So you want to talk to human resources about an issue in your workplace. Don’t worry, you’re not just being basic. According to HR Acuity, 48% of Americans face abusive situations at work. The good news: you’re not alone. The bad news: people suck.

Believe it or not (and we sure hope you believe it), you are a human being worthy of nondiscriminatory, respectful treatment in the workplace. And everywhere else for that matter, but unfortunately dating apps don’t have an HR department.

Approaching HR can be nerve-wracking. Why have an adult conversation when you could give someone the silent treatment for the rest of your professional life? But in the long run it’s important to address the appropriate professional concerns with your HR department. Here’s how to do so without making your workplace awkward AF:

Remember who pays the bills

The first thing to consider as you prepare to bare your soul to the Toby of your workplace is that HR is not your friend. They do not work for you. The HR department exists for the benefit of the business.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go to this department with serious concerns. It does mean, however, that you should keep in mind that nothing you say is confidential. Hopefully, your HR team takes you seriously and cares about you as a person, but keep in mind that their number one job is to protect the company.

Know when you should go to HR

Carol keeps eating your snacks even though they’re clearly labeled. Your manager speaks to you as if you’re a potty training two year old. Most importantly: the communal coffee is terrible.

All of these are valid concerns, but we’re not here to discuss valid concerns, we’re here to kick ass and not get fired. The first question to ask when a troublesome workplace event occurs isn’t when should you talk to HR but should you talk to HR.

In many instances, you’re best bet is to first address the concern yourself. For example, ask Carol to stop eating your fancy Trader Joe’s snacks. Directly addressing the concerns yourself especially applies to issues with your manager, who will inevitably find out about your complaint anyways.

So when should you talk to HR? Here are two reasons you should definitely book a conference room for a chat:

  • If you are being harassed or bullied
  • If you believe that your supervisor is behaving unethically
  • If you have questions about your benefits package

Things you should probably attempt to address yourself (at least at first):

  • Complaints about your colleague
  • Complaints about your boss
  • Complaints about being overworked

Sensing a common theme? Complaining to HR will not get you far. That rhymed. So you have no excuse not to remember it.

Come prepared

A successful HR encounter starts before the meeting begins. How? Documentation.

You are experiencing a significant challenge at work. Insurance has been difficult to deal with. Creepy Tom keeps commenting on how sexy your summer dresses are. Start documenting the problem now, so you can address it with HR later.

Save those pesky insurance forms and voicemails CVS Pharmacy keeps leaving you about your sketchy insurance. Screenshot Creepy Tom’s creepy emails. Documenting issues as they arise will help HR understand the scope and seriousness of the problem.

Focus on the business solution

I’ll say it again for the women in the back: HR is not your friend. Their job is to protect the company. It makes sense then, to present them with a business-focused solution. Companies may claim that they want their employees to feel like rainbows and unicorns full of eternal happiness, but at the end of the day they have to make money.

When you present your complaint about Creepy Tom, make clear how his actions are impeding your productivity and therefore, harming the business. Then, if possible, propose a solution. Perhaps a meeting with HR and Creepy Tom would be helpful or an office-wide memo about appropriate workplace behavior. Emphasizing the professional costs of your problem will help motivate HR to take action.

Say thank you

Whether you get the outcome you hoped for or not, express gratitude for the opportunity to express your concern. Failure to fix your problem might mean it’s time to look for another job, but leaving a bad impression with HR is guaranteed to hasten the need for that search. At the end of the day, human resources is just that: human. Thank them for their time and keep your cool during the meeting.

In conclusion: trust no one. Your career is just that. Yours. If you’re feeling down about your company not taking your input seriously, take heart. A conversation stalling at HR can be an important indicator that this is not the type of company you want to work for in the long run. If you are being mistreated at work–heck, even if you just plain old don’t like your job–you have every right to look for another job. The best part? You don’t have to talk to HR to find a career you love.

What about you? How have you handled conversations with HR? Give us the deets in the comments below!

This post is brought to you by Liveli Planner.