About 3 months ago we got a new HR director, and since then there's been a few negative encounters with her.

A month ago, I went to her office to sign some paperwork. When I asked a question, she told me to stop "mansplaining" and raised her voice at me. It made me feel very uncomfortable, but I didn't say anything at the time.

Late last week, she was giving a presentation about a new HR policy. I asked a question about dress code, and she got very hostile and lectured me on privilege in front of the whole group.

After that, a colleague came to me in private and told me some bad stories. And when I asked around, more colleagues had similar stories.

A lot has changed in the last 3 months. The workplace I love feels hostile, and I know I'm not the only one who thinks so.

What can I do to resolve problems I have with our HR person?

  • 10
    "When I asked a question, she told me to stop "mansplaining" and raised her voice at me." What question did you ask? Could you elaborate a bit more what (may have) triggered her reactions? Nov 1, 2017 at 9:08
  • 4
    I second @AnneDaunted. What did you say that made her accuse you of mansplaining? What question did you ask about dress code? You may be right that she is overreacting, but you might also be unintentionally saying things that could be perceived as offensive.
    – David K
    Nov 1, 2017 at 13:30
  • 11
    Normal chain of command for problems is through HR. OP wants to know what a normal process is for problems with HR. That's very much on-topic. There's a lot of extraneous and personal details, but the core question seems fine. Vote to re-open. Nov 1, 2017 at 14:44
  • What is "mansplaining" in this context? It does not seem to have the customary definition if my reading is correct.
    – user25792
    Aug 8, 2019 at 8:39

3 Answers 3


First and foremost, keep your head down. HR is all powerful, and it sounds like this woman is on a hair-trigger.

If you have a good working relationship with your manager, bring your concerns up to him in private. Be polite, and be professional. Hopefully he will take your concerns up the ladder, and the issue will be addressed at the appropriate level.

Otherwise, start looking for a new job, because once she's past probation I don't think it'll get any better.

  • 13
    Take note: the hostile behaviour may be intentional! I've worked a place where "hair trigger" was a very apt description of a new hire (in management) whose job, as it turned out, was to sack a number of people...
    – KlaymenDK
    Oct 31, 2017 at 20:36
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    HR is all powerful - Citation Required Oct 31, 2017 at 21:03
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    @KlaymenDK: I was once hired in order to fire an entire department. 20+ people - long story but boils down to the entire department having a very toxic work ethic that was hurting everyone else. Several attempts to root it out had already failed. You can bet that I wrote people up for even minor stuff to ease their transition out the door.
    – NotMe
    Nov 1, 2017 at 16:03
  • Though majority of the situation will mean too close relation between high management and HR, rarely, only at a good work culture environment, going to one level higher can prove to be useful (meaning manager of HR, as alternative of own manager). Having several complains on HR can raise second thoughts after a while. It is also an option to leave a remark at exit interview, if they do such. But first and foremost (!), being and staying professional is very much a key in this issue.
    – Sonic
    Nov 3, 2017 at 14:55
  • Document everything
  • Update your resume
  • Keep a file
  • consult an employment lawyer
  • Keep your eyes and ears open
  • Keep your head down
  • Keep your mouth shut
  • Move on as soon as possible
  • Advise your close coworkers to do the same.

This is someone who is out for a body count. This is a toxic environment. Get out as soon as possible.

  • 3
    Unless OP did something very, very stupid this is the correct answer. Harrasment should be handled as such... Oct 31, 2017 at 22:03

This is the ultimate tricky situation.

There is some great risks here, but perhaps many things to be gained.

Either way, I always recommend reading "Non-violent communication". The basic idea is listen, say something like so what I hear is ...{repeat back in your own words} & repeat until they are not mad.

This alone will make the office smoother for you.

What you should do all of the time for everyone ...

  1. Don't take it personally, even if directed to you do not be insulted. You are in a professional environment & if you act like a professional even though they aren't everyone will see that fact. Especially if it's out in the open like that meeting.
  2. Listen to everything they say.
  3. When they finish speaking, thank them for their efforts & insight.
  4. If you are stressing your job, quietly put out feelers for options - not because you're serious, but because having options makes you feel better. Look at what people elsewhere get paid etc.

I'm going to make some quick assumptions, forgive me, but these are pretty critical to how or what to do ...

  1. No one has been fired for HR harassment stuff while you have been there.
  2. 50% of the company is female
  3. 50% of every department in the company is female
  4. You don't have locker room talk, pictures of naked women on the walls or women in bikini's on the computers.
  5. The owner of the company, management etc provides a safe workplace for women to talk without getting interrupted, comments about periods or other signs that women are not respected.
  6. You have as many female as male friends

If you look around & those are all true, I would guess that this person in HR had some bad experiences elsewhere & needs help at the company to fulfill what they consider their role.

Now, specifically for HR...some of these the order needs vary based on where your personal relationship is with the HR personnel. If at all possible without making it worse, you need to get as much information from the HR person as you can & assure them you are trying to be helpful.

  • When you are called out at meetings...stay professional, take notes on paper so they see it, not laptop so they think you're ignoring them. Make sure you are waiting for their to finish her entire presentation & invites the questions. If she is about to leave, ask her if she has time for a few questions or when she might in regards to that presentation or topic.
  • When you get approached, tell them you want to talk but somewhere you can focus on them without distraction, but ask to have the meeting in a moment, bring the boss & your note pad.
  • Ask the HR person to do individual workplace coaching in private office with the boss present or to make it a professional & non-targeting workshop which everyone can learn from.
  • Ask the HR person if they have any concerns or complaints
  • Ask the HR person if there have been any recent developments at work that are prompting this change in behavior that can help you understand, express here that you want to help, but you need help from them to do so, take notes while meeting with them if thats what it takes
  • Get a performance evaluation or a 10 minute talk to ask if your actual boss has any concerns...to show you are making an effort
  • You should know your boss & their boss ... I would reach out to them to see if there are other issues at the company, you're not looking for gossip, you are trying to find out if this is an unannounced culture change they wanted the HR personnel to implement to avoid other issues or due to other complaints by females.
  • Keep someone with you, if she wants you alone ask the boss to be present ... this really is the mark of a professional, they should know they need witnesses
  • Document every encounter, date/time/brief summary/anyone present who can verify/any extra ordinary quotes keep them in one spot, but not at work or on the work computers
  • If you feel like there is no hope or you are about to quit Ask to see a copy of your employee file, especially disciplinary in most states there is a law about this type of thing
  • Check with the workforce center in your area to see what advice they have too or if others have complained about your workplace

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