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What Your Friendly Neighborhood HR Rep Can and Can’t Do for You


Nearly every organization has a mysterious person who lurks behind a closed office door, can be spotted on the floor checking on employees, or giving out helpful information at staff meetings. No we are not talking about some caped crusader who swoops in to save the day. We’re talking about the Human Resource representative at your workplace and finding out what this person can do (and cannot do) for you as an employee.

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Forget everything you’ve ever learned about the HR department, from television shows like “The Office” where Toby Flenderson, HR Manager, is the most despised person at Dunder Mifflin paper company. Human Resources has evolved into a role that is critical to the success of companies worldwide — offering some interesting pros (and cons) for employees. 

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The Role of Your Human Resources Representative

In a nutshell, the Human Resource representative, whether a single manager or part of a larger department, is assigned the big responsibility of handling the people aspects of a business. From recruiting and onboarding new employees to making sure that employees are working up to par in a safe and rewarding environment, the HR person is someone who exists between the interests of the employees and the goals of the company. As a result, there are some amazing things that an HR department can do for employees and some things they cannot do, based on certain rules of engagement and employment laws.

Let’s learn more.

What the HR Department Can Do for Employees

There are a number of benefits that your HR department can provide to you as an employee. After all, a good many HR pros go into this as a career path because they are passionate about helping people. But remember, the HR department’s job is to retain a highly-skilled and productive workforce. Anything that demonstrates you are not going to live up to this goal, including anything you disclose that could potentially be harmful to the company is subject to their discretionary action. Therefore, when approaching the HR representative at your company, keep this fact in mind.

Some things that the HR team can do for you as an employee include:

  • Helping to resolve any co-worker, team or management conflicts in a positive way.
  • Supporting your career goals to get training and education so you can perform better at work.
  • Giving you information on your salary, benefits, unemployment topics, and individual work progress and career opportunities.
  • Assisting you with orienting to the company policies and a new job, making difficult career transitions and reducing skill gaps when you want to improve your productivity.
  • Providing immediate support and access to resources if you experience a crisis in your personal or professional life.
  • Recording confidential information about suspected workplace violations such as sexual harassment, discrimination, safety hazards, employee bullying and violence.
  • Handling workplace injuries and guiding you to appropriate medical care or help with workers’ compensation follow-up.

Most HR departments have representatives on hand who can confidentially help you in these areas of your work life. Respect their time and try to schedule appointments in advance to go over these things if you ever need their help.

What the HR Department Cannot Do for Employees

Many people have the misconception that the HR department is a counseling office of some sort. Or that they are just waiting for you to “mess up” at work so they can get you. Neither of these things are true, but as an employee you need to be aware of the things that an HR representative cannot do for you. Human Resources is a special department that’s designed to help businesses maximize the investment they have in all employees. They are also in place to make sure that an employer does not inadvertently break any employment laws, which can result in costly lawsuits. HR teams are often the go-to source for succession planning, managing the costs of health care and payroll, and recruiting the right people to build effective work teams.

When it comes to employees, however, there are some things HR cannot do:

  • Asking you interview questions or intentionally limiting your work opportunities based on your racecolorreligionsex (including pregnancy)national originage (40 or older), disability or genetic information.
  • Revealing the personal information or sharing details about other employees or managers with you.
  • Giving you unwarranted personal or professional advice that could cause you damages.
  • Providing on-site medical care or services, unless administering first aid while waiting for an ambulance.
  • Telling you how to apply for unemployment benefits after you’ve been terminated from employment.
  • Correcting workplace violations without support from upper management and the supervisory team.
  • Telling you the status of investigations into alleged workplace violations such as sexual harassment or bullying.
  • Cashing your paycheck for you, telling you how much other employees earn, or providing cash payments for your salary.
  • Maintaining absolute confidentiality when doing so would cause economic or legal damage to the company, a client, or another employee.

If you want to get the most out of your friendly neighborhood Human Resources department, take the time to get to know them and find out how they can help you grow in your career. You’ll find that most HR representatives care about employees and their success in the company. When employees are happy and work well, the company benefits and everyone wins.

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When is the last time you talked to your Human Resources department – were they helpful or not? Talk to us on Twitter and share your experiences!

Tess C. Taylor
Read more from Tess C.

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