When to Go to The Human Resources Department

Published: Apr 05, 2022

 Workplace Issues       Work Relationships       
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The Human Resources department at your job doesn’t just have a somewhat ominous name, it’s also there to help you with certain workplace issues. It can be difficult to tell whether you should get Human Resources involved in any number of workplace incidents, so today we will be talking about how to tell the difference.


Conflict Resolution

This is one of the primary reasons why employees visit the Human Resources department. We don’t get to choose our coworkers, and it’s possible for personalities to clash. Let’s say for example the person who sits closest to your workstation listens to music on their computer or device at a volume that makes it difficult for you to concentrate on your work. The first step is to politely ask if they can lower the volume. More times than not, issues like this can be solved by communicating directly with your coworker.

In the event you can’t come to an agreement with your coworker, or they give you a hard time about lowering the volume, it might be time to go to Human Resources. Always make sure you’ve done what is possible within reason to try to settle the issue peacefully, and never run straight to Human Resources once someone else does something you don’t like – it’s just not a good look.

Let’s look at another example. The coworker closest to you is constantly making personal calls during work hours and using profane language during these calls. Not only are you distracted, but you’re not comfortable with the things you are hearing all day long. Here, we follow the same plan of first asking your coworker politely to step outside whenever making personal calls. If the behavior continues, it’s time for Human Resources to intervene. In this instance, your coworker is committing time theft, while also using language that is more than likely not appropriate for the workplace.

It is important to know the difference between your own personal preferences and how reasonable they are within the boundaries of the workplace, and behavior that is absolutely unsuitable in a professional environment. Here, the first example can be one of preference unless in extreme cases, while the second is simply unprofessional and borderline offensive.


Harassment and Discrimination

Witnessing or being the victim of harassment or discrimination (or both) in the workplace lacks the grey matter of the issues we’ve talked about in the last section. In any instance where you are harassed or discriminated against, it is suitable to make a beeline straight for the Human Resources department.

In order to define behavior that falls under the harassment category, you can consult your employee handbook, or see this resource from the EEOC. Similarly, you can learn about your organization’s definitions of discrimination in its handbook, or see this resource from the National Conference of State Legislatures. These definitions are generally the same regardless of where you work; however, these are highly complex topics, and it’s best to learn as much as you can so that you can recognize the issues when they take place.

When it comes to harassment and discrimination it is imperative that you go to Human Resources as soon as possible, and it is not advisable to try and handle such situations on your own.


Illegal Activity

If you are the witness to illegal activity taking place at work, such as theft, you must go to Human Resources right away. The Human Resources department is obligated to take action against any and all illegal activities within the workplace, and that includes illegal activities that are perpetrated against either the organization, or another individual.

Keep in mind that if you witness a coworker engaging in illegal behavior outside of the workplace, Human Resources will be unable to intervene as it falls outside of their own jurisdiction. In this case, stand by until you see something illegal taking place within the walls of the organization.


Unsafe Conditions

If you feel unsafe in the workplace, you should talk to Human Resources. This topic is somewhat broad, so here are some examples to consider: a coworker who is intimidating you or other associates should be reported, along with other safety concerns such as collapsing walls, mold and unhealthy air quality, or leaks in the ceiling (yes, seriously).

Safety issues concerning the structural integrity of your workplace can be reported to Human Resources, and they will then go through the proper channels to get them repaired. When it comes to the intimidating coworker, do not attempt to resolve the conflict on your own – go straight to Human Resources.


Keep in mind there may be other instances when it is necessary to get the Human Resources department involved; these are just some of the major ones. It is best to use your own judgment, and to consult your employee handbook when in doubt. Next time, we’ll talk about the dark side of Human Resources, so stay tuned.