Ever wonder if you should go to HR about a problem? Here's how to decide.
When you think about it that is not too optimistic a name. As it implies, people are yet another resource for "the company" to use in the quest to generate a profit. Yes those people are paid for their part in the quest for profit, but none the less they are a resource, and the sooner you understand that, the sooner you will have a little more bliss in your daily life.
I had a problem once. I pissed in someone's Corn Flakes (ate from their rice bowl, whatever). What's the problem? They were a manager (and a psychopathic sadist to boot) and went on a running rampage against me (and I should have known better as I'd seen it happen twice before to other people). My professional life went to hell, and as a result so did my personal life. My spouse and I were fighting, I was extra volatile, and my overall path was that of self destruction. All because I did not understand what HR really was. HR is your ally only under the right conditions. While the following may not be true at a small company, I can assure you it is true at the majority of big companies (based on my informal survey of friends and acquaintances who work for large companies).
HR has three rings of protection they work with, imagine three concentric circles. The outermost circle is you, the rank and file employee. Outside that circle is the big bad world, consisting of the press, head-hunters, the KKK, and other bad things. HR is your ally in protecting you from these things. The next ring in encompasses management and the physical assets of the company. In this case HR is there to protect managers from the big-bad-world, and from you, the rank and file employee. HR is *not* your ally when dealing with conflicts with a manager. Finally, the inner sanctum. This is the company core, the executive office, stock price, and company image. HR's job, above all else, is to protect this core. If you threaten it you are to be dealt with, if a manager threatens it, they are to be dealt with. If you have a conflict with a manager and you can reliably demonstrate that this manager is a threat to the company's core they HR is once again your ally.
I did not understand this. When I had an altercation with this manager (which started off with the bright and catchy phrase: "you little fuck!") I did not understand that complaining to his manager and HR would result in nothing being done. I was young and na´ve, I was optimistic. Life lessons my friend, life lessons. Had I known the minefield I was in at the time, I likely would have called security before management/HR and stated that I feared for may personal safety (I really did, as this person had a violent temper, a history of physical violence, and was known to carry a very impressive bowie). Alas I did not do as hindsight would dictate, and I went through a year of hell, group counseling, and a therapist, only to learn the simple truth we all already know by the time we get out of kindergarten, life's not fair. Luckily I also learned a lot about HR at big companies, so here you go.