As a leadership, sales, and management trainer I’ve worked closely with many Human Resource professionals. Over the years I’ve observed demands, requests, and questions aimed at these professionals that don’t fit under the HR umbrella. Some are a time drain for these already busy professionals while others are outside of their expertise…either can undermine an organization.

HR isn’t psycho-analysis – When employees come to HR representatives with personal problems the employee must understand the HR professional, in many cases, doesn’t have the time or training to act as a counselor. By asking, “What do you need from me?” The HR specialist may determine whether its human resources related such as time off or if it’s personal guidance being sought to which the best answer may be, “I’m not the right person.” If the company offers wellness programs and counseling, the employee should be directed to any applicable program.

HR should never be involved in gossip – Gossiping can be sneaky and insidious. It’s not only the sharing of unsubstantiated hearsay, or divulging of private and personal information; it can be listening to complaints. It’s easy to get caught up in an employee’s complaints about another but listening to complaints may add credibility to them. If the complaints are serious charges, prejudicial, or angry then other members of the management team should be included.

HR shouldn’t do all the hiring and firing – HR should be involved in both. They should be part of the screening process for new hires. Human Resources may be the best team to hire for some positions, but not for all. And in many situations the department manager is the best option to make the final hiring decision. HR should help with firing. They can assure that laws and regulations are followed, but it shouldn’t be left to them alone. I understand this may be bucking Big Corp Inc., but a direct manager should be available to answer questions, explain the reasoning, and to…feel the pain of discharging a teammate. Only by firing someone who I failed did I learn to give my all to the next teammate.

HR is not a substitute department manager – Should it be HR’s job to perform corrective actions, discipline employees, set goals, or review performance. Not entirely. Although HR may assist, observe, or participate as needed with any of these actions it’s the direct manager who should have the knowledge and understanding to best complete these management functions. And if the manager doesn’t have the direct knowledge of his or her people—who are they managing?

HR isn’t a tax consultant – “How many exemptions should I take?” “If I work ten hours overtime what will my taxes be this week?” Some HR specialist may be able to answer these and other tax related questions, but in many cases, it’s not their job and what if they do give an answer and it’s wrong? Then what happens? Once again the best answer to these questions may be—I’m not the right person.

HR shouldn’t treat everyone equal – When I talked with my favorite HR person about this idea she agreed, but offered that I should be careful how I say it. I don’t mean HR should show favoritism, nepotism or any other ‘tism. What I mean is employees earn consideration. A twenty-year loyal employee who consistently overachieves may have earned privileges that a new employee hasn’t. That’s not being unfair—that’s being equitable. Of course, any special consideration must be compliant with all state and federal regulations.

I began this post divulging I’m not an HR professional. I only know enough to be dangerous. I do know that it’s a complicated and convoluted responsibility. Balancing what’s best for the employee and organization while remaining compliant can be like juggling chain saws—one wrong move can be disastrous. I’d like to hear from HR professionals—what do you think you should and shouldn’t be doing?