Dear Evil HR Lady,
I want to preface this by saying how much I love my job and [most of] my coworkers. However, our HR woman is heinously incompetent. She doesn’t know the answer to any of our questions and spends hours doing things manually that computers can do in minutes. She scoffs at any advice and scolds people who do tasks for her in ways that are not approved by her (even if more efficient).
Talking to her is so awkward, she usually just stares at you until you walk away because she can’t provide a clear answer. She’s also not ethical or trustworthy. One employee asked about including her partner (both female) on the insurance; the HR lady said no and compared it to putting her son on the insurance. She’s just a “sweet old lady” who’s horribly outdated and refuses to learn.
However, she’s worked here for something like 20 years and the bosses adore her and have no idea anyone feels this way. No one has ever come forward about it and I’ve only worked here for a couple of months so don’t feel it’s appropriate to go to the principal (design firm) or make waves about this but she needs to go.
PS: I also really want to find out if our insurance covers emotional support, but am not comfortable asking her (plus she probably wouldn’t know). Do you know ways around this?
Fortunately, your last question is the easiest to answer. Call the insurance company and ask them. HR isn’t actually expected to know everything insurance covers off the top of their heads. I mean, no one can know all the ins and outs. So, call the customer service number on your health insurance card and ask them. They’ll know.
Now that that is taken care of, all problems are solved! Ha, ha, ha! Okay, she’s still a sweet old lady that the bosses love and refuses to learn. A couple questions:
1. How do you know the bosses love her? I mean, they haven’t fired her, but not firing her is not the same as loving her. And even if they do love her, loving her as a person is far different from loving her work. They may be merely tolerating her.
2. Your coworker who inquired about health coverage for her partner, what did she do next? Now, I don’t have any idea if your company covers health insurance for domestic partners, but it’s possible that they don’t, and the HR lady just wasn’t very good at explaining why it wasn’t covered. Even if it wasn’t done with the greatest of tact, if the correct information was conveyed (“domestic partners are not covered, just as my 35 year old son is not covered, even though he lives with me”) then it’s of no consequence. Contrary to popular opinion, HR doesn’t actually determine who will be covered by the company’s health insurance. They work on the negotiation with the insurance company, but final decisions for something like that are made at the highest level, and in a small company that means the CEO. Additionally, state and local laws vary, and all insurance plans must comply with the local as well as federal laws. You should have just gone through open enrollment and there would have been the option to add a partner if that was allowable.
3. Does it matter how she does things? I mean, it’s totally annoying. But, every job I’ve ever had began with me coming in and automating tasks. Whoever had the jobs I had before, never did them in the most efficient manner, ever. This is not uncommon. We think, “Oh, it will take so long to automate that, I better just do the task like I’ve always done it.” And some people are scared of technology. I remember a “discussion” I had with a senior HR person. She wanted a report emailed to her every week so that she could always have up to date info. Well, we’d just implemented a system that allowed people to run their own reports. I tried to explain this to her, and she just kept repeating, “But I always get this report in my email!” I offered to set it up for her so that there was an icon on her desktop and she could click it at any time and it would give her the latest, greatest, information. But, no. “I always get this report in my email!” Like the world would end if she had to click on a button instead of open an email.
But, in the end, we just kept emailing her the report because that level of dumb is hard to fight. And it wasn’t a huge pain for my team to do so, just stupid. So, is her refusal to get up to date with technology really important? Does it affect your daily life, or is it a mere annoyance? If it’s affecting your daily life and you’ve volunteered to fix it and she hasn’t accepted, then it’s a problem. Otherwise, let it go.
4. Why has no one said anything to senior management? You haven’t, your co-worker hasn’t. Why not? Why not mention it–if it’s an actual real problem. “Hey, Jane, I have a question for you. Heidi in HR is insisting that we do calculations in Word and add them up with a handheld calculator rather than doing spreadsheets in Excel. Is it possible to talk to her?” or “Hey, Jane, Heidi in HR is insisting that same-sex partners aren’t covered. But the open enrollment form referenced domestic partners. Can you clarify for me?” (Note, you shouldn’t ask this, your co-worker who wants this should ask.) You said you don’t feel comfortable asking these things. Is it possible that it’s because you know the things you’re complaining about aren’t big deals? Is it possible that she actually does a good job at 90 percent of the stuff she’s supposed to do? How do you know she’s not ethical or trustworthy? If you have some serious examples, then you are ethically obligated to bring them to the boss’s attention. If you don’t then you’re right to keep your mouth shut.
Generally, you should only complain about things that directly affect your ability to do your job. It doesn’t sound like this is the case here. Plus, you’re new. Unless there are some serious ethical or legal violations (in which case you should speak up yesterday), wait and see how things pan out. If you have a job where you like all your co-workers except for one, that’s a huge win. Most people don’t need daily interaction with HR, so this may not be as big of a deal as you think it is.