Yes, we all know about "HR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND" as a way of telling people that they may be getting more than they bargained for if they run to HR with their problems.

But I think a better approach may be to find a way to tell people not to abuse Human Resources.

As we all know:


  • Salary and benefits info
  • Information on career tracks for your company
  • Protecting your company from liability
  • Reporting threats to the company
  • Reporting disabilities or non-work related issues that may impact your work
  • Reporting fraternization, both allowed and prohibited


  • The first place to go with interpersonal problems

  • A convenient place to rat out coworkers for minor offences

  • Your career coach

  • your personal confidant

  • a place to deal with hurt feelings

  • non work related issues that do not impact your performance

  • A place to report non-work related behaviors of your coworkers unless they directly impact the company.

  • A place you should run to with problems that could be resolved at other levels

  • Your friend

  • Your enemy

Most of the things that fall under "HR is not your friend" are really cases of people not understanding the purpose of HR, or, being under the impression that going to HR is the same as reporting someone to the teacher or principal, or going to the police.

HR is for the administration of issues that affect personnel.

One thing that many people may not be aware of is the fact that every contact you have with HR is recorded in your file. the more you go to HR, the bigger the file. So, you may well be justified in reporting Joe, Bob, Mike, Steve, Cletus, Spike, and Munroe, but they'll each have only one HR contact, you'll have seven. So, going to HR too often, especially over minor things, will make it look like YOU are the problem.

Remember, one of HR's roles is to reduce liability to the company. If you start to look like a liability, they will indeed handle the threat to the business.

Is there some way to condense this rather long-winded rant to something we can tell people when they are misusing/abusing human resources, or are likely to get themselves in trouble as they are posting about doing so?

  • 9
    I'm afraid you weaken the wisdom of your comments when you repeatedly just post "HR is not your friend" comments. You would be far more effective by giving specific answers instead, perhaps using some of the points you make above as appropriate. Feb 11, 2019 at 22:37
  • @JoeStrazzere It was talking with you that inspired this post. So, I agree. Feb 11, 2019 at 23:37
  • Well okay then. :-) Feb 11, 2019 at 23:40
  • This reminded me of this post, where an ... attempt was made to make a "canonical" reference for the context of TWP
    – DarkCygnus Mod
    Feb 13, 2019 at 22:01
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    Just saying "HR is not your friend" is a smug and reductive quip that doesn't actually explain anything. By the same token, a "canonical answer" doesn't help much either. Isn't it better to just explain why and how, in any specific situation, that going to HR could be a problem for the OP?
    – teego1967
    Feb 19, 2019 at 18:32
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    @teego1967 after you explain it for the 87th time, it begins to grate. To have something canonical to point to doesn't mean that it is the end all, be all, cast in stone, final authority. There are numerous articles written about how HR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND and while true, people tend to miss the nuance that {Not your friend} != {your enemy}. Feb 19, 2019 at 21:47
  • @RichardU, actually to say something is "canonical", by definition, means that it is the final authority. It's just easier and better to explain why/how in any particular situation that going to HR may or may not be a good idea.
    – teego1967
    Feb 20, 2019 at 0:36
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    @teego1967 you can be our official explainer then. Feb 20, 2019 at 1:19
  • 2
    I'd like to point out this question as a starting point.
    – Haem
    Feb 20, 2019 at 14:40

7 Answers 7


While I agree with all the points in general, I don't see a need to formalise them in any way rather than deal with each question in it's own context.


I think that this could be a great opportunity to create a canonical post on the main site. This site gets questions about how to interact with H.R. (or where how to interact with H.R. is a major component of the answer) that this could be highly useful (both to future readers and as something that we could link to instead of people rehashing the rather simplistic "HR is not your friend" line).

  • 2
    I know I'm one of the primary offenders of "HR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND" but I realized that this will probably just make people afraid of going to HR when the situation does in fact call for it. Feb 11, 2019 at 21:48
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    @RichardU Yeah, I think that a canonical post would really help with that. I know I'd like to have one that I could just link to. I'm probably not the best person to write that, though. Would it be worth creating a question? Feb 11, 2019 at 22:15
  • 1
    @RichardU Proposed title of canonical post: "When, if ever, is HR your friend?" Feb 11, 2019 at 22:18
  • 2
    I'm not a fan of canonical answers in general, and definitely not in this case. Working/not working with HR is a complex issue, not well solved by any one single answer, IMHO. I think we'd be better served by discussing HR in the context of questions where it is appropriate. Feb 11, 2019 at 23:43
  • @JoeStrazzere Isn't it possible to write at least some kind of general advice, though? "What kinds of things should I get H.R. involved in?" seems like something you could supply at least some information about (e.g. the list in the OP's question). Besides, other sites have canonical posts for issues that come up all the time that have worked well - at a minimum, they provide dupe targets for questions that get asked a zillion times a day. Feb 12, 2019 at 16:22
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    @EJoshuaS- sure, you can always write general advice. In this case, I have a hard time imagining how useful such highly-generalized advice would be, and a list of a dozen or so possible points tells me that most of them won't apply to a given question. No matter - if someone actually write it, we'll get to see what it's worth. Feb 12, 2019 at 17:00
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    I personally find the "HR is not your friend" line fairly helpful, as I've met plenty of people who held the mentioned misconceptions. As a side note, if anyone on this stack ever advises me to get HR involved, I will not hesitate.
    – bytepusher
    Feb 12, 2019 at 19:57

I am strongly opposed to seeing "HR is not your friend", and I would like to see anything that reduces either the usage or the impact of it.

I know that people defend the use of the phrase as meaning "HR is employed by the company and has specific objectives that might not always align with yours", but most usages of "X is not your friend" are taken to mean "X is your enemy". Posting the phrase discourages people from going to HR in cases where HR would definitely be helpful to them.

I would very much support a canonical question that talks about it. I would even suggest that a title: "When is it appropriate to talk to HR?" and have it specifically discuss the statement "HR is not your friend."

  • 1
    I think it's more used as "WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!!! DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GETTING YOURSELF IN FOR?" At least that's the case when I've used it. Feb 13, 2019 at 20:06
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    Which is still discouraging people from going to HR. Feb 13, 2019 at 20:11
  • If they're going in to tattle on Biff, who said something outside of work hours, not at a company function, which would be interpreted as petty and troublesome, they should absolutely be discouraged from going to HR Feb 13, 2019 at 20:20
  • 1
    I agree, but it's not usually that, and in those cases "Don't abuse HR" would be much more appropriate. Feb 13, 2019 at 20:21
  • Thus, this discussion Feb 13, 2019 at 20:25
  • +1, btw, just so you don't think I'm being belligerent Feb 13, 2019 at 20:30
  • +1 for your question too. Feb 13, 2019 at 21:10
  • 1
    How about "HR is not your school counselor" ?
    – Layman
    Feb 13, 2019 at 21:23
  • I'd think that "HR cannot be everyone's friend" is a pretty good fit. Feb 14, 2019 at 0:43

What's the ultimate end goal?

  • Are we trying to discourage off-topic questions ranting/panicking over HR?
  • Are we trying to provide guidelines on how to write constructive questions regarding HR?
  • Are we using this as a catch-all way to say, "You're using HR wrong." ?

If we're doing the first thing, then would this make sense as a page in the Help Center which can be referenced with a new close reason?

If we're doing the second thing, then it could work as a canonical question on the main site, but keep in mind that different countries' HR have different policies. Having a canonical maintain that information may get unwieldy, considering that things can change with new laws or acts.

The third is kind of where things get dicey in that, by and large, answers of that nature may not be all that useful here. HR misuse is a thing. Telling someone that they're misusing HR isn't wholly constructive given that they may not fundamentally understand the issue of HR misuse, hence we have options #1 or #2.

  • 1
    Wouldn't the second one be more of a canonical post on Meta (rather than on the main site)? Feb 11, 2019 at 22:17
  • @EJoshuaS: I don't think that'd work as well given that this information would be buried. To be fair, the Help Center on network sites is plenty buried, but putting it on Meta would further reduce the eyeballs on it.
    – Makoto
    Feb 11, 2019 at 22:20

As "HR is not your friend" is pretty negative, how about a new catchphrase that gets a similar message across:

HR works for the company, not for you.

I think this would cover most, perhaps all, of the bullet points listed.


It is a convenient catchphrase for sure and not exactly wrong. Perhaps it should be followed by explaining what HR is to avoid the misinterpretation perceiving them as corporate cops ready to pounce on people.

They are just private sector clerks dealing with bureaucracy. You would not talk about your family issues affecting your driving skills to a DMV clerk at a driving test, why would you do that with HR personnel?

  • "They are just private sector clerks dealing with bureaucracy." - that's a rather narrow definition, and rather condescending at that. Many HR reps are far more than that, in my experience. Feb 13, 2019 at 23:11
  • Why is that? Clerkship has a bad rep as convoluted paper pushing but it is much more than that as well. HR serves the same function -- dealing with people and dealing with bureaucracy to make sure company goals are met
    – Layman
    Feb 14, 2019 at 0:30

You could also add that to the tag description.

It is true that lot of people miss that but that's a good place to link it.

If you're afraid of edit in the tag, we could go for the canonical post and add the link into the human resources tag. Which make it possible if necessary to have more than one canonical post.

  • 1
    No, this is not what tag descriptions are for. Tag descriptions should only be used to define when and why a tag should be applied to a question, not to define and describe the term itself. See this guidance on Meta
    – David K
    Feb 14, 2019 at 13:25
  • 1
    On the post you linked, they insisted specially on the tag excerpt. In the full description of the tag, you can add more information. See the comment from your link Tag excepts describe why you would use a tag. The full tag wikis are free to later go into much greater detail and are often used to greatly expound on the subject and point out other resources for those interested in the subject. See: stackoverflow.com/tags/android/info
    – Walfrat
    Feb 14, 2019 at 13:29
  • 1
    Ah, sorry, I always forget that there are two different tag descriptions. I would still say that it's not the place to give general advice on how to approach HR. The wiki should be more about objectively defining and describing what HR is. People are going to have different opinions on when and how to approach HR, and it's going to vary by situation, so those types of recommendations would be better suited as answers where people can comment and vote on them.
    – David K
    Feb 14, 2019 at 13:45
  • Well I see more the tag description to something like "in what topics the human resources can be sollicited".
    – Walfrat
    Feb 14, 2019 at 13:55

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