The Fifth Biggest Lie in HR: We're Responsible for Work/Life Balance....
The Third Biggest Lie In HR: We're Into Pay for Performance....

The Fourth Biggest Lie in HR: It's Our Parental Desire to Provide Great Benefits...

I’m here this week not to give you the normal PR spin about how strategic the HR function can be, but instead to call BS on the biggest lies in HR. It’s not that HR people want to lie. It’s just that we’ve created our own prison: the urban myths that have developed over the last 20 years as the HR function has matured.

And so we’re trapped. We’ve spawned narratives that make the HR function seem like a cross between Mother Teresa and Stuart Smalley, while the team members—aka employees—we serve actually need more tough love, a cross between Jack Welch and Dennis Miller. They need that little thing called the truth, effectively washed down with a bit of leadership, personality and, at times, humor.

Let's roll...

The Fouth Biggest Lie in HR: It’s the company’s desire to provide strong benefits to all team members. How many shades of gray are there on the color wheel? While we like to take care of team members, if it wasn’t part of the American health care system and a competitive necessity related to talent, employers would be out of the benefits business so fast it would make the collapse of Martha Coakley in Massachusetts seem glacial in comparison. As someone who has been fortunate enough to run a self-insured health care plan in a smaller business environment and witness the humanity firsthand, I can tell you the biggest component to this lie is our unwillingness to hold employees accountable for their own health. HR professionals talk about our cost increases during open enrollment, but most of us never really try to change employee behavior through incentives or penalties.

The truth: If we had the guts, we’d tell employees: We’re not Mom. We only provide benefits because it’s an expectation we have to meet in order to compete in the talent game. We have little to no control over insurance costs incurred, and due to our collective unwillingness to penalize smokers and team members who are gold members at Krispy Kreme, we never will. Employees have to take the cost increases we give them as a result, and if we ever get brave enough to try to change the behavior of the outliers, we’ll find we’re too late due to a legislative environment that protects those making unhealthy choices. Wow, that was depressing to write.

Put the donut down and ponder this: If you’re a good HR pro and don’t feel like you actively pitch the lie above, do you actively preach the truth?

If the answer is no, you’ve got work to do before you’re part of the solution.

See the whole list of HR Lies at Workforce here, or wait - I'm previewing them all week long.  Lucky you..


Tammy Colson

Many small businesses are out of the benefits business, with the exception of providing great benefits for the senior management. (ie. the people who decide whether to provide the benefits)

I agree that employees need to make healthier choices, and I, as a mostly health conscious individual, shouldn't have to pay for my unhealthy colleagues (or the sick people in the individual insurance pool, at outrageous prices) - but without separating health care from employment, this is the system we are stuck with.


Yes, we're providing the benefits and having honest talks about the cost increases. And lately, we're begun to pay employees to change behaviors toward more health & wellness.

One day, we'll spend less money, but I'm not sure when.

Kim Bailey

Penalties for unhealthy behaviors? Sounds good, but where does THAT end? Which lifestyle choice is JUST over the line....smoking, over eating, some high cholestorol level, people who participate in high risk activities (like rock climbing, skydiving, etc)....why not go all the way....check out their family and genetic history...After all, a perfectly healthy looking young person playing basketball can keel over (it's happened), having a bad heart they knew nothing about until you look at family/genetic history.

WAIT, we can't do that...that is illegal. OK, what if my co-worker gets cancer and I don't...shouldn't they pay more...after all, I'm fine! Or, if their child is born premature....I haven't got any kids, so why am I paying the same???

I know I sound like a smart alek above, but my point (and I do have one) is that who plays God when it comes to what behavior is JUST bad enough for "punishment"....How about rewards instead? I think wellness programs should focus on rewards and results, not "here's what you get if you don't..."

I just don't think we will see the lifestyle, long-term changes you mention we need (and we DO) if we want to really impact health insurance costs, with negative consequenses rather than positive feedback.

By the way, you are absolutetly right that without competition, none of us would even offer benefits....that's what's so great about free enterprise!

Just a thought!


I thing it's great when the business actively prevents one from participating in healthier behaviors. I had just started an exercise program and was going strong for a month when the endless overtime projects started.

Two months later I simply don't have the time, and the projects aren't ending anytime soon.


I agree that employees need to make healthier choices, and I, as an individual especially health conscious, should not have to pay for my colleagues are not healthy (or sick in the individual insurance group to outrageous prices) - but without separating health care employment, this is the system we're stuck with.

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