This is part of a great article on Lifehacker. The main part I have below is about HR and how they are not really there for you, they are there to protect the company. I worked in HR for a couple years as a training manager and witnessed first hand how they view employees as numbers, not people. Managers were literally put in a box–it was called a Nine-Box and measured their ability and their potential. The ones in the wrong box (low ability, low potential) were basically marked for elimination although it rarely happened, because there was so much turnover, it was hard to focus on getting rid of someone when you don’t have a replacement available.
HR will be your ally if you have a bad manager who is putting the company at risk (sexual harassment, etc.) but other than that, be aware that they don’t have to keep anything you tell them confidential and if you have a bad manager that is treating you wrong you better have witnesses and proof because they are going to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Have dates, times and all of the facts because otherwise your complaint will probably be ignored.
One thing becomes apparent after the honeymoon of a newly-launched career is over: Your employer—whether it’s a scrappy startup or a massive multi-million dollar company—is not your friend. You are a resource. That means the only one you can trust, really, is you. Here’s how to keep a cool head and stay in control of your career.
Sure, there are great jobs and companies out there that truly care about their employees. Those companies are rare, though, and you’ll be lucky if you land a job with one of them. It’s more likely you’ll find a team or a boss that cares about you enough to keep every day from becoming soul-crushing drudgery.
For many of us though, we quickly learn—either through layoffs, bad bosses, or how they handle disputes—that the companies we work for aren’t looking out for us. We learn the double standard of giving two weeks notice when we quit, even though the company can lay us off any time they choose with no warning. It sucks, but it’s a reminder that you are your best ally.
Human Resources Is Not There to Protect You, They’re There to Protect the Company
It’s tempting to believe that Human Resources is there to help you. That’s not necessarily true. More often than not, HR is responsible for personnel paperwork, benefits, payroll, and—assuming your company cares—employee training and morale. They make sure everyone can focus on work, that pay is competitive enough to attract talent, and that the distractions of employee relationships, bad managers, and other issues go away. Quickly. They will always serve the needs and interests of the company, whether that matches up with your interests or not.
Now, there are probably good people in your HR department willing to help, but finding them can be tough. When you do, you’ll likely deal with them on an individual basis, like a counselor or advisor. After all, it’s called “Human Resources,” and employees are “human capital” for a reason.
We’re not saying you should completely distrust HR, but HR should never be your first step if you have a problem. You can’t always expect discretion unless it’s specifically guaranteed, and your complaint will likely work its way back to the person at the root of it. Instead, try to resolve your differences and issues independently, before asking someone else to get involved. It may be harder, and sometimes not worth it, but learning how to be assertive and handle office issues yourself will serve you well for every subsequent problem that crops up or job you ever have.