All great HR practitioners know their companies like the backs of their hands. They’re aware of all of the secrets, the plans for massive layoffs, company goals & strategies, as well as hiring forecasts for every position in their workplace.  HR practitioners have the knowledge that all employees want to know, and they usually know it long before anyone else.

Most HR practitioners hold these secrets carefully, because if they were to unleash them prematurely it would create mass hysteria within their workplace. Employees who don’t work in HR don’t necessarily need to know everything about the inner workings of the company, because it’s not part of their job description. There are a few secrets that only HR personnel should know, like the following:

When an employee is being hired

HR cycles through hundreds of candidates a year, and the secrets of who is being hired and why should be kept to HR alone. The reason is that when candidates aren’t hired, they’re usually upset, and sometimes if a candidate learned why he or she wasn’t hired, it could open the way to a potential lawsuit against the company.

When an employee is being fired

This is an obvious secret that only HR practitioners should know. When you’re dealing with employee terminations, there are so many legalities and potential dangers involved that it’s important to keep it all under wraps until the actual moment occurs.

When your company is merging with a competitor

One of the first departments to know of a merger is human resources. This is an important secret to keep, because it has a huge impact on company finances as well as all of the employees involved. It ties directly into layoffs, promotions, divisions, and every aspect of a company’s operations. And if you’re a small company merging with a larger one, it’s especially important to keep things under wraps until a solution has been found as to what will happen to all of your employees.

While each of these issues deal specifically with employees being hired or fired, there are a lot of other things that HR practitioners know that might make the everyday employee queasy. These include the following:

The salary of each employee

Let’s say you’re friends with many of the employees in your company. I’m not sure about you, but knowing how much they make as well as any type of financial hardship they may be going through (garnishments, etc.) can be a little unsettling. This is some of the most private information you hold about each employee. Understandably, HR needs to know this information when offering jobs and to keep raises, etc. competitive, but it can be a delicate balance.

Employee raises

In conjunction with knowing everyone’s salaries, knowing every detail about raises can come with its challenges. Knowing the reason behind specific raises and the percentage of increase in each person’s salary is a lot of information for one department to know. Safeguarding this information is extra important, because if it got out that someone was making a lot more then a co-worker who does the same job, it could easily cause an uproar.

Transparency in the workplace extends to all areas, including human resources, and there are secrets that directly affect each employee. In many situations, your HR department should be completely transparent, but there are some circumstances in which it’s important for HR to not share all of the secrets to their world.

Do you agree that HR should not be transparent in some instances? What about the ones listed above? 

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.


  • Avatar Carin Dixon says:

    Some issues can’t be revealed to employees because is safer to keep them secret. In these situations, there are lot of things to handle and HR pros should deal with them properly, without any other disturbances.

  • Avatar Hailay Anderson says:

    HR should be transparent only so far as this will not affect the employees’ productivity. Employee raises and salaries are things that only HR and managers should know. It’s well known that it’s not necessary for coworkers to have the same salary even though they are doing the same things. This knowledge can affect the productivity of the employee with a lower salary, and HR is not interested in that. Also, it’s not HR’s problem that the employee wasn’t able to negotiate his or her salary.

  • Avatar Tress Ortiz says:

    I don’t understand why HR can’t be transparent concerning salaries and pay raises. In my opinion, this is a source of disengagement because employers can’t make the connection between compensation and performance. Employees are not able to understand the compensation program, and this makes them perceive the program as being inconsistent or unfair.

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