HR Is Not Your Friend, But It Can Be A Good Sparring Partner

interviewIn my innocent days as an early twenty-something, I had no idea that HR wasn’t on my side. I learned, though. I learned really quick, once I saw someone get fired for sending a funny email with an attachment from his company email address, and when I got chewed out for assuming I could take graduate classes at night while working during the day. I withdrew from the master’s program rather than further incur HR’s wrath and, quite possibly, lose my very first job.

Lifehacker offers this important reminder, as well as others:

It’s tempting to believe that Human Resources is there to help you. That’s not necessarily true. More often than not, HR is responsible for personnel paperwork, benefits, payroll, and—assuming your company cares—employee training and morale. They make sure everyone can focus on work, that pay is competitive enough to attract talent, and that the distractions of employee relationships, bad managers, and other issues go away. Quickly. They will always serve the needs and interests of the company, whether that matches up with your interests or not. …

We’re not saying you should completely distrust HR, but HR should never be your first step if you have a problem. You can’t always expect discretion unless it’s specifically guaranteed, and your complaint will likely work its way back to the person at the root of it. Instead, try to resolve your differences and issues independently, before asking someone else to get involved. It may be harder, and sometimes not worth it, but learning how to be assertive and handle office issues yourself will serve you well for every subsequent problem that crops up or job you ever have.

The same piece goes on to advise that you never stop job-hunting, “especially after you land a new job,” because “the company sees you as a recently acquired risk.” Okay, sure, but at some point doesn’t this become exhausting? (Yes.) 

Job-hunting is an involved process these days. It doesn’t mean having one tab open; it means having an entire browser in your head dedicated to combing through opportunities, checking sites like LinkedIn, talking to and networking with anyone who might be able to help you, and so on. Tabs upon tabs upon tabs.

Although I admire anyone who can multitask that way, it’s too much for me. Even when you get a job offer, after all, the work’s not done. You then have to figure out how to negotiate, and apparently, you’ve been doing that wrong. You should provide a salary range.

Columbia researchers had a hunch, and their study bore it out, that a specific “bolstering range” can actually be very effective. It means setting a fairly ambitious number at the bottom range, equivalent to the one you would have used as a single point offer, and then a higher number as the top range.

It refutes conventional wisdom that says people have selective attention, that they focus exclusively and narrowly on the number most attractive to them. In fact, the authors show that people are a bit more complicated than that.

First, a range shapes expectations about an acceptable counteroffer. When there’s a number explicitly framed as a floor, people assume you’re unlikely to take something below it. They don’t necessarily make the same assumption with a single number.

Second, there’s the politeness effect. People are much less likely to go way below the bottom number of a range because they feel like it would be insulting. Similar qualms aren’t nearly as strong with single-point offers. And offering a range is generally seen as a sign of flexibility, even when the actual numbers are relatively high.

Ugh, I can’t deal. Let’s all just re-watch this clip of Jack Donaghy getting schooled on negotiation.



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