Should You Be Friends With HR?

Some people believe that it’s best to come to the office, do their best, and go home. But others believe that it’s good to have friends at work (including being friends with HR). Which side are you on?

Let’s dig into reality one by one. It’s not wrong to choose not to have any friends at work. However, it’s best to at least have lunch together, converse with some of them, or go for a drink after work, so you get more information about what happens in the office and share some ideas.

Now, for those who agree on having friends at work. A study by Gallup found a connection between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees spend in their job. People who have a best friend at work perform better and happier compared to lonelier employees.

So, it’s good to have friends at work, but according to many articles that I read, you should draw a line between being friendly and befriending your HR personnel.

But, the HR personnel in my company are so friendly! It feels good talking to them. And they’re here to help and keep employees happy, right?

Not exactly. Just because HR professionals handle all your needs (onboarding, company benefits, sick leave, payroll), it doesn’t mean that they’re your friends.

HR professionals are passionate about people and mostly friendly. They’re responsible for the happiness of the employees and overall workplace culture. But since they’re working for the company, their main priority is to protect the company.

It’d be best if you understood that HR professionals are friendly, but they can never really be your friends because:

They avoid emotionally close relationships

There are many layers of friendship. For example, friends you share light stories with, friends you hang out with, and friends you invite to your wedding.

HR personnel falls under the category of the first layer — those with whom you share light stories. They’d appreciate it if you didn’t share too many details about your life because they don’t want to be emotionally close with you due to the nature of their job.

What’s the job of HR again? To protect the business and keep employees happy. In order to do that, they can’t be close with other employees to avoid being biased and attracting unpleasant gossip.

For example, you get a promotion because your performance is great and you achieve all targets. Some people could gossip that you’re promoted because you’re close with one HR personnel.

Or when there’s a dispute between you and another employee. It doesn’t matter if the other employee is wrong. Others who don’t know the whole story may think you’re justified because of your friendship with HR. This issue will disrupt the harmony in the workplace and is a threat to the company.

They don’t want to be stuck in between

A reader of Inc.com who works as an HR shares her story. She’s in an uncomfortable position due to her friendship with two employees. One day, she had a feedback session with a manager who managed her friends.

This manager was unhappy with her team calling in sick on busy days and decided to rearrange the team’s schedules. As an HR professional, she must not share the news with her friends. It will make her feel uncomfortable every time she talks to them because she knows something will come up and her poor friends know nothing.

They want everyone to trust them

Taking the example about friendship with HR as above, how would you feel if you found out that your HR friend had been keeping the information from you? Sure, you can be an understanding friend because that’s her job to keep it confidential. But I’m sure you’ll feel a little bit disappointed.

Or, if you’re the manager, how would you feel? Should you know that the HR personnel is a friend to your subordinates, would you come to her for the feedback session? Would you doubt her integrity as an HR professional to trust her with the information?

This is another reason you shouldn’t be friends, or should I say, close friends with HR. People want employees to trust that they’re doing their job with integrity and fairness.

You should solve issues with respective people first

Although HR professionals exist to support employees and create a healthy environment at the workplace, you should solve any problem with respective people first. You may rant to your friends about the problems you face at work, but in some cases, HR shouldn’t be your first option.

For example, if you’re unhappy with the performance of your subordinate or want to know how to advance your career, it’s better and will be more effective if you discuss it with the respective people.

Some examples of issues you can bring straight to HR are stealing, sexual harassment and problems that aren’t solved after discussing them with particular people.

They’re not supporting you 100%

Another reason you shouldn’t be friends with HR is that they cannot support you 100%.

Any issue you brought up to HR may have an outcome that you’re not satisfied with. HR works for the company and sees things from many angles — the reporter, the one reported and the company.

They have to find a way to solve complicated issues while sometimes facing structural constraints in representing employees. So, it’d be best if you remind yourself the main priority of HR professionals are to represent the interest of the company that employs them.

If you find that your issues aren’t addressed after reporting it to HR and feel unhappy with the outcome, rather than blaming it on or resenting HR, perhaps it’s better for you to find a new job. Who knows that the incident is directing you to a new career path, an organisation where you’ll be happier working.

In short

HR are human beings. They’re friendly and helpful but being friends with employees puts them in a tricky situation. Therefore, you shouldn’t ask for more when they’re friends with you. Keep your relationship with HR as a friendly professional, but never as friends.

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