Avoid confusing staff as substitutes for friends and work on building trust slowly, experts say.
Your human resources team can help you be a better manager, get promoted, and even deal with a lawsuit. But there are a few things that you should never share with HR.
The key is to be mindful: “You need to be sure you are communicating what you want your management to know,” says Clinical Professor of Management John Millikin, Ph.D. of the W.P. Carey School of Business.
If you’re concerned but still think HR should know something, ask for discretion: “It is up to you to communicate what you want to be kept confidential. Like any relationship, you should build trust slowly,” suggests Millikin.
Here are 4 things that experts say HR should never be privy to:
1. Things You Wouldn’t Share with Your Direct Manager
HR is there to help you deal with your manager, but they’re also there to help your manager deal with you, so don’t count on privacy.
“HR works in that difficult space between employees and management, and must act on serious issues they learn about, whether you want them to act or not. Go to HR for help in solving problems, but not as a substitute for a best friend or neighbor,” says Bruce Clarke, president and CEO of CAI, a human resource management firm.
2. Your Medical or Financial Issues
Your HR staff is tasked with keeping your work life well and functioning — your home life isn’t usually their business.
This includes “medical conditions, whether it be personal or family ongoing or past physical or mental issues… or financial issues like foreclosure,” notes Lauren MacArthur, CPC and partner at Winter, Wyman & Co., a northeastern U.S. staffing firm.
The reason? HR wants stable performers and may be concerned if aspects of your home life seem unstable. Of course, if you need their help in order to do your job because of these issues, then you may need to discuss them, but do so cautiously.
3. Your Online Profile (if It’s Not Professional)
At some point during hiring or after, your HR rep may check out your online profile just to make sure you’re not bashing the company online or acting in a way that reflects them poorly.
So it goes without saying to never post inappropriate or potentially offensive photos, videos, wall posts, updates, or other content on Facebook or other social networks.
“Even when your privacy settings are tight, you never know who might see your profile,” says Holly Paul, the U.S. Recruiting Leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers.
4. How Great Your Parental Leave Was
If your company gave you maternity or paternity leave, mention how much you appreciated it to HR — but show them that you’ve integrated back in and are glad to be back. The same goes when discussing a past leave in a job interview.
“You don’t want to dwell on why you took any leave (parental or otherwise) because it’s not relevant, and you want to move on to what’s relevant” — like your current skills and experience, says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, partner in Six-Figure Start and co-author of How the Fierce Handle Fear; Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times.