Human resources serves as the liaison between management and staff. It helps with critical administrative and tactical tasks like benefits and payroll. Recruiting, retention, employee development and compensation can fall within the HR office.

In some companies, HR can also be a key player in the strategic direction the organization takes. With all of the opportunities for impact on an employee’s daily life, it is clear that HR can be an important part of the culture of the organization.

Army of One

But in many organizations, HR is an afterthought. The department is often left to be purely administrative, serving more like a personnel office with clerks than a partner in the business. In such cases, it is easy to see why the ethics of the HR department can impact the culture of the whole organization.

Consider this: you are having an issue with you medical benefits and it turns out you completed your enrollment form incorrectly. The HR person tells you it is too bad and you will have to wait until open enrollment to fix it.

She may be completely correct and following the rules exactly, but how does that help you? How do you feel about the assistance you were provided? And how likely are you to return to HR for help when you need it again?

50 Shades of Gray

That is just one issue with one HR person in a small company. Now imagine a larger company with a team of HR professionals. Each of them have the opportunity to impact your day in ways you may not even know.

The recruiter could be focused on a promotion to make her boss happy. Instead of going through all the applicants, she picks the first three that meet the minimum qualifications so she can fill more requisitions. As an applicant, you could have just missed out on a position for which you were perfectly qualified.

Perhaps you were one of the first three, so you make it through the interview and are offered the position. The HR business partner helping with the offer is very committed to the salary ranges because she built the compensation structure. When you counter for an extra $1,000, it puts you out of her hiring range. She says no and tells the hiring manager to stick to the number or look at a different candidate.

You take the lower rate and make it through the hiring gauntlet.

It's one year in and you are ready for your first performance review. Your boss gives you all three out of five because during the last performance cycle, HR said they were giving out too many fives, so your supervisor is encouraged to submit lower scores.

Because you got all threes, you thought you should have fives — and your boss agrees — you go to HR to talk about it. You happen to get the HR person who wrote the memo explaining the scores were too high, she tells you that you should be happy with threes and that it doesn’t matter anyway, because no one is getting raises.

Becoming a little disgruntled, you talk to your colleagues about it, and one of them tells you to go see her friend who works in HR. She encourages you to tell the friend in HR the whole story. You do. She is aghast and finds a way to resubmit your evaluation with the fives you deserve. You get a raise so that you are above where you would have been had you gotten the extra $1,000 when you were hired.

It only takes one person to make a big difference. And with the amazing sphere of influence HR can have, it is good to know with whom you are working.