The Ugly Side of A HR Practitioner’s Job


This article is based on the writer’s personal experience and reflects his personal opinion.

The Ugly Side of A HR Practitioner’s Job

The human resource function is thankless job. If you are still a student in tertiary education, and is taking a Human Resource class, your class may give you the false impression the Human Resource is well organized and well structured job like jobs in Finance.

If you are a HR practitioner applying for a job in a tertiary institution; you are going to find that the school will want you to teach what is written in the textbook and not teaching students so as to prepare them for the working world.

The workplace reality is very different. As small and medium enterprises make up about 70 percent of any economy, the Human Resource function is the most neglected function by employers. They view it as a money spending function and the view people as a factor to production (labor; people as a digit). Even for companies with billion dollar revenues, they may have more monetary resources, but they also will have areas which are neglected. Again, the amount and area of neglect varies with industry. For example, large banks and hotels have structured training programs and compensation structures. You cannot make the same general comments outside of these two employers.

It is going to be a regular expectations for the HR practitioner stepping into a new job that “there will always be things that are broken and not fixed or things that are not in place.”

People know employment legislations exist but they do not realize that legislations because arise because unethical employers do exist.

At the legislations level, there is politics involved between government, voters and employers; and between governments of migrant countries.

People also do not realize that organizations who hold themselves to be professional vendors exist to make as much profit as they can with their proprietory materials and systems, making things overly expensive for small and medium employers.

It is quite sad for the HR practitioner who found that a bigger company has bought over a extremely good small vendor, particularly a human resource system vendor because a good HR system can help automate time consuming and mundane tasks such as costing of staff salaries; keeping track of leave records. After purchase, prices would go up and the HR practitioner would be forced to change to a cheaper but less effective system by his employer.

People also do not realize that many of our management concepts taught in business schools are either impractical and out of date. In particular, on effective organizational structure, on how staff are to be managed.  The same goes with the proprietory materials and systems offered by high end vendors. Because of strong sales tactics, these vendors are creating obstacles to organizational change because their proprietory system still cling on to old management concepts that have proven to be less effective or even problematic.  People hold on to them because of the power structures, the money the products generate. What gets neglected in the end is people.

An example is this: when his boss needs to terminate the services of a staff, what does the boss do? He will turn to the Human Resource practitioner to do the job for him. Sometimes, other department heads do the same. Management staff are paid more because it is their job to manage and not just administer operational tasks. They are pushing this task away because they want to “appear as the nice guy” and “don’t want to take the heat when things back fire.”

A further example is recruitment. Sometimes the HR practitioner will find himself working with a department head who kept rejecting job applicants that the department head had interviewed, holding on to hopes to find the perfect candidate while either the work from the vacancy piles up or got added to another staff’s work load.

Employees tend to forget that the Human Resource personnel works for the employer, not the employees although they are employees themselves. The law does not protect the Human Resource personnel.

For some HR practitioners, especially in non profit  or not for profit organization, they would encounter employers that are impractical in trying to save costs. An example is to get multiple insurance brokers to get comparative quotes for employee-related insurance programs.

If a person works in a Human Resource personnel job long enough, he or she is going to find that there will be time that he or she would be powerless to do what is ethically right or even lawfully right because of the weight of his or her superiors on him or her.

For example, in a sexual harassment case, where the female staff have been approached by her boss, the operations manager who pretend to be drunk when they are together at a company function. The Human Director put aside the case because the General Manager, who is the operations head, did not want to lose the operation manager by disciplining him. The Human Resource Manager who reported the case to both his superiors was left helpless. The downside of it is the Government itself at that time was resisting to put in place proper laws on harassments. Those colleagues who heard of the female’s staff were asking why Human Resources did not do anything.

Sometimes employee unions give problems. The union may come up with ridiculous suggestions for employee benefits programs; or on benefit programs that do not comply with the law.

With the death of the life long job, the 21st century workplace is very different from the 20th century workplace. Less and less does senior management staff cares about the impact to individuals and their families should they lose their jobs. And this has an impact on HR polices and practices.

An phenomena that is becoming common place is retiring colleagues and bosses becoming unwilling to do their own work and start pushing them out to others. A hesitant guess would be career burn-out after being a long time in the same career, or worst in the the same job with the same company.

All these are the behaviors of human nature; how our human society ticks.