10 Things you should never say to HR 

If HR staff had thought bubbles above their head when in conversation with managers then you would be able to see when they were thinking ,” you really shouldn’t be telling me this”. 


1) You can’t stand one of your team

If you tell a member of HR you can’t stand an individual in your team how is it going to look if at a later date that individual submits a grievance against you? How does it look if they already have? If the individuals grievance is that you are trying to get rid of them it’s going to be hard to convince HR that this is not the case.  

2) There are no witnesses but you admit you shouted,  swore and threaten the individual.

You may have been provoked beyond the patience of a saint, the consensus amongst colleagues maybe it was about time the individual was taken to task but there is a reason a bolloxing is given in private.   

3) You changed the person specification to exclude a particular internal candidate.

You did indeed change the standard person specification to include the need for a management qualification/ specific experience in view of the particular requirements of the post. Of course HR are not idiots they know you changed it to exclude a candidate who would have been a disastrous appointment. But if you have the rational only you know your true motive.

4) Everyone does it

As a chair of internal disciplinary panels I was surprised that anyone would use this excuse, it’s an admission of guilt and an unconvincing attempt at mitigation. 

5) You don’t think the pictures on your work computer are pornographic. 

Well that’s the problem we do.

6) Can you tell them / be the bad guy

If there is one thing that frustrates people working in HR more than anything else it‘s  managers who won’t challenge their staff and want HR to do their job for them. You’re the manager you need to tackle them about their time keeping, poor performance, inappropriate behaviour or absenteeism. 

7) I just did what you told me to. -in other words it’s all your fault 

This runs failure to challenge a close second in the HR frustration stakes. People in HR give advice based on knowledge and experience. In my experience as a senior manager  they give good, well thought out advice but they don’t make decisions for managers. A manager can follow the advice or ignore it . A manager should have a rational for their decision which stands up to questioning. HR told me to do it is frankly pathetic. And whilst we are on the subject of taking responsibility ringing up different members of the HR team to seeking advice on the same issue/ case until someone gives tells you what you want to hear undermines your credibility not HR’s 

8) It was just a joke

What you’re really saying is that homophobia, Islamophobia, racism and sexism are suitable subjects for humour. At best you are alerting HR to a lack of awareness and sensitivity at worst you are being unrepentant at causing offence.   

9) I shouldn’t have to justify my actions

Managers are often asked why certain decisions were made , providing rational explanations is part of the job. Being defensive or indignant only creates the impression that there is something not quiet right about your actions 

10) I thought you were on my side.

This is most often heard when a manager finds them selves the subject of a grievance which HR are investigating. In my experience HR will get you out of a hole you have dug yourself into but it may involve you admitting you got it wrong.

Blair Mcpherson former Director. Author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk

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