Everything you think about HR, but did not want to say.

Retail is a great business to be in. After you get over the initial stages (earning the minimum wage) the scope for advancement is excellent, the pay is fair, and you could not ask for a more exciting, varied job in any business environment. (The Coles MD is reported to be in line for a $38 million bonus if he hits his five year targets – even if that is wrong by 50 per cent, it is certainly compares favourably with any other industry - banking excepted…)

The following home truths are somewhat brutal. They are aimed at people joining an organisation in a managerial capacity with aspirations to get to the top. I have no particular expertise in this area, but do I have a BTDT degree in corporate shenanigans (been there, done that).

Whilst some HR people will take offence, the good ones won’t. They have a role to play in the business – and a valuable one at that. Just not in the way that some of them think and would like to have you think.

When you join a company

Just sign the paper work. Don’t ask questions don’t try and make connections. Don’t talk about your career path with anyone. They have no power and little influence – it is your line manager’s call.

While you are working

Never approach HR for help, counselling or advice. You will be seen as weak by the rest of the business. And the only real assistance HR can give you as just more advice and counselling. They can’t make your problem with the boss go away. (They already know your boss is a jerk, but they can’t do anything about that unless his/her boss wants to anyway.)

When you leave a company

They are watching you and your internet traffic. Don’t even think about leaking something or taking something. If you do, good riddance and you deserve to be slapped with whatever they can slap you with.

I they make counter-offer, do not accept the offer. The company has a long memory and will always wonder when you’re going to threaten to quit again.

Decline the exit interview. They don’t really care; they don’t really do anything with the data and they know you won’t be stupid enough to burn any bridges.

And here is a piece of advice I give only because I care:

If you have a complaint about the company (harassment, discrimination etc.) my advice (not legal opinion) is for you to LEAVE. It is a battle you can't win, and it is a company you don;t want to work for anyway.

(And if you think I am wrong; does Kristy Fraser Kirk and DJs ring a bell?)

Conclusion

HR can be very useful to an organisation by managing training, payroll, recruitment etc. But like Marketing and Finance, HR is a staff department and not a line department. They are experts in their domain but can shape the careers of the people in their respective departments only. (Your boss can tell HR to give you a go, but HR will never be able to convince your boss if he/she doesn’t believe you deserve it.)

The first principle is always to identify the decision maker in anything and deal with them. If you are trying to sell something, deal with the economic decision maker only. If you are trying to advance your career, deal with the person that can make the decision.

HR are expert advisers not decision makers. If you have an issue (any issue not just a people/performance one), identify the real decision maker and go to them. Don’t assume that is HR even if they tell you they are or can solve that particular problem.

This does not diminish their role, because there can only be one decision maker and that is the person responsible. If you can’t figure out who that is, you probably deserve the advice you will get from whomever you ask.

And finally, do not assume that the decision maker is the person that the organisational structure or job description depicts as the decision maker.

The real skill of getting ahead is being able to chart your own path to cross those who can make a difference to yours.