Can You Talk to HR in Confidence About Quitting?
You’ve been thinking about it for weeks and the time has finally come: You need to talk to human resources about resigning from your job, including what’s prompting your thought process. You realize the HR representative is, after all, working for your employer, but isn't she there to help the employees, too? You worry: Will she maintain confidentiality about your conversation?
Many states have enacted privacy laws requiring HR personnel to keep certain information confidential. The content of your conversation might be one of them. Human resources departments act to protect companies from liability such as those occurring from employee lawsuits. They also act as employee advocates, safeguarding employees from mistreatment such as discrimination or unsafe, unhealthy or unfair employment practices. Human resources personnel constantly evaluate every piece of information that crosses their desks to determine where it falls within these two categories.
If you're thinking of quitting because someone or something at work has violated your rights as an employee -- because the department manager has harassed you, for example -- an HR representative must take immediate action, reporting to management what you've told her. The HR representative's legitimate concern is that the information you've provided represents a monumental issue with the very real potential to cause liability involving both employer and employee.
If you bring to HR your apprehension about quitting your job, the essence of your discussion might amount to something that could disrupt or disturb workflow within the organization, creating an untenable work environment. If this is the HR representative's perception, she has an obligation to share those concerns with management with the intent of heading off larger problems. Good human resources personnel understand their limits when it comes to confidentiality. They can listen, offer advice if warranted and assist in your professional development, but they must still perform as their job descriptions require.
Even if you ask for confidentiality, it is not guaranteed. This is not to say an HR professional will never keep a resignation-related discussion confidential. This decision rests entirely upon the type of information you're divulging. Before approaching HR about quitting your job, think about the potential consequences it will have for your employer. If you expect confidentiality from HR, evaluate where your concerns fall. Approach the conversation knowing your resignation could create a hardship for other employees as well as the employer. As such, the HR representative might be impelled to pass the information to management.