Top 5 HR mistakes
Top 5 HR mistakes
Posted by Stuart Falconer • July 14, 2021

Where do I start?! My initial brainstorm came up with the top 31 HR mistakes, from which I managed to whittle it down to 25. At that point, I realised that this blog post was going to be harder than I thought. After deep thought and a great deal of careful consideration, I eventually came up with a list of the top 5 HR mistakes. In no particular order, they involve:

  • Attention to detail
  • Audit trails
  • Justification
  • Credibility
  • Communication.
Attention to detail

Years ago, when I was first starting out in HR, I found myself taking notes in a disciplinary hearing. I distinctly remember the HR manager in charge of presenting the case – he worked in my team and had been doing the job for years. I knew he was incredibly busy and was presiding over 10 to 12 disciplinary cases at any one time.

Back to the hearing … If my memory recollects accurately, the case lasted for about 6 hours before adjourning for the panel to make their decision. Fast forward a day or two and the employee was dismissed for gross misconduct. However, the letter sent out confirming the dismissal failed to give the employee the right to appeal. It was a simple oversight and it shouldn’t have happened. But it did.

I was lucky to have experienced that HR mistake so early in my career. From that point on, I always took extra time and care to ensure the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed.

Audit trail

I describe my service to clients as supporting the disciplinary process from informal discussions through to a formal procedure, ensuring it complies with whatever policy being followed.

I use a simple mantra: Expectations – Accountability – Consequences.

  • Expectations – this is the job we expect you to do and this is how we expect you to do it.
  • Accountability – you, as an employee, must take personal responsibility for meeting our expectations.
  • Consequences – if you don’t comply, then we will consider disciplinary action.

If you document these steps, there’s your audit trail! Without an audit trial, you might find yourself without a leg to stand on when it comes to taking disciplinary action. And there you have one of the great HR mistakes!


We like to think that all decisions are made with the needs of the business uppermost. However, that thinking can be clouded by personal experiences, personal relationships or even the history of the company. Being able to justify why a particular decision is being made can smooth over so many bumps. How many people have been told by a senior person, ‘Just do what I say’? That’s hardly going to encourage a positive working relationship.

I was once asked to do a piece of work by my manager. I couldn’t understand why it was needed and there was no logic to it. So, I challenged her. Why shouldn’t I? Why can’t someone ask why they’re being told to do something? I ran the risk of being described as difficult or awkward. I’ve been called worse things over the years, but I believe I have the right to ask.

If you’re a manager in charge of people, don’t put yourself in that position. Always have a solid justification for why you’re doing something. That’s the way to build trust and respect.


I’ve worked in HR departments that do not have a seat at the top table. It means HR services come under the jurisdiction of another department or director. The impact of this is that HR does not have authority within the business. We’re supposed to abide by policies and procedures, yet if a senior manager tells HR to do something, we would probably feel pressurised to get it done, regardless of whether it’s an appropriate thing to do.

Should we stick up for what we believe to be right? Or do we have to remind ourselves that we’re being paid to do a job that someone’s instructing us to do? Perhaps sometimes we have to fall on our own sword and accept that the values of the company are not aligned to our own. How many people would consider resigning on a point of principle?

Most people would view HR as having the responsibility to ensure fairness in the workplace. HR mistakes that lose you credibility can be the hardest ones to undo.


I couldn’t possibly do communication mistakes full justice in one blog post. So, I’ll just dangle these carrots …

  • Every person has a unique communication style, a way in which they interact and exchange information with others. It’s a mistake to try to fit everyone into the same box. If you don’t think about who you’re communicating with, they might entirely miss what you’re trying to say.
  • Listening is considered a key communication skill. So, LISTEN. And listen actively. Make a conscious effort to hear not only the words the other person is saying but, more importantly, the complete message being communicated. What is their body language conveying? What is what they’re not saying telling you?
  • Social Media! What could possibly go wrong? But perhaps that’s a post of its own for another day …

We all make HR mistakes. Just try not to repeat them! As HR consultants, Morgan Thomson HR can help you support your staff, from policies through to managing disciplinary action. To find out what we can do for your business, contact me on 0345 095 0139 or email