Everyone's favorite enemy: Human-Resources.

I have the perception that people in HR think they have more influence than they actually do.


I work in a rather large software company. Some months ago, an employee at my workplace has requested an increase in pay after working with us for a while without any increase.

His supervisor approved it without question, but HR outright blocked it without providing any reason. The supervisor escalated this to his manager, but still could not get a response from HR. When then escalation continued, and we're almost at the top person now, no response could obtained from HR.

Another story:

I am currently sharing an office with someone at our client's site. Someone from the HR department just walked in looking for them as part of a "site inspection", basically just wanting to "check up on them".

Another story:

I have heard many cases where HR has summoned employees to their office for various reasons.

My (perhaps incorrect) view is that I report to my supervisor and HR are just clerks to whom I do not answer. How can they overrule upper-level management, summon people, and go around "checking up" on staff?

My question is:

How much authority does HR actually have in the workplace? Are they in the right in the scenarios I mentioned above, or am I just hating too much?

  • 9
    Company specific, some places they're almost ignored
    – Kilisi
    Sep 15, 2017 at 8:21
  • 1
    Only the first of your examples (blocking a raise) is an official action that would require resolution. The other examples, stopping by to "check up" on someone (either to be helpful or to keep an eye on someone) or asking someone to come to your desk (presumably for official business) do not require any special authority.
    – Brandin
    Sep 15, 2017 at 8:23
  • 1
    Completely business dependant - in some companies HR effectively are the company will act in a very senior and controlling capacity. In others the HR function is simply seen as a paper exercise
    – Dan
    Sep 15, 2017 at 8:26
  • @Kilisi That is the answer sir.
    – Neo
    Sep 15, 2017 at 12:06

3 Answers 3


Well in the words of the esteemed RichardU elsewhere on this stack:

HR is not your friend

But more seriously the answer really is that they have as much or as little authority as senior management gives them, and this will vary from organisation to organisation. I've worked places where where they essentially had none and were purely an admin/support function.

As can happen in various departments across companies they can sometimes attract people who like to go on something of a power trip and that can be very unpleasant for others in the company if it is either unchecked by senior management or where the behaviors are actually within the remit and authority given to them by senior management.

That said the majority of HR people I've interacted with at various jobs have been lovely people and all too often the things they do that annoy others is just a case of them enacting policies or edicts that have been given to them by organisation so don't jump straight to the "hate" - you may well be just shooting the messenger.

The only example you gave that sounds remotely egregious is the blocked raise but even that is something I would resist condemning them on automatically because there might be more to the scenario the you know.

  • What you said makes sense to me. Perhaps I shouldn't be too quick to hate. It depends completely on the specific company. So I should first determine what their delegated authority officially is before telling them to eat a fat one. My issue is with power-trippers, who do creep in, but for the most part HR, as much as they get hated for it, are just doing their job. Thanks for the fresh perspective. I can put my pitchfork away now. Sep 15, 2017 at 9:38
  • I wish I could up vote this more I once had the misfortune to come across a really devious HR director for a subsidiary of a major FTSE 100 tech company who basically screwed all of those of on employment contracts with the subsidiary blocking us from receiving the benefits of those who worked on the main company contracts - DB pension more holiday more pay. Apr 10, 2018 at 23:36

In most cases, your view is indeed incorrect.

HR may be 'a bunch of clerks' but that bunch of clerks represents the interests of the company internally. For operational matters you report to your direct supervisor but when it concerns internal matters, you're in their domain. The only thing in your post that seems odd to me is 'checking up on people'.

In your post, you provide the proof: good luck trying to get someone a payraise without HR signing off on it. They are the advocate of the company's interests, so they will need to be convinced that the right people feel that giving the person a raise will benefit the company. Otherwise, managers could simply give raises to any employee they liked, without any regard for the company's policy, cashflow or other interests. Such a company wouldn't last long.

In general, I strongly advise you to re-examine your attitude towards people you perceive to be below you in the hierarchy. It's important to realise that they are simply doing their jobs and are acting on information you are not privy to. Just because you can't understand the reasons behind their actions doesn't mean there are no reasons (or no good ones). Generally, the measure of a person can be taken by how one treats those below them in standing.

  • "acting on information you are not privy to" - This is the real gold. Hierarchy or not HR have a real purpose in most companies, and their relationship with the company is that of a protective one.
    – JoeTomks
    Sep 15, 2017 at 8:45
  • @Cronax "perceive to be below you in the hierarchy". It's not that i perceive them to be below me. I do not let my status go to my head. What grinds my gears, however, is when people false believe they are superior to me. Sep 15, 2017 at 9:17
  • @user2818782 You're missing my point. I'm saying that regardless of whether you think they are above you, next to you, or below you in the hierarchy you should always treat them the same: with politeness and professional respect.
    – Cronax
    Sep 15, 2017 at 9:56
  • @Cronax you're missing my point. i treat everyone like that. but let's stop here before this discussion degenerates. Sep 15, 2017 at 10:01
  • 2
    You describe HR as "just clerks". That's not treating them with politeness and professional respect: it's incredibly rude. Sep 15, 2017 at 12:30

It never helps to be negative towards another department of your company. You are a team, even if you are of different departments. The downfall of one impacts all.

increase. His supervisor approved it without question. However, HR outright blocked it. Without reason.

I think there is. You have to understand that employee movements and increases should follow proper procedures and approvals from a lot of people. Especially on large companies:

  • Appointed individuals might not have given consent : CEO, VP: Human Resources, VP: Information technology. They may have been given reasonable doubt for the increase/ cannot handle this matter at the moment due to other pressing matters
  • Since you said Blocked and not refused, appointed individuals might still be evaluating employee for the increase. If there is reason for the refusal of the increase (reports show low Performance Appraisals, poor attendance, etc.) this might be affecting there speed to make a decision.

I am currently sharing an office with someone at our client's site. Someone from the HR just walked in looking for them for a "site inspection" wanting to "check up on them".

Are you sure the HR was pertaining to the client or on you, their employee? Because this does not make sense to me. Unless by client you actually mean contractor.

I have heard many cases where HR has summoned employees to their office for various reasons.

Perhaps you are taking them out of context. Summon is a strong word. Normally when HR requests for their employees it starts with a request for a meeting, followed by an email confirmation of the meeting. Unless there is a pressing matter to attend to (violations, risks to be immediately addressed, etc).

In which case, Human Resources exist to help the business manage the employees. Most of what you mentioned do fall in their responsibility (except the second one, which I think you should clarify)

  • @A concerned Programmer. "Are you sure the HR was pertaining to the client or on you, their employee? Because this does not make sense to me. Unless by client you actually mean contractor." Let me clarify a little. I am sitting in my client's office. So i am an outsider in this instance. The HR person was from THEIR company looking for THEIR staff. I was just using it as an example I observed. Sep 15, 2017 at 9:29

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