4 Disgusting Frauds Who Are Faking It in HR…

By Alan Collins

If you want to get into Stanford University’s world-class MBA program be prepared — it’s tough and impossibly competitive.

This is still true despite the pandemic.

To get admitted, you’ve got to beat out thousands of exceptional candidates and submit a 750-word essay about “What matters.”

So what matters to Stanford?

According to alumni ambassador, Heriberto Diarte, it is: “People who have strong values, authentic and who want to have a positive impact on the world.” 

Why is that?

Because Stanford wants to turn out MBA high achievers that will leave their mark on the planet.

And, they recognize that it starts with folks who are confident, comfortable in their own skin, and who are unafraid to stand up for what they believe.

Bottom line, they don’t want frauds, fakes
or people who are afraid to be themselves.

Those people are not successful.  And, don’t represent the Stanford brand well.

There’s a lesson we as HR pros can all learn from Stanford’s admission policy.

It’s about the importance of being AUTHENTIC.

To illustrate what I mean, let me tell you about four disgusting, inauthentic frauds (whose actual names I’ve disguised) that I’ve worked with in HR, managed or coached over the last few years:

Any of these sound familiar?

In all these cases, these HR pros are faking it.  They’re unhappy, uncomfortable and unfulfilled because they’ve had to conceal their true selves, feelings or their ambitions — just to fit in.

To be candid, they’re not alone, lots of HR people walk on eggshells these days.

When they’re at work, they adopt a new identity.

They bury who they really are.  They’re afraid to express what they really feel on the job.

They are afraid to stand out, they prefer to fit in.

They are afraid to be themselves.

I’m a huge believer that “you should be you” and bring your whole self to work. You should bring your personality, interests and your passions too.

You shouldn’t have to conceal your authenticity.  

A confession: I know this isn’t easy because we’re human — and we’re constantly judging…and being judged.

However, being real is the only way to be. Otherwise work is boring, filled with phony stiffs and fake conversations.  Can you imagine playing that role – 40 or 50 hours a week?

Speaking from personal experience, it’s horrible and like holding your breath until you get home.

Clearly, it’s not the way to live long term.

*     *     *

Furthermore, all this can hurt your HR career for a variety of reasons:

1. People hesitate to follow you if they don’t know who you are.

Hiding who you really are can come across as aloofness and that failure to connect with others can stand in the way in your success as an HR leader.

2. A “fake you” will make your clients uncomfortable.

And they may not even know why. Most people have a “sixth sense” and instinct for when you’re putting up a wall or suppressing your real feelings and emotions.  People’s antennas tend to go up, and they feel there’s something about you that isn’t authentic.

3. Often, people hide their true selves or true concerns because they fear the truth will be detrimental to their careers.

But if you’re working in a work environment where you can’t be your authentic self, you’re unlikely to succeed and you’ll likely to be unhappy if you do!

4.  You shine most when you are being YOU.

People who bring their authentic selves to work are not only happier, they’re much more productive.  It can be exhausting to wear a mask or pretend to be what you think others expect.  Often, HR careers take off when people make the tough decision to become more authentic in the workplace.

*     *     *

Now having gotten in your face on this topic, let me now be 100% realistic.

It’s simple for me to hide behind my words about the need for authenticity.

But it’s a lot tougher to take action.

And, I will make no pretense that any of this is easy to do.

Or that it will be embraced with open arms by everyone.

A personal confession:  They are lots of times when I’ve stood on the sidelines as an HR pro, rather than say or do what I really felt in the moment.

There were many times when I was scared.

Lots of times when I hesitated to do what I knew was right.  Many situations where I knew what I wanted to do — often, the right thing to do — but feared the consequences my actions.  And I did nothing.

So, I haven’t been perfect at this either.

However, I’ve discovered, over time, that…

Those who experience the greatest satisfaction and fulfillment in their careers are those who are authentic, who are comfortable in their own skin, don’t hide who they are, who stand up for what they believe and are free to bring their “whole selves to work.”

It’s never too late for you to decide to BE AUTHENTIC and just BE YOURSELF.

Even if you have to do it…s-l-o-w-l-y, gradually and at a snail’s pace.  That is stick you’re toe in the water, first…then another toe…then another, before jumping off the diving board completely.

Even if you have to leave your current role in order to find a place that will value you for being YOU.

That’s ok.

Tackle this at your own speed.

But decide that you WILL tackle it,
whether you’re working from home
or back at the office.

Some may not like who you really are.  But a surprising number of people will.

However, just like Stanford’s MBA admissions policy, understand that you’ll never, ever please everyone.  So why not make the decision to embrace your values…and please yourself. 

It just might become the most empowering thing you can do for your HR career.

Just some food for thought.


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Want more unsugarcoated, in-your-face advice for advancing your HR career — that no one else will tell you about?  Then check out: WINNING BIG IN HR: 100+ Powerful Strategies For Accomplishing Great Results Faster & Getting Your Clients To Rave About You As A Human Resources Professional! You can download additional FREE excerpts from the book by going HERE.

About the author: Alan Collins was Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses. He is founder of Success in HR, Inc. and the author of a variety of best selling books for HR professionals including WINNING BIG IN HR. 

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25 Responses to “4 Disgusting Frauds Who Are Faking It in HR…”

  1. Bonnie Nguyen Says:

    Spot on information and advice Alan Collins! I’ve thought it excellent and sent in to my hr colleagues. Be inspired- keep the the good work.

  2. Alisa Charles Says:

    Very important perspective Alan. It is so easy to get stuck but I agree, when you can find your own voice, be yourself, it can become a new beginning in your HR career and in life.

  3. Taufik Abdullah Says:

    I like your article very much Alan, and full heartedly agree with your comments. I gain some strength reading through your article. I have practiced the same and some consequences you risk being labeled as “cold-hearted” and the likes. Very often being the implementer of certain decisions you also are faced with day-to-day challenges. Thus a good HR professional has to be very strong to avoid emotional distress. Thank you.

  4. Phyllis Douglass Hayes Says:

    Alan –
    Once again your comments are spot on. Being authentic, in HR and life, takes courage. Finding your voice however is addictive, and it becomes more organic the more that it is used. Thanks for the insights!

  5. Anund Says:

    Dear Alain

    you know what? I was in a situation which was similar to Chuck and Carolyn combined. It was hell on earth and my health and my family were the ones who bore the brunt of the consequences.

    What I did? I quit for another employer who values me for who I am and I am now able to truly work to my potential. It took me 2 years to leave the previous employer, with more than 150 applications (yes I was that desperate), but I finally removed the shackles and feel so much better.

    Sometimes the problem with Chuck, Carolyn, Everett and Jill is that the climate of fear makes them so afraid that they lose their ability to think. It takes a lot of courage to muster the strength to confront the reality, and come out of that “tunnel vision” and come to the conclusion that it if you believe in your talent you put in the effort, surely you will be rewarded.

  6. Diana Says:

    Thank you Alan, for sharing such valuable and real to life insight. The gist of it ” Those who experience the greatest satisfaction and fulfillment in their careers are those who are authentic, who are comfortable in their own skin, don’t hide who they are, who stand up for what they believe and are free to bring their “whole selves to work.” is worth being kept in daily view, as a valuable message we need to be reminded often, since I very much believe in what you say: ” Even if you have to do it…s-l-o-w-l-y, gradually and at a snail’s pace.”. Very good learning! Thank you again!

  7. John madumere Says:

    Once again, great read. I continue to enjoy these valuable words of wisdom from you, Alan. Greatly appreciated.

  8. Gloria Eloii Says:

    Good one Alan.Put off the fascade and be you. Always easier to be authentic.

  9. Chickie Says:

    Absolutely a great read! I have been in this situation from time to time, and being authentic is the only way. Even if at times it may be difficult. This was definitely a great reminder and very valuable message to all of us HR professionals. Thank you once again Alan.

  10. Sanjeev Chauhan Says:

    Thank Alan. HR is supposed to take care of the most valuable asset “People”.
    If they are faking it and are afraid of loss of job or work climate then its an inherent risk they carry.

    They need to believe in themselves and be authentic, they need to stand up for what they believe to add value and deliver 100%. Thank you again!

  11. Ali Says:

    Authentic as always!

  12. Ally Nilen Says:

    Thank you for posting this article. I was in a similiar position to Jill when I confronted my HR Director in private. I believed it was an important discussion. Unfortunately, he did not. I was terminated the next day. I live in a small town and have not been able to find any work in HR for the past three years. My former manager is well connected and my career in this field is over. I know it is important to be your true self. However, if I had known the repercussions would be so detrimental, I would never have said anything.

  13. Alan Says:

    Ally, I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. Telling your boss they’re behaving badly is never easy. It sounds like you did and got fired.

    Every boss is human and being told you’re wrong or misbhaving never feels good.
    However, getting fired seems to be an EXTREME REACTION by your former boss to a private conversation that I assume you handled delicately and wasn’t publicly embarassing to him — given that no one should have known about except you and him.

    Nevertheless it is what it is.

    I wonder if you’ve pursued a lawsuit and damages regarding your termination. Especially since it’s been three years and you’ve not been able to find work in your small community as a result of your boss’ extreme action. If you haven’t, I would explore this option.

    Secondly, I also wonder if in retrospect, given that you were punished by just providing private feedback, if it’s time to ask yourself whether that boss was worth your time and energy in the first place. Sure it was an HR job and delivered a paycheck — which is important. But clearly you were in a work environment where you didn’t feel comfortable enough to avoid confronting your boss over his behavior. While you could also waited him out to see if he would have left the organization…however, the problem occurs if he didn’t. Sadly, if he never left, my experience is that such work environments tend to get even worse (perhaps unbearable) over time.

    Thirdly, yours is a lesson for us all and thank you for sharing it. It’s clear being yourself and confronting a boss carries with it risk. As I mentioned in the article, sometimes deciding to be authentic and being yourself requires moving s-l-o-w-l-y, gradually and at a snail’s pace.  And also reading the environment to seeing if they’re ready for the real you — this means sticking your toe in the water, first…then another toe…then another, before diving head first into the deep end of the pool. Or even leaving your current role (and this boss) in order to find a place that will value you for being YOU.

    Some final thoughts. Perhaps there are opportunities in HR outside of your community you can pursue either remotely or through relocation. In any event, please don’t let this episode hold you back…talk to your network, pursue a mentor, get more advice…but learn from the experience, continue to think positively and move forward.

    Again, I regret what has happened. Thank you, Ally, for sharing your story. And I wish you much, much success in the future.


  14. Mark A. Griffin Says:

    Wow! Great insight, especially for younger HR professionals. I will be transparent. For many years I struggled with not being my true self. My wife described it as me being “Work Mark”, “Family Mark”, “Church Mark” and “Friends Mark”. Unfortunately I adjusted slightly to fit in with whom I was with at the time. It wasn’t until I read ‘The One Life Solution” by Dr. Henry Cloud that I finally broke the chains of this unhealthy behavior.

    What I have found is adjusting was just plain exhausting! My life is so much better now, my relationships are so much deeper, my impact to the world is ten fold greater and I am at peace.

    May all who read this be encouraged and seek your one true self as well.

  15. Alan Says:

    Mark, thanks for the share and the book recommendation by Dr. Cloud. Glad being yourself and merging the various “Marks” has worked out. Be well.

  16. Mark in Phx Says:

    You are on target with this one. It is not easy to step out and be yourself however, it is necessary for your soul. Work is always best when you can be your personal and professional best. Keep up the good work.


  17. Amee Says:

    I experienced similar backlash as another reader did for bringing forward a harassment complaint to my boss. Our HR practice stated that if someone brought forward a complaint of harassment we had an obligation to the employee and the company to follow up on it and take the appropriate action. I didn’t realize that HR professional were exempt from reporting. While I have no regrets about being authentic the repercussions have been career limiting financially and professionally.

  18. Alan Says:

    Amee, since you experienced similar backlash as Ally – please see my response to her above. Hopefully, you’ll find that helpful.

    In your case, I find it odd that HR folks can’t report instances of harassment as that just gives permission for it take place in HR too. In any event, it is what it is. For you, I’d urge you not to consider the repercussions career limiting. There are over 2 million HR jobs on planet Earth. Perhaps it requires reframing your bad experience as a lesson learned and using it as a signal that it’s time to pursue a BETTER HR job.


  19. Samuel Isaiah Says:

    Thanks for this great insight Alan. However, environmental situations have a lot to do with being the real you. As posited by Ally Nilen above, you may wish to express yourself but the repercussions could be unimaginable. Now she’s been out of job for 3 years for doing what is right. Where do we go from there.

  20. Alan Says:

    Samuel, thanks for the comment. Absolutely agree that environment is a major factor in one’s ability to be the real you. On your question: Please see my comments and advice to both Ally Nilen and Amee above. Be well, Alan.

  21. wayne Says:

    Two stories from my own history
    1 I was head of HR in a large public sector human services organization. A pedophile secured a job as a senior social woker. He tabled forged qualifications and overseas sourced testimonials ( also faked). He got discovered by the cops. A rumour was put about that he was one of a group of pedophiles in the place. HR policies were under serious scrutiny though they were perfectly fine. My boss, who had signed off on the policies, now distanced himself from them. He told me to go see the cops and get what information I could about the ugly rumour. He said to me ” Look, I can’t come; I’m too busy!’
    2 I completed a manuscript on the lack of leadership in our workplaces. I contacted an ex CEO of mine and asked if he would review it. He said that he would and seemed excited. He promised feedback. It never came. Reason – likely that he could relate to some of my negative commentary about self serving leaders who have a need to prevail. I was just seeking validation yet got none. Alan, you MUST write about validation and its place/importance in our workplaces. Thank you Alan – it’s wayne

  22. Alan Says:

    Wayne, thanks for sharing the detailed stories. Clearly, there is weak leadership in every organization — and it appears you ran up against two of them. I will add this issue and how to deal with it from an HR perspective in a future article. Stay tuned. Best, Alan.

  23. Cindy Beresh-Bryant Says:

    This was a great post – very inspiring – thank you!

  24. Brian Says:

    This is all very true about the need to be authentic and true to one’s self, but I am not sure about the Compensation Manager who stays in a job he has clearly outgrown. Some people literally are stuck in their jobs and can’t get out — especially in this awful economy. This is something I am currently faced with. I DESPISE my job and the company I work for, but I don’t seem to qualify for any other job out there (despite having numerous qualifications and varied experience). I cannot simply quit my job because I have a family to support and a mortgage to pay — so I stay in a job I cannot stand until I can manage to make a change (and I am trying to learn new skills to try to make a career change, although it is very difficult to determine which direction to go in).

  25. Alan Says:

    Brian, thanks so much for your very thoughtful response. You make some excellent points and I couldn’t agree with you more. The difference between your situation and one in the example is that I get the impression that you’ve TRIED to look for a better situation, even though you haven’t been successful due to the pandemic. That’s perfectly understandable. And, I couldn’t agree with your points more.

    In the article example, which I’ve modified for clarity, it reads: “Rather than TAKE A CHANCE and LOOK FOR AN EMPLOYER who will appreciate his talent and give him a shot at leading others, he’s GIVEN UP COMPLETELY and chooses to remain in a job he hates and has clearly outgrown.” The key difference are the parts that are CAPITALIZED.

    I believe failing to make any attempt to leave a negative situation…no matter how small those steps are or how un-successful they may be is in the spirit of the “fraud” behavior in the article. The biggest difference is persisting and not giving up. Thanks again for your feedback, it’s much appreciated. Be well, stay safe…and don’t give up!