I work for a small company that is part of a closely-related group of small companies that are owned by the same handful of people. Between these 3-4 companies, there are maybe a total of 20-30 people. We all work in the same building (although that wasn't always the case), and most within the same suite of that building.

I am one of about 5 employees who recently moved from a different office to this primary one, and there is some behavior here that I find to be at least unprofessional, and potentially grounds for legal action. There is specifically one person who is the worst offender, but when that person starts acting in this manner, others (including superiors) may chime in and condone, if not support, the comments and behavior.

As a small company, we have no real Human Resources department, or even a single HR employee. We have a part-time accountant that handles payroll, benefits, and things like that, but this person's role is not handling workplace issues such as this.

Because I feel that some of these offensive attitudes and culture make their way up into management (although admittedly at a smaller level than with the one primary offender), I am not necessarily comfortable expressing my feelings with them, for fear of it reflecting negatively on me.

Am I right to be somewhat bothered by the fact that a company of 20-30 people (despite the multiple company names) does not have a Human Resources employee who's job it would be to handle situations like this? Or is that really just part of working somewhere with fewer than, say, 100 employees? When does it go from being an optional, nice-to-have position to an absolute necessity? (obviously I know there isn't some hard-and-fast rule or specific number).

I've worked for this company for a few years now, generally enjoy it and get along well with most of my co-workers, but this recent experience in the new office has kind of soured me on the whole situation. I am not looking for answers that suggest that I leave because management seems to accept this behavior. I, myself, am/was not so offended that I feel the need to leave. However, I certainly see how someone else could be, and it sparked my curiosity as to the acceptability of not having anyone in a Human Resources role.

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    The role of HR is to protect the company's interests, not the employees. Whether that means ensuring compliance with regulations or dealing with potentially actionable situations, the HR person is ALWAYS representing the company's interests. Don't ever forget that. Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 16:25
  • @WesleyLong I definitely understand that. Part of the concern is that I feel that to the right person, the behavior could be actionable, and I think it should be addressed before that happens.
    – Patrick Q
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 16:30
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    What are you going to do with an answer to this question? Say somebody proved that at precisely 22 people it becomes unacceptable to have no HR person. Then what? You're not even asking what to do, you're just telling a really long story and asking if one particular way the company could solve this problem is something they really should be doing anyway. Don't try to be the CEO and solve the problem; consider telling someone it actually is a problem. Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 17:37
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    @KateGregory A consensus answer would allow me to evaluate my current personal opinion of the matter. It may even allow me to educate management on the benefits of having such a role if/when the time comes that my personal feels are in line with an aggregate of suggestions.
    – Patrick Q
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 17:46
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    Off-country, here at Spain a supermarket chain has been found liable for the sexual harasment of several employees by a store manager, because they offered no way for the employees to independently report of the manager misconduct (if they wanted to denounce him, they would have had to pass the denounce through that same manager). That said, in your case you probably should talk to the CEO about it because (being an startup) it should not be that difficult to ask for a meeting.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 19:11

3 Answers 3


It's always unacceptable for nobody to be doing HR. But if there's no person who is dedicated to that role, then the CEO/founder/boss is your HR person. In the end, they're the one who is accountable for the behavior of their employees. If they can't listen to your concerns in an objective, professional manner then you're doomed anyways.

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    +1 for pointing out that there is always an HR department even if there is no actual HR department. Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 18:00
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    And if management hires a dedicated HR person and chooses not to listen to them, you're still doomed.
    – user8365
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 21:04

At what point is it unacceptable for a company to not have anyone in a human resources role?

"Unacceptable" is for the company (CEO, owners, etc) to decide. There is no number or timeline at which it is absolutely necessary to have HR, if ever.

But absent an HR person, you still need to find someone else you can confide in, to express whatever confidential concerns you might have, and see if any action is taken or not.

In small companies, that might be your manager, or someone else in authority. Perhaps an office manager, or C-level executive or such.

Check around. Ask friends and co-workers. There is almost always someone to talk to - even if they don't carry the term "HR" in their title.


Maintain a log of all of the things that have offended you and objectively describe how other employees encourage the behavior. Build up enough ammo and take it to your CEO/boss/owner/etc...

I am not sure if you have a direct supervisor but if you do then you should try bringing it up with that person first. If your supervisor is taking part in these shenanigans then you simply have to go over-their-head and bring it up with the big boys.

Do remember though, this has the potential to negatively affect your work environment because it won't be too difficult for other people to realize that the new guy showed up and now there is a complaint.

If you can find other people that may have been offended as well then try to rope them into it because you will have a stronger case if the boss sees that the behavior can potentially affect their bottom-line exponentially.

You've been there a few years, this should be reason enough to listen to your concerns because finding another one of you takes time and money.

Wesley Long said it best in his comment "The role of HR is to protect the company's interests, not the employees."

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