59 - No F*cks Given (and other HR Misconceptions) with @HRTraci - Part 1

All extroverts, no sense of humor, makes all the decisions, makes no decisions, only looking out for the company and much muchhhhhh more BS on this one team. The ladies team up with another HR influence, @HRTraci, for Part 1 of this saucy convo on common HR Misconceptions. Love this one? Pop over to the Bringing the Human back into Human Resources podcast to finish Part 2. Tell them we said ‘Sup?’


Release Date: August 17, 2022


[00:00:01] Speaker 1: Morning. This podcast is about the realities of working in People Operations. This is not a stuck-up PC compliance-based or employment law podcast about stuffy outdated HR practices. Shit will get real here and we assume no responsibility.

[00:00:16] Tyson Mackenzie: Saturday in the office.

[00:00:18] Alexa Baggio: There's nothing better than a bunch of good workmates [unintelligible 00:00:20] around the table and sharing these stories. We have this out-of-body experience in HR where you're [unintelligible 00:00:26].

[00:00:26] Speaker 4: HR is not that bad. It's not.

[00:00:29] Alexa: Come hang out with Tyson an I on this podcast. We'll make you laugh.

[00:00:31] Speaker 1: This is the People Problems Podcast with Alexa Baggio and Tyson Mackenzie.

[00:00:39] Alexa: What's up, Tyson?

[00:00:40] Tyson: Oh my gosh, not too much. I don't know. Not too much going on. I took the baby to the beach on the weekend. That was-

[00:00:48] Alexa: Nice.

[00:00:48] Tyson: -kind of like a little fun disaster. She was super cute, but like eating sand. I'm like, "Why do you got to do that?" Like, "Come on. You are 10 months old"


[00:00:57] Alexa: I feel like you know what you got into taking your baby to the beach.

[00:01:01] Tyson: Right. I know but it was just she was so cute. It was so cute on the way home. It's like a five-minute boat ride from the beach to the landing. She just conked right out. It was so cute.

[00:01:11] Alexa: Adorable. I would love to do that. Nice.

[00:01:14] Tyson: Yes. Just fall asleep on a boat.

[00:01:16] Alexa: Yes, while someone [unintelligible 00:01:17] from the beach.

[00:01:17] Tyson: Isn't that what you're doing in Copenhagen? [laughs]

[00:01:20] Alexa: No, there's no sun here. I don't know who's told me that Copenhagen had sunshine in the summer, but I got fucking lied to. It's just been cold and rainy most of the time. Of course, it's nice today. You don't have to work a 14-hour day but no, it has not actually been great weather truthfully. I'm ready to move on to my next location. It's been fun. It's a very cool little city I get why people like this place but I'm ready for my next adventure.

[00:01:47] Tyson: I can't wait to hear all about it.

[00:01:48] Alexa: I know. I'll just continue to keep telling everyone even if they don't want to hear it. [chuckles] It's kind of how having a podcast works. Speaking of telling people things they don't want to hear. See how I did that. I'm getting very good at my segues.

[00:02:00] Tyson: Amazing. Wait, but I think people do want to hear this.

[00:02:03] Alexa: You're right.

[00:02:03] Tyson: People do want to hear this.

[00:02:04] Alexa: All right. I suppose this because this first one's about you. Today's episode is brought to you by the People of Society and more importantly by Tyson and her new on-demand course the Art of Compensations. It's an educational series that will dig deeper than the spreadsheets and teach you exactly how to have meaningful conversations with leadership about compensation. Available on demand on August 15th, use the code TysonHRshook@peopleofsociety.com to learn today. Again one more time, that's TysonHRshook@peopleofssociety.com.

In addition, obligatory shameless plug for following us on all the things you can follow our handles at People Problems pod on LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok. Make sure you follow me and Alexa Baggio at doughnuts if you want to follow my crazy silly travels on Instagram and the famous Tyson of HR shook as well. Last but not least, very special announcement I feel like we've neglected for a few weeks so I got to come back to it. Which is you can come meet Tyson and I in California, we are doing two back-to-back live recordings at PERKSCon San Francisco on September 15th, and PERKSCon LA on September 21st.

You can go to PERKSCon and click Get Tickets to use the code people problems pod for 20% off your tickets. Again, you can go to perkscon.com and click Get tickets, use the code people problems pod for 20% off your tickets. If you're coming to the events, please let Tyson and I know. Hit us up through social media and all the channels we're hoping to get some of our listeners together, and obviously, we'd love to meet you. That is my obligatory spiel for the day.

With that I would like to move us to a very, very, very special guest today. We're going to do things a little differently today. We've got a very special episode or combination of episodes for our listeners. We are going to be introducing our guest today who is HR Traci, who is another fellow HR influencer and we are going to be doing our first ever podcast swap, or pod swap I guess you would call it. You're going to listen to the first half of this conversation with us and then if you love it, you're going to go all the way over to Traci's podcast, which is Bringing the Human Back into Human Resources and you will listen to the second half of this episode so we can share in the fun.

Our guest today is a self-declared challenger of the status quo who destigmatizes HR in both her full-time role and on her podcast after nearly a decade in key HR roles in both big box and luxury retail. Traci realized there was a serious need to rebrand. There was a serious need to what, Tyson? Rebrand what the general population understood HR to be which is why she created her podcast Bringing the Human Back to Human Resources in October of 2020. She is passionate about bringing people and businesses together while simultaneously challenging the misconceptions and stigmas around HR. Traci, what is going on? We are so excited to have you here.

[00:04:36] Traci: Hello. Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for having me. I know claps all around.

[00:04:41] Alexa: It feels very incestrial. This is like HR influencer fan girl podcast incest [laughs].

[00:04:49] Traci: I'm here for it. The only type of incest you'll see me [unintelligible 00:04:52].


[00:04:55] Alexa: I love it. All right, for our listeners who are not familiar with you, give everybody the quick little snippet on who you are and what you are about. Then we have a very special topic for today, which Tyson has done an awesome amount of work putting together for us, which is we're going to talk about a very long, and we're not obviously going to get to all of it, list of misconceptions in HR. Before we do that, Traci, what do you think people should know about you? What's a quick little story on you?

[00:05:19] Traci: Awesome. Well, I am a New Jersey native, living in Cleveland right now for my husband's job. Not as cool as Denmark or France, but here we are in the Midwest.

[00:05:29] Alexa: I'm from New Jersey, so we're kindred spirits.

[00:05:33] Traci: Oh, we'll have to talk about this. Other than that, I have been in HR, like you've introduced me, for more than a decade at this point and/or about a decade at this point. I started my podcast because I love it so much. I eat, breathe, sleep HR. Even I had a dream about it last night. A story for another time. It's really true.

My whole ethos is focused on being this person that's trying to change the way that we see HR, and enabling people who really want to be part of this progressive movement to what HR is really meant to look like and be like, to helping them get there. I feel like this is why I'm so excited to be on your podcast because I am a listener of your podcast. I'm just so excited to be here.

In my day-to-day, I'm a director of employee engagement at a technology company, where we support retail and hospitality industries with their workforce management solutions. Aside from that, I've always been a director of HR, HR Business Partner track. I was an HR journalist back in the day at Target. I'm just really happy to be here.

[00:06:35] Alexa: Why'd you get into HR? What was the moment?

[00:06:38] Traci: Honestly, I fell into it, which is the worst thing that you could do because you want people to be really focused on being in HR.

[00:06:44] Tyson: We all fall into it.

[00:06:46] Traci: We really do. We just trip right in. Honestly, I was I think Target for about eight months, six months when I realized that there was this whole other side of managing. I was in like a $100 million store, and I was able to get involved with the HR staff. My dad was the one who was like, "Don't go the store manager route, go the HR route because this is really truly what you love," just because of the way that I was speaking about things. It's credit to my dad.

[00:07:17] Alexa: He knows you're a glutton for punishment. [chuckles]

[00:07:20] Traci: He's like, "You like being tortured, why not?"

[00:07:23] Alexa: Yes, Exactly. You've got the cahoonas really scared.

[00:07:26] Traci: [chuckles] Exactly.

[00:07:26] Alexa: I like it. Very cool. All right, well, let's do this. We're going to hop in. Tyson, like I said, has put together a litany of misconceptions from listeners and followers. It's actually very funny to read this. We'll have to publish the whole list at some point somewhere. It's amazing. We're going to start through this list. I'm going to try to pick out some of the good ones.

There'll be some repetitive stuff, so don't let me pick two that are too similar. We are just going to have some fucking fun with these misconceptions. I'll fire them at you guys and let you guys spout-off and do what I do best, which is give an opinion nobody asked for as we go. Sound good?

[00:08:02] Tyson: Let's do it.

[00:08:03] Traci: Great.

[00:08:03] Alexa: All right, rock and roll. Are you ready? First one, HR people decide the policies. Common misconception, HR people decide the policies. What do we think? True, false, I have something to say about this?

[00:08:16] Tyson: It's not always false. There is a lot of policies that are written by HR. Most of them are written by the legal department depending on where you're at. Oftentimes, you might notice like what I'm seeing more frequently is that each department is writing policy. I've seen a lot like the IT department writes everything about IT. HR will write the performance improvement plan thing. They do. It's not totally a misconception because they do. Do we want to be doing it? Is it your typical HR Business Partner? Probably not. You'd probably actually have a policy team. It depends on how big your organization is, sorry.

[00:08:56] Traci: No, I feel it's interesting because my initial reaction was like, "Yes, we do," but I think it's based on my experience. When I think of policy writing, I actually see it as policy influence because you want policies that happen or take place and are created in the organization, whether it is another department creating it or a team, HR has to influence the way it sounds, the way it feels, the way it's received.

[00:09:20] Tyson: Influence but not enforce, right?

[00:09:22] Traci: Yes, but actually I don't know. I think in my experience, there's been a lot of involvement from the HR side. Even with in-house and out-of-house legal teams, I've found myself involved in the policy writing, but again, not necessarily the owner or enforcer of all of it to your point, but definitely we're the influencers, we're the original influencers. That's probably what I would say around policy.

[00:09:48] Alexa: OG influencers?

[00:09:50] Traci: Yes. I'm torn on this one.

[00:09:52] Alexa: I stamped you out of the gate. I love this. It's going to be a long episode, kids. I think it's interesting to think of the concept you mentioned it right out of the gate, Tyson of maybe the misconception here is like, all policies come from HR, and that's a misconception. Right? Like, your IT team should be writing your fucking IT policies.

[00:10:11] Traci: Right. Like we have nothing to do with the iPads-


[00:10:15] Alexa: Right. Also, just like, subject matter expertise and domain expertise, HR should be writing and helping and influencing the things that dictate things that HR helps and influences already. Yes. I don't know. It wouldn't make sense for you to be like, "Oh, well, our fiscal policy is--"


[00:10:33] Tyson: The misconception also could be that that's all we do, right? All we do is write and enforce policies.

[00:10:42] Traci: Not true.

[00:10:44] Alexa: Not true. Big old stamp of not true on that one.

[00:10:47] Traci: You know what we just did? We just did the HR thing, which is like, you make three issues out of the one issue. It's like, well, we can see it in all of these different ways, so let's talk about all those so that's not a misconception.

[00:10:58] Alexa: Just to be clear, I don't see HR being concise on this list. I think we are safe.

[00:11:04] Traci: Right. We can all agree on that.

[00:11:06] Alexa: Yes, exactly. All right. A couple of these are in groupings. Tyson attempted to put these in grouping. Some of these I may just read the grouping because it's like they're pretty close. Okay, so HR is about protecting the company. HR doesn't care about people. HR loves boss, hates employees. I'm assuming they mean, like, loves their boss.

[00:11:27] Traci: Managers,

[00:11:27] Alexa: Hates employees. Right. Hate's a strong word, but these are misconceptions. Let's dig into it, kids. I think that the general misconception here is like company versus employee. That there's a side there.

[00:11:41] Traci: Yes, no, there's definitely the misconception. I would agree that HR is two-faced to simply put. There's this element of you're telling me one thing to my face and saying another thing behind my back. I've talked about this before, that there is a responsibility that we have to protect the interests of the company, but we also have a responsibility to protect the interests of the employees.

I think there is a symptom there when people do have this misconception that we are two-faced or that we love one part of the company and hate another part, that it's unfortunately a symptom of having bad leadership. Doesn't even matter if it's someone in HR. It could just be a bad leader within the organization who doesn't have that person's best interest in mind. I definitely think that is a very strong misconception.

[00:12:28] Alexa: Tyson, what do you think?

[00:12:29] Tyson: I agree. Well, even just when you were introducing the topic, like using that word versus like company versus employees, it shouldn't be about that. The decisions that HR helps facilitate should be what's best for the company, which should in turn be what's best for the employee. Look, we're going to get there, about sometimes we have to fire people and people are going to be like, "Oh, that's not in the best interest of the employee," but sometimes it is, not to throw the HR stuff in there, but unfortunately, it is.

Yes, I'm just like trying to be less of, like, employee versus company. I think that's what gets us into this mess. I do think that there is a branch of people who work in HR now, and I joke about it on HR Shook all the time, where I feel like they have to be super pro on the company side to build credibility with the company, if that makes sense. You might have experienced that, Traci, but this feeling that you have to, like, be buddy buddy with managers in a way that's, like, anti employee, that is not what you should be doing in HR. That's not how to build a credibility-


That's not it. There are a lot of people that do that.

[00:13:37] Traci: Yes and it's a great way to lose credibility. I think if a company appreciates that you don't care about employees, you're obviously not working for a company that cares about employees, period.

[00:13:46] Alexa: Also, I can't imagine being in a role where you're effectively a bridge. You're a liaison right between the two interests of the two parties that you could possibly be effective by digging your heels in for one team or the other. There is no benefit to doing that. You have much more benefit by being perceived as Switzerland. Like, you're just so much more effective if you can be like, "No, I don't have a dog in this race." I don't have a-- whatever the saying is.

Anyway, yes, I think it's interesting to think about, like, that's a classic narrative, but I think it comes from people who have gotten some interaction with HR they didn't like. They're like, "Oh, you represent the company." Again, it goes back to this idea of, like, "Well, I didn't write the policies." Not to scapegoat and not to placate, but also, your job in this is not to be the police. Your job is to be the mediator in a way. Like, the negotiator for both sides for a positive outcome in a perfect interaction.

[00:14:47] Traci: Actually it makes me think about how we effectively build trust. If you are always taking one side or always taking another side, then you're not seen as a neutral or objective voice of reason. Sometimes there is something that the company decides that's in the employees' best interest. Sometimes a company decides something that isn't in the employees' best interest, and it's up to us to help the company navigate that but also help the employees navigate that.

I think it's something that I've always done is tell someone when I disagree with them. I think HR people need to, all leaders, need to be more comfortable saying to leaders of an organization, "You're doing the wrong thing." Or to employees to say, "You're reacting in a way that I can understand but also here's the explanation, here's the why, here's how we can get through it together," and helping each person in that equation navigate the forward movement there.

[00:15:39] Alexa: Yes. Amen to that. Man, the more I look at this list the more I'm like, "Agh, there's a lot of these." Who submitted, "Mean bitches." misconception.


[00:15:51] Traci: That was me. That was me.


[00:15:54] Alexa: Someone was just like, "Oh, misconception mean bitches." "Oh, yes. Okay. Great." LOL. Some of these are incredible.

[00:16:02] Tyson: I'm sure there are a few mean bitches in HR though. I think I've come across a few. [laughs]

[00:16:05] Traci: I could name them.

[00:16:09] Alexa: All of them?

[00:16:11] Traci: I could, but I won't.

[00:16:15] Alexa: Like, "HR reads minds." Is that a misconception, that HR reads minds?

[00:16:20] Tyson: People think that though.

[00:16:22] Alexa: In what way? You were supposed to know they wanted a raise or some shit? What do you mean?

[00:16:27] Traci: This reminds me of marriage counseling or something where, "I'm not a mind reader." I've never been told that. That's probably just like a human nature thing, that you either are super-direct and assume that people don't know what you're looking for or what you need and so you just say it or you're someone who expects someone to know exactly what you want. You know what this sounds like? It sounds like an HR person who recently was in a conversation with an employee who was obviously disgruntled and expected that HR person to know that they were disgruntled. That's what it sounds like. I could be wrong.

[00:17:03] Tyson: Yes. It's like when someone comes to you and they're like, "I have a situation. I want to talk to you, but I can't give you any of the details." You're like, "Okay."

[00:17:14] Alexa: Help me help you, bro.

[00:17:14] Tyson: In order for me to help you-- Yes, exactly. I've had a few of those situations.

[00:17:20] Traci: Oh, yes. That's a good point, Tyson. Yes. I like that.

[00:17:25] Alexa: It brings up, and I don't know, this is probably on the list somewhere but this brings up a misconception that I can see coming out of the cracks here which is that HR knows everything. Like that you see everything-


[00:17:35] Tyson: Oh, that's definitely on the list.

[00:17:36] Alexa: It might be a little further down. It's a very long list again. That you're fucking omnipotent, that you know this disgruntled employee, you know every single slight that they've gotten just simply because your title has HR in it versus this person's been dealing with who knows why the fuck they're disgruntled, could have been 17 different things they've never heard of. The misconception of where HR would have heard of those things is that they're everywhere and everything gets back to you.

[00:18:05] Tyson: I love that. It might be a misconception but also-


[00:18:08] Alexa: It's kind of fun.


[00:18:09] Traci: I was going to say the same thing.


[00:18:11] Alexa: [unintelligible 00:18:11].

[00:18:11] Traci: Like what? Let me have so much power. [laughs]

[00:18:15] Tyson: I'm thinking of Wizard of Oz over here.

[00:18:17] Alexa: Do you know the meme of everyone just eating popcorn while there's office drama.

[00:18:21] Traci: Yes, right.


Isn't there such an expectation though for us to know everything too? People will just come to me with questions that I can point you in the direct-- but maybe that's it. If you're a supportive resource then they know they can go to you with at least a good direction to go in.

[00:18:40] Tyson: We do it too. We always help. Going back to the policies-


[00:18:43] Alexa: HR, fielder of stupid questions.


[00:18:46] Tyson: Here I am fixing someone's computer. I'm like, "Look, you don't want me to do this, but-

[00:18:51] Alexa: Yo, Tyson, we've got to talk about healthy boundaries with you. We really got to draw some lines, when you're jumping into the IT roles, [laughs] we've got to set some boundaries.

[00:19:02] Traci: I'm with you, Tyson. Those are hard boundaries to set honestly.

[00:19:07] Tyson: Yes.

[00:19:08] Traci: It's easier to just answer this question and help the person.

[00:19:10] Tyson: It's easier to just answer the question. It is.

[00:19:13] Alexa: Until they come back asking you for more IT support. Then LOL. All right. My God, this is such a list. I love this. This is so good. Okay. Let's get a little sticky here. Let's get some fiery ones. A lot of these are not grouped either. "HR ruins lives."

[00:19:34] Traci: Rude.

[00:19:35] Alexa: Rude.

[00:19:36] Traci: That's not a misconception. That person's giving us feedback. [laughs]

[00:19:40] Tyson: That person was hurt. I think that that's a them problem. That's a them problem.

[00:19:48] Traci: Right. If you hear this, we're sorry. Come talk to us. We will gladly try and-


[00:19:52] Alexa: Who hurt you? Who hurt you?

[00:19:55] Traci: Yes.

[00:19:57] Alexa: Exactly. LOL. That HR makes decisions, like some of these are so fucking snarky.

[00:20:02] Traci: Oh, my God. I know I feel like I should be offended a little bit.

[00:20:05] Alexa: We have some snarky ass listeners. I love this. Actually, I'm going to hit on one that's interesting. This one is we send spam emails. I will say, and I see this a lot in the work that I do. It's a misconception and the thing that I am actively trying to fix in this community, but that people perceive HR communications as spam, or that it's invaluable, because it's company-wide communication, or it's a newsletter from the HR team. They're like, yes, filter this out of inbox. It's really unfortunate because, in a way, you should be the most effective communicators in the company. Not the people that are like, Oh, God, another fucking HR email, like delete. I don't know.

[00:20:53] Tyson: Let me share an example of how HR can become spammy. I worked for an organization. It was actually one of our performance metrics, the engagement score, and completion rate of the teams that we supported. It was actually my performance indicator.

[00:21:12] Alexa: Fill out the survey. Please fill out the survey. Fill out the surveys. Please fill up the survey. [laughs]

[00:21:18] Tyson: You got it. Yes, was I spamming them? I'm an overachiever and you bet I was getting 100% completion on that. That was also me filling it out on people's computers. No, but seriously, that was just like a shitty performance indicator that shouldn't have been there. It's the same with them. Sometimes performance reviews. Our boss is giving us pressure.

[00:21:39] Alexa: Please fill out your performance review. Please fill out your performance review.

[00:21:42] Traci: You got it.

[00:21:43] Alexa: You didn't fill out your performance review. Hey, can you fill out your performance review?

[00:21:48] Tyson: Can I help you? Do you have any questions about how to use the tool?


[00:21:52] Alexa: Oh, that's so unfortunate.

[00:21:55] Traci: I love the-- it's like a backdoor. It's like okay, so do you want me to walk you through it? The only thing though, that I will say to play devil's advocate is like that person is the person that's receiving the email and it's filtering it out. They are probably also the person complaining that they don't get any information. That they're-- it's not clear. There's no transparency, HR doesn't listen.

If people are not reading, or they're not completing engagement surveys, or whatever thing they need to do. Performance review is a great example. There's always this chasing down of managers and employees to do it. They know the stakes that are there when you're not completing it. You're not going to get your performance review, maybe you won't get a raise, like you obviously, you have to do it. Why is it that HR is then the bad person when you're not doing a part of your job?

You could blame us all you want for spamming you but the reality is, is that you are part of the problem. If you just fix your issue and do things by the due date, then you won't have to be part of that spam, or it won't be relevant to and you can delete it, knowing exactly what you did right.

[00:23:00] Alexa: [unintelligible 00:23:00] here, yes.


[00:23:02] Tyson: You have to say it louder for the people in the back.

[00:23:04] Alexa: Yes, exactly. Let's just run that back and say that one more time. Look, it's not like you guys can fix fucking human behavior. If you could get people to read emails, we'd be worshipping you on Sundays in big buildings with crosses on the top.


[00:23:20] Traci: Can I tell you one small anecdote about this? I worked at an organization that often just like said, "Oh, well, people are not going to read the email, so let's just do something else." When I tell you on a daily or if not weekly basis, have to say, "Why are you allowing your team not to read emails? This is part of their job. They are managers, they need to be up to date with things going on."

I'm not going to change an approach unless we have to change and we have to be more effective totally, let's adapt, but it's the symptom of the problem is that they are not doing something that's actually part of their role, then no we're not going to like enable this behavior. They have to just change.

[00:24:00] Alexa: I agree with you 1000%, Traci. My one caveat having worked in employer and benefit communications for almost a decade is that a lot of teams are just fucking terrible at this. I have seen HR teams take beautiful, well-crafted branded emails from like benefit providers they support and butcher the absolute hell out of them and it turns into some piece of shit newsletter that's 75 pages long but ain't nobody reading. I think it goes both ways.


[00:24:31] Tyson: That's a problem. It should not be this long-winded with all the instructions.

[00:24:37] Alexa: Half of these companies have people in the HR function writing what are effectively marketing emails just to employees, not the customers. I'm sorry, your benefits administrators is probably not that fucking person. [laughs]

[00:24:51] Traci: No. Probably.

[00:24:52] Alexa: At least 90% of them are not trained in branded communications and marketing. It's a disconnect. I get both sides of it.

[00:25:00] Traci: That's true.

[00:25:01] Alexa: I understand why all of these misconceptions exist. Doesn't necessarily make them true but so far, I would say, well, we've been through like four or five, six of them or so. There's some truth to all of them so far. Here's a good one. Let's listen to another one to get you ladies fired up. Let's do this one first. That HR fires people, all HR does is hire and fire. All you do is fire people, fire people, pay people, and fire people. [laughs]

[00:25:30] Traci: I think my grandma submitted this. That's truly what she thinks I do. [laughs]

[00:25:35] Speaker 1: Wait a minute. Before you leave, take some time to leave us a five-star rating. We'd really love your feedback. Also, if you'd like to see our lovely faces each week as we're recording these episodes, check us out on our new YouTube channel. Thanks.

[00:25:46] Alexa: This episode was executive produced by me Alexa Baggio with audio production by Ellie Brigida of Clear Harmonies. Our outro music was also done by the wonderful Ellie Brigida of Clear Harmonies. You can find more information about us and future episodes at peopleproblemspod.com or follow us at peopleproblemspod on all things social.

[00:26:02] [END OF AUDIO]

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