Why Do People Talk to HR?

In working on an intellectual exercise to examine the core of HR, this question came up.  I’d love your input.

Why do employees and managers come to HR?  I can come up with four reasons, at a high level anyway:


Where is my check?  When will I receive it?  What paperwork do I fill out when I start to make sure I get my check?  (The irony, of course, is that payroll isn’t always part of HR.  But the questions come just the same.)


When do I enroll?  What are my options?  Why did my doctor tell me this isn’t covered?

Dispute Resolution

Bob looked at me funny.  Sally is touching me.  Are we there yet?

To Be Told No (Managers only, for the most part)

If I want to give someone a raise, I talk to my boss.  If I want to tell them why they can’t have one, I talk to HR.


I’m sure there are more.  I’d love to hear them.  I’m not looking for why HR talks to our customers (strategic planning sessions, talent management, succession planning, etc.)  I’m looking for why they would seek out their HR partner in day to day business.

If you have any others, please add them in the comments.


  1. People also use HR as a sounding board. I am frequently the sympathetic ear for grievances. They don’t want me to resolve anything, they just need to get something off their chest.

  2. Fair enough. I would tend to put that under dispute resolution, at least as a skillset. (Good listener, can give sound advice, etc.)

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. How do I convince my manager to pay for this (course/seminar/degree) that s/he doesn’t agree is relevant?
    I need a flexible schedule for awhile because (family illness/divorce/my illness/elder care/child in trouble etc.) but I don’ want my boss to know why-my boss won’t agree to the change unless I give details…help me.
    My son/daughter is about to graduate from university-can you help them write a resume?
    My wife/husband/partner is looking for a new job but needs help to learn interview skills-what do you suggest?
    Coworker X is harassing me
    I am looking for another job-I need someone to confirm my employment here and I don’t want *anyone* to know-can you provide this?
    I need a letter of employment for the bank.
    I was arrested for DUI- will I lose my job if convicted?
    Some of my coworkers are trying to form a union…..

  4. “I want to tell you something but don’t want anyone to know I’m the one who reported it…” OR “I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but….”

  5. For Managers: Lots of coaching; Assistance in writing job descriptions or performance reviews, coaching on how to manage a situation or deliver a message – as opposed to solving it, support when working through a reoganization – including communication of changes, support in the development of succession plans, individual development plans and staffing plans (seeing a lot of planning here), metrics (turnover, days to fill positions, associated costs, etc.)

    …and I guess the answer partly depends upon how you define H.R., i.e., does it include Talent Management/OD.

    • I would absolutely include talent management, acquisition, OD and other axillary functions. The question is how many times do our customer seek out our help on those things because they genuinely want it, as opposed to going through HR because we hold the keys.

      Thanks for sharing!

  6. Those are all great reasons…I’ve gone to HR in the past for problems with conflict resolution, to report someone with unethical practices, and to recommend someone I knew for job positions.

  7. Retirement — This is an unfamiliar life event for all employees who are retiring. If you don’t have the direct contacts in HR global services to ask questions, or send the employee to directly, it is often times an unpleasant experience for the employee. The retiree’s help to build IR to where it is today, and they don’t always want to go through the faceless ticketing system/ contact center to get answers to their future livelihood and medical needs.

    Avoiding the “HOLD” music or can’t get a “real” answer from the contact center — If an employee follows the prescribed directive to call the contact center for answers, they need an answer, not a “we’ll log a ticket”…typically either long holds or lack of answers bring them back to local HR when they don’t get what they are expecting from the resources we’re trying to move them towards.

    Expertise – The HR community is an easy to access (hopefully) and quick way to get answers questions when they aren’t completely sure what they’re looking to understand. We deal with the details daily and provide “the rest of the story” for their need. A lot of people are still looking for the human touch from their Human Resources.

    • Interesting list. I see the first two as being elements of the third, in a lot of ways. We depend on them to be available and to have the answers to our questions.

      Thanks for sharing!

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