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Do you trust your HR department?

By Kace O'Neill | |5 minute read

Distrust between employees and their HR departments is growing, and people are seeking support outside the organisations they are working for.

According to a report from Secure Data Recovery, more than a third of US workers said they don’t have any trust in their company’s human resources department, blaming factors such as bias, favouritism, inconsistency, lack of employee care, and an overall lack of confidentiality.

Of those who work in small businesses (fewer than 50 employees), 47 per cent said their organisation’s HR structure is entirely unprofessional, and 43 per cent don’t feel like they can confide to their HR team.


According to the report: “If policies and decisions are not consistently applied, it can be hard to take HR seriously. In short, fostering a transparent and fair HR environment is crucial for building trust within organisations.”

HR departments are supposed to be a support system for employees.

However, the report surveyed over a thousand workers, and half stated that a lack of an HR department contributes to a toxic workplace.

According to Indeed, toxic work environments can create all sorts of issues for employers and employees. A hostile workplace can hinder employee effectiveness, undermine job satisfaction, spoil engagement with work, and cut productivity.

The problem, however, becomes even more complicated with small businesses. Eighty-eight per cent of respondents stated that they’ve worked for a small business that has no dedicated HR person, and 73 per cent have added that their designated HR person also had another job.

Another note from the report that creates animosity is the fact that bosses usually have a hand in HR operations. Around 64 per cent of respondents noted that fact, with 24 per cent feeling very uncomfortable with it, deeming it a conflict of interest.

The following attributes were noted as key indiscretions that bad HR departments often omit:

  • General disorganisation
  • Poor communication
  • Failure to address conflicts
  • Lack of standardised processes
  • Ignoring employee feedback

The report stated: “For any business, taking the time to enhance HR practices is crucial for fostering a positive workplace environment. While HR can be a controversial department for employees, the lack of a department can paint a negative picture.”

Having an HR representative is crucial for not only small businesses but all businesses. Most big-time companies will have an HR person or department; however, if there is too much influence on it from leaders or it portrays any of the similar attributes from the list above, then it can directly correlate to a toxic working environment.

Employers, however, can build trust during uncertain times by creating the stability and consistency that workers yearn for. Focusing on the reiteration of company values, employers should look to engage workers in the decision-making processes and build an empathetic outlook on leadership itself. Pursuing these commitments could rebuild that trust between employees and their HR departments.

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill is a Graduate Journalist for HR Leader. Kace studied Media Communications and Maori studies at the University of Otago, he has a passion for sports and storytelling.