We often get "HR is not your friend" at Workplace. What does this phrase mean? What are the motivations and incentives of Human Resources (HR) that might set it at odds with an employee?

I think a canonical answer here would be useful, especially for new entrants into the workforce, and for anyone unfamiliar with the phrase and coming across it here.

  • vtc "HR is not your friend" is an opinion, and is in any event varying by company/country/industry. some HR people & departments - especially government - will be dedicated & legally obligated to helping you. others less so. Uber has seen big problems with their HR department recently, for example.
    – bharal
    Jul 25, 2018 at 7:20
  • I was aware that this question might be perceived as subjective. This is why I specifically asked about the motivations and incentives that HR face which might be at odds with the employees', I don't think this is a matter of opinion. Jul 25, 2018 at 7:22
  • @Stephen it is too broad - you're claiming HR in Sweden govt agencies is against you? Or HR in a mining company in the US is against you? You're propagating mistrust where it isn't necessarily true
    – bharal
    Jul 25, 2018 at 7:23
  • 2
    @bharal: I am not claiming that HR is "against" anyone. There is a difference between someone being my friend, that someone working against me, and that someone working for a third party whose incentives might or might not align with doing what's best for me. I am looking for a discussion of how the motivation of HR differs from a naive perception that HR might, indeed, be our friend. Nor is it my aim to propagate mistrust. Jul 25, 2018 at 7:26
  • @Stephen but "discussion" is out of the scope of this site.this is a reddit/quora discussion - i'm not opposed to it, but we're going to end up with a categorical answer screaming "HR are similar to satan" - see the link in Drakemor, where someone would rather go to trial than have a conversation with HR
    – bharal
    Jul 25, 2018 at 7:29

1 Answer 1


As per great answer of BoboDarph

That dept. is not there to give you justice. They just do whatever's best for the company, even if that's not right for you individually, even if it's slightly illegal, even if they have to cover stuff up (their asses included). As long as management is happy, HR is also happy.


Companies are not court houses, they do not dispense justice, most of them are led by people who only care about the bottom line for their investors. HR is there to help optimize the costs by ensuring employee compliance to internal rules and legal requirements, not to settle disputes between co-workers. They do that only to prevent legal action by employees or the state, and usually are pretty ruthless in defending the company when such possibility arises.

  • 2
    Actually, that thread is pretty much a duplicate. I'll suggest closing this one as a dupe. Thanks! Jul 25, 2018 at 7:41
  • If HR is not your friend, who is? If you're a union member, I suppose they should be, but what about non-union employees?
    – Barmar
    Jul 3, 2019 at 20:50
  • @Barmar Unions CAN be, but not always. The law CAN be. Your lawyers are. Sep 19, 2019 at 14:25
  • @Barmar: your friends are your friends. Your family may be your friends. Some of your coworkers may be your friends. Aug 7, 2023 at 7:31
  • @StephanKolassa "friend" is being used metaphorically to mean someone who is expected to act on your side in the case of a conflict. So if you don't have a union rep, the implication is that you're on your own -- you have no friends in company management.
    – Barmar
    Aug 7, 2023 at 14:50

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