Skip to content

How to Irritate HR

May 15, 2019

Have you noticed any content on LinkedIn lately that made you cringe? Political rants, personal confessions and questionable selfies are becoming more and more common. Have you asked yourself, “I wonder if their boss sees their posts? Does this guy’s company have a human resources department?”

Unfortunately, no one ever posts an update to their rant, like “Hey guys, in case you are wondering, I was fired after this post. Watch for more posts coming soon as I am now self-employed!”

If you look at my employment history on LinkedIn, you’ll notice I’ve worked for some very diverse retailers. The one thing they all had was a strong human resources department. In my experience, those folks were the glue that held things together, and I learned many valuable and sometimes painful lessons from them.

(If you are new to retail and want to learn from someone else’s mistakes, read on. If you are a veteran and want a chuckle, I’m here for you.)

Here are some mistakes to avoid when working with your HR professional. It’s not a complete list, just the stuff I can remember and am willing to share.

If you really want to annoy HR, make decisions without their input.

Oops. Early in my career, I was pretty naïve, and kind of clueless. I was on the road and conducting multiple interviews daily. In my haste and sloppiness, I suspended an associate after an interview without approval from HR (or the Ops team) because I couldn’t get them on the phone right away. Because, duh, I was in a hurry!

Well, turns out that this associate called their mom and dad, mom and dad called their lawyer, lawyer called the company, and everyone was pretty miffed because they were caught blindsided. Luckily, I got to keep my job after this one, but my credibility was shot for a while. Not a good move!

Give them incomplete information.

Again, early in my career, I assumed a lot. You know what they say: never assume! I thought I knew what HR wanted to see in a report or hear in a recap. I wasted a lot of back and forth when I could have been proactive and created a checklist with their help at the beginning.

Once you understand the other party’s interests and needs, your job becomes much easier. Is your HR team interested in secondary influences on the theft activity, like peer pressure, store morale, or problems at home? Get this information in the interview, and make sure to include it somewhere in your recap or report.

Exclude them.

Having a super fun and exciting team building event? If you want to alienate HR, make sure you tell them about it, then don’t invite them. Oh, and take lots of pictures doing stupid stuff and then post them to cap it all off.

It’s easy to operate in your own bubble and bond with your immediate team. However, your HR partners deal with a lot of similar stuff to what LP deals with—and they need a safe environment to let off steam, too. They have tough conversations—sometimes all day, every day—and they do a lot of interviews around touchy subjects. They are your HR partner for a reason: treat them like one, and make it a point to include them, both in meetings and in the fun stuff, too.

These are just a few of my early learnings. Much of this can be applied to your Operations partner as well. We’re all in it together, and we succeed or fail as a team. Now, go hug your HR partner. No, wait…as I learned from an HR manager years ago: “Touching confuses.” Maybe just stick to a friendly smile.

Stefanie is a regular contributor to the work of the International Association of Interviewers. To enjoy other great content from her and other contributors, please visit