What shouldn’t HR do?

By Mark Di Vincenzo. Mark Di Vincenzo is a journalist with 24 years of experience and a New York Times best-selling author.

7 Things HR Shouldn’t Do

Human resources officers are fine folks who are often asked to do things that no one else in the company wants to do, or can do. Sometimes though, what they’re asked to do is inappropriate.

There’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed, but it’s not always easy to see. Here are some tasks that HR pros shouldn’t have to deal with:

1. Serve as the company psychiatrist

Many human resources professionals chose the profession because they have excellent people skills. Most people enjoy talking with them, and some “drop by” their offices on a regular basis to discuss issues that they don’t feel comfortable discussing with anyone else – like their spouses. Never mind that the issues have nothing at all to do with their jobs. If you’re in HR, don’t go there.

2. Help a job candidate’s spouse

The boss wants to hire the hotshot who blew everyone away during the job interview, but they’re not taking the job unless their spouse can find a good job in town. Your company has no suitable openings, so the CEO asks HR to make some calls to other local companies and see what’s available.

Countless human resources professionals have been put in this tough spot by their superiors, but it’s not HR’s role. Direct the spouse to local services that can help them, and maybe see if the company can squeeze the bill into the recruiting budget. But don’t review their resumé, practice interviews, or strain your professional connections. Recruiting packages can never guarantee spousal employment.

3. Help an employee’s spouse

in a meeting with HRThis is less common, but it happens, and it usually involves an executive whose spouse is looking for a job, but he or she doesn’t want the partner working at the same company, so HR gets a call to help out. Don’t get trapped.

4. Dish out the gossip

HR staffers hear more dirt about employees than just about anyone else at the firm. Who has anger-management problems? Who’s getting suspended? Who’s getting fired? This can be juicy stuff, and human resources staffers often are asked what they know about this. Don’t blab. Ever.

5. Hire prematurely

Sometimes companies need to hire a lot of people for seasonal work or for some other reason, and they need to do it quickly. Somtimes the HR staff is instructed to rush the process, fudge the paperwork, or avoid calling references. Big mistake. Turnover is expensive.

6. Fire recklessly

At some companies, Human Resources is told to fire employees who are misbehaving or incompetent, because other managers don’t want to do the dirty work. The temptation is to put the blame on the department managers who pawned the decision off on HR, by saying something like, “They’re making me do this.”

Own the decision. Don’t give a roundabout explanation. And never meet with the employee alone. Always have another person in the room to serve as a witness in case there’s a dispute over what was said and the matter ends up in mediation or court.

7. Improper interviewing

There are lots of questions that human resources professionals should never ask that other managers might want answered. Don’t budge. Don’t ask anything about age (Are you a Baby Boomer?), marital status (Is it Mrs. or Miss?), family (Do you live with your parents?), sexual orientation (Are you curious about our domestic partner benefits?), health or medical issues (Do you have any physical disabilities?), ethnic origin, citizenship or family roots (O’Connor… that’s Irish, right?) or religion (Are you interested to know where the local synagogues are located?).

HR often pays pretty well because the best in the business never cross the line when they’re put in difficult positions. They know what to say and what not to say, and when to talk and when not to talk. That’s worth a lot.


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