behavior. And as a whole, people do not want to change. Human resources, by nature, works in the future. They possess the responsibility to foresee, and navigate beyond potential threats to the organization. Their role includes safeguarding, through forward thinking, the resources (human and capital) and reputation of the organization. Human resources directors, trainers, and employees are often faced with the task of being the messenger prognosticating vulnerabilities that need correcting. And we all know the cliché of wanting to kill the messenger. The revelation of vulnerability to company is never good news. It often translates into financial cost impact the bottom line. It also will translate into time needed to be invested to protect the organization. And it will ultimately mean…CHANGE. Yes, that dreaded word. The worn path is the most easily traveled, and ease is the goal, right? (So said many an ostrich with their head in the sand).

By contrast, many prefer the past rather than the future. If you don’t believe it, just sit down and yawn through another individual’s dialogue of the great things they have done. As humans, we have tendencies to stockpile past achievements into a mountain we can stand upon for added social strata. If we have a large mountain, it naturally means we are the expert in the room. Right? Not necessarily.

And then there are the most often repeated phrases in human history. ‘We’ve never had a problem in the PAST.” We’ve never had to do it that way BEFORE.” Get the idea?

The ultimate purpose of this article is to mine for answers. Not to add salt to wounds. Being hated as the enemy is never fun. Let the challenge be to navigate the thinking to a forward posture, before trying to present the need for change. When individuals only have the past as a reference point, you will always be faced with opposition. Help your team get rid of ‘stinkin’ thinkin’ by helping them view the future. Maybe then you won’t be the enemy.

Happy trails!

written by James Anderson, PHR

James teaches the Employment, Recruiting, and Placement Specialist program at Career Tech in Lakeland, Florida

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