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Can You Really Trust Your HR Department?

You may think, and your HR department may want you to believe, that they are there for your benefit and the benefit of all employees.
But ultimately the HR Director is there to serve the company, and in many cases that means avoiding liability on its behalf, accommodating high performers (despite any issues other staff members may have with them), and trying to keep ‘complainers’ contained.
Jennifer Davies of Captured HR helps a reader who’s HR department seems to have turned a blind eye to an aggressive manager’s behaviour.


Dear Daily Slog,

I’ve been having on-going trouble with, as I see it, an incompetent and aggressive manager, and it reached the point where I felt I needed the support of our HR department to guide me on how to manage him.

I requested a meeting with our HR Director, and she made all the right noises and expressed sympathy with my situation but ultimately did not offer to take any action. 

I’ve tried a second meeting to follow up on the issue but have gotten the same result. I am completely frustrated and just feel that the HR team are there purely to serve management – they may give the appearance of being a sounding board to staff but ultimately the HR Director has to answer to the board and really just has their interests at heart. Is this your experience? 


Dear Reader, 

I’m sorry to see that you are not only having to deal with an incompetent and aggressive manager but also a HR Director who is not taking any action to deal with the issue you are experiencing.

My personal view is that a HR team is there to create and implement an effective people management strategy, one which gets employees motivated so that they work more efficiently and effectively towards achieving the organisational goals and objectives.

So essentially, as with all roles within an organisation, their function is to serve the overall good of the company. However, a major way of achieving employee motivation is having a culture that promotes and encourages healthy and positive employee relations and also a process in place that supports the effective resolution of issues when they do arise.


Your HR Director is either trying to sweep it under the table and hope it goes away, or trying to back management at all costs


While your HR Director appears to have listened and sympathised with you, no action has been taken. This is frustrating for you and very poor practice on your HR Director’s part.

Grievances will occur in the normal course of interaction in any organisation or workplace. It is accepted that failure to provide a procedure to deal adequately with these grievances, as they arise, will inevitably lead to disputes affecting not only the aggrieved party but others employed in the company.

I’m not sure whether your HR Director’s reluctance to deal with the issue is driven by the fact that they would rather sweep it under the table and hope it goes away, or whether they’re trying to back management at all costs to the detriment of their staff. In either case, don’t give up hope yet.

Most companies should have processes and procedures in place to deal with conflict and issues within the workplace. The processes that I’m referring to are a Grievance Process, a Disciplinary Process and a Bullying & Harassment Policy.

All three of these processes outline how a company deals with issues that arise, whether they are interpersonal issues, attitude or behavioural issues or staff grievances. Potentially your complaint could be dealt with under the grievance policy and / or the Bullying & Harassment Policy. You should be able to find a copy of these processes in your employee handbook. Read them and follow the process to ensure your complaint is not just heard, but acted upon as well.


If no informal action is being proposed then you have been left with no other choice but to make a formal complaint.


In my experience, HR Departments can usually be trusted to do their job and follow the processes that have been designed by them to deal with issues. My advice to you would be to have a final conversation with your HR Director and outline the following:

  • That you are not satisfied with the lack of action that has been taken.
  • That you are looking for support in dealing with this issue.
  • Provide examples of your manager’s incompetence and aggression – have dates / times and whether there were any witnesses.
  • Give your HR Director an example of the action you would like them or another senior manager to take e.g. the HR Director or a Senior Manager having a conversation with the manager in question to outline that their behaviour is unacceptable.
  • If no informal action is being proposed then you should notify your HR Director that you feel that you have been left with no other choice but to make a formal complaint. This is a written complaint which must be fully investigated.

If your HR Director is still not acting on your complaint, go to a more senior manager.


For more great advice from Jennifer see:

What is the best way to manage someone out of a company?

Do I have to give an ineffective employee a reference if asked?

How soon is too soon to leave a new job?

I want to change departments but worry my manager will hold me back


About the Author

Jennifer Davies is a HR Consultant, Career Coach & Owner of Captured HR Consultancy based in Cork, Ireland. For more information on her services visit

Jennifer Davies Captured HR

If you have a career issue you would like help with email the details to us at and we will source a suitable professional to help. All correspondence will be kept confidential.

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