Go to HR and complain

I have seen that answer as above line for many question (Eg: How to fix a weird relationship at work). Is it actually successful answer?

Note : I am from Sri Lanka my opinion are depends with my experience. I don't know about other countries....

In Sri lanka, "Go to HR and complain" won't work 95% if the person is new employee or lower position person

(Eg : new employee complains about his manger).

What happen here is, after new employee complains about his manger, HR discuss with the manager. Then HR will say that problem is solved. Then manager will get more revenge than previous. There is no point in complaining again and again. Actually in Sri lanka, " Go to HR and complain" we are making our situation more worse.

This might be differ in very large companies, but I know that most of small and medium size companies situation is similar in Sri lanka. As I think, situation of india also similar.

Is other countries situation is differ?

I asked this because according my experience, it is bad answer for questions comes from Sri Lanka.

2 Answers 2


You are right, different countries have very different standards when it comes to HR. In the end, HR are supposed to protect the company and its best interests. How they interpret that, is very culture dependant.

Examples we have, the USA have the saying that says:

HR are not your friend

In the EU, I tended to find they were more on the employees side, as the employee had more protections available to them due to laws, etc. Though if you did something extremely wrong, they wouldn't protect you.

So it really does depend on the culture. Sadly the question doesn't have a country tag, so I couldn't say how good the advice would be for the OP's situation. It might help if we ask them to clarify that and then go from there.

  • 2
    I think we overuse "HR is not your friend" on this site. HR is there to protect the interests of the company, which usually means trying to prevent a lawsuit. When a manager is behaving unprofessionally, that often means stopping the bad behavior from happening again. Sometimes it means mediation and sweeping it under the rug. With a good HR person, this almost never means punishing the employee, as that could very easily result in a lawsuit.
    – David K
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 12:18
  • I do agree, I've never had such an issue with HR where they've been causing me issues. However I often hear stories from across the pond in the US where HR really aren't there for the employee and will only do the company's will. I don't have any personal experience of the US system, just the stories I hear to go on sadly.
    – Draken
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 12:25
  • 1
    @Draken One factor is that the EU tends to have much better employee protection laws meaning that it's a lot more typical for HR interests (protecting the company) and those of the employee to align. Like all platitudes, "HR is not your friend" lacks nuance.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 14:22
  • @Lilienthal "nuanced" is far more overused than "HR is not your friend". The phrase only means EXACTLY what it says. HR is not your friend. Going into HR and assuming that they are, by default going to take **YOUR SIDE**(tm) is a very brave assumption indeed. Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 22:58
  • 1
    @RichardU Used more often sure, but hardly overused these days. And how does that final statement relate in any way to what I said? I'm pointing out that this turn of phrase, like all instances of black-and-white-thinking, cannot and should not be considered absolute.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 7:25
  • 2
    @Lilienthal, no, "HR IS YOUR ENEMY" would be black and white. "HR S NOT YOUR FRIEND" is more.... dare I say it.... nuanced? Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 23:50

GO TO HR is often a bad answer.

You will typically see an admonition of HR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND either as a response to the above, or as a warning against a querent who has asked about going to HR.

HR, indeed, is not your friend. A friend is one who will default to taking your side in a dispute. Going into HR can have far-reaching ramifications beyond what one may think.

HR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND is not the same as HR IS THE ENEMY nor is it meant to imply such.

It means Proceed with caution.

Going to hr is a bad idea if:

  • You treat it as a first resort, instead of a last
  • You do not have evidence
  • You have not tried to address it at lower levels (talking to the person, then the manager, et cet.
  • It is not an issue that HR should address
  • You expect them to take your side by default.
  • You are not aware that their role is to look after the company's interests.

When should you go to HR?

  • When you learn of criminal behavior
  • When you learn of conflict of interests
  • When you learn of anything that could damage the company though bad publicity or liability
  • When you have exhausted other venues
  • When you have private health and wellness issues which may impact your job performance that they need to be made aware of
  • Disability accommodation
  • Personal leave for bereavement
  • Personal issues that affect your job that do not concern your manager/coworkers
  • Personal issues that you have discussed with your manager and your manager has recommended you go to HR

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