It’s a common adage that a Human Resources department is there to protect the company, not the employee. Indeed, HR staffers are under no obligation to keep your conversations with them confidential; nor do they need to share decisions or details of a particular case.
In a recent survey, Blind asked some 11,892 tech pros if they trusted Human Resources. Some 70.3 percent answered “No.” Here’s a company-by-company breakdown of the responses:
Intel topped the list of companies with the least amount of trust for Human Resources, followed by Amazon, eBay, Oracle, and Airbnb. Previous Blind surveys have cited Airbnb, eBay, Intel, and Amazon as having significant workplace retaliation issues, as well as a habit of discouraging salary discussion—both matters that heavily involve HR.
“In order to improve our workplaces and allow employees to feel safe, both HR and the employee-employer dynamic will need to be reformed,” Blind added in a note accompanying the data. “Because HR is not always a reliable ally, employees are turning to other options to deal with their workplace issues. Resources like Blind also allow employees to discuss workplace matters with a community, whether it’s to anonymously bring attention to an issue or just get advice from other employees.”
Before approaching HR about workplace issues, you can always attempt to work things out on your own. For example, if a coworker says something that makes you uncomfortable, you can speak up—while making sure you log the incident and aftermath in writing. Loop in your boss; it’s always better that he or she hears directly from you.
If the issue persists, then you can consider getting HR involved. “If you’re afraid of damaging your career, make a preliminary call to HR and state your situation generally to see how they typically handle such matters and what you can expect if you meet with them,” Daniel B. Griffith, director of Conflict Resolution and Dialogue Programs at Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis, told Dice last year. “Being educated on the process can alleviate fear and help you decide how to proceed.”
If and when you finally visit HR, make sure to provide documentation of the incident. Remember that HR isn’t automatically on your side, and will make decisions only on the evidence presented. If you’re truly concerned that nobody will support your version of events, you can ask for an outsider to investigate the situation, although not every HR department will listen to that kind of request.
And if the situation is serious, and your internal Human Resources department can’t resolve it, you can consider whether to approach a mediator such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), especially in cases of employment discrimination.