Better business communication policies and procedures can keep some unfortunate HR situations from happening.
Effective internal communication is hard enough when everyone on the team is giving their best effort; when employees are selfish, inconsiderate, or deceitful, the outcome always results in awkward internal communication between all related parties.
The stories in today's blog aren’t just slightly scary, fictional tales. These are ghastly, real-life, HUMAN RESOURCES HORROR STORIES submitted by actual HR professionals.
These HR professional deal with internal communication, safety training, and more. Now add these horror stories and you will seriously never want to leave your current position.
HR Horror Story #1: “An Eight-Legged Visitor “
This tragic tale actually occurred during Halloween in Des Moines, Iowa. As staff decked their office with Halloween decorations, one woman asked that any décor remain as far away from her as possible. Apparently she had a deathly fear of spiders, as proved by her comment, “Please put those over there. I am deathly afraid of spiders.”
We all probably know at least one person, who, when hearing comments of this sort just has to test the theory. Well this dear woman had one such coworker who approached her and put an enormously fuzzy, fake spider on her shoulder.
Two unfortunates produce hysteria. Unfortunately, the arachnophobia-driven woman had poor sight in one eye because she had recently suffered a detached retina, and, yep, the coworker had placed the fake spider on the side with the bad eye.
Unable to discern if the spider was real, the woman screamed, had a small “accident” at her desk, and then quit her job.
The HR manager was so disturbed and determined to punish the prankster that the manager called the company’s president the following day (which was a Saturday) to discuss the incident. The president agreed that the offender needed a reprimand.
Unfortunately, as if Halloween happenings aren’t shocking enough, instead of punishing the prankster, the office called a tribunal on the manager, Kelly, to discover why she was “out to get the person” who had played the prank. And now the poor HR manager is in trouble.
Not very shockingly, the HR manager left the position. (source)
Horror Story #2: Disappearing and Reappearing Benefits
This next story is from Dave in Seattle, Washington.
In the process of redesigning the layout for his company’s personnel folders, Dave noticed that a lot of the information about benefits was rather disorganized. He decided to create a quick reference on all company employees for quick access to each person’s benefits.
What started out as a fun, easy idea turned into an HR nightmare. After Dave spoke with several employees and checked with accounting, he uncovered a big pile of trouble: the deductions in employees’ paychecks did not match the benefits they received. Out of sixty employees, at least 20% were either paying for benefits they weren’t enrolled in or had signed up for benefits they weren’t paying for.
Dave had to meet with each employee and announce the bad news that their benefits had been incorrect for about a year.
Fortunately, the company was able to refund the employees who were paying for non-existent benefits and work with the people already paying for benefits they didn’t have.
But, can we just say, awkward? (source)
Horror Story #3: “The Monster Project”
Once upon a time, a lovely HR professional named Susan from the great land of California was the manager of an HR department. It was a time of transition for this particular department of four people; one person had just quit and the part-time person was taking medical leave. For you math whizzes out there, that cut the department in half and only two workers remained.
During this period of fewer workers, a new VP of finance and administration was hired from the land of Insanity and Delusion. The new VP approached Susan and said the company needed to create job descriptions for every employee; such forms did exist at that time.
“Okay,” Susan said. “What is the timeline?”
“I think we need to do this in the next two weeks,” said the VP.
Susan looked at the VP in shock and replied, ““That’s not possible. I’m down two people and I don’t think we could even find a consultant who could do it in two weeks.”
The VP replied, “I just figured you would just increase your working hours.”
Susan looked at the VP and said, “I quit.”
The VP agreed to give Susan three months to do the project – and then leave.
And they all lived happily ever after . . . probably at other jobs.
The End (source)
Horror Story #4: “Do you know where your employees are?”
This HR professional, who we’ll call Sam, was asked to investigate an employee (Gary) whose productivity had fallen dramatically in the last quarter.
When Sam went to Gary’s office, Gary wasn’t there. Sam left a note asking Gary to contact him to meet and talk. Just before 5:00 p.m., Gary called Sam and told him that because his days were very busy he could only meet with Sam for about a half hour at the end and/or beginning of the day.
Gary’s work hours were from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., so Sam said he would check his personal schedule and get back with him.
During the next few days when Sam stopped by Gary’s office, it was empty. This roused suspicions, and after the HR department did some more digging, this is what they found:
Gary had gotten another job at another firm three months ago. The hours of work at his new job, only 2 blocks away, were 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To keep both jobs, Gary arrived at the first office at 8:00 a.m., stayed until just before 8:30 a.m., then sped over to job #2. When job #2 was done at 4:30 p.m., Gary jogged back to job #1 and worked until 5:00 p.m.
What happened next is in Sam’s own words:
“Needless to say Gary was fired on the spot. His manager was mortified that this had gone on undetected for so long, and HR enrolled her in some employee relations courses, and transferred her to another department. Gary’s letter of termination, however, failed to list why he was being fired, and all HR employees were threatened with termination if they breathed a word of what had happened to anyone else in the firm.”
So the moral of the story is that you CAN be in two places at once, but if you get caught you’ll get fired. (source)
And last but not least, check out this little gem.
Horror Story #5: I Fired the Wrong Person
One lucky young HR professional, who we’ll call Pat, got the lovely assignment of firing someone her first day on the job.
The manager of the company asked Pat to come into his office and told her, “I need you to fire Amy.” Pat responded with “ok,” and did not ask for many details. She was only aware of the fact that this job was performance-based (which may have had something to do with the mistake that occurred).
Pat called Amy into her office, and after a brief two-minute, one-on-one meeting, Amy’s employment was terminated and she left the building. What follows is best relayed in Pat’s exact words:
“My boss approached me an hour later and asked for a recap of the meeting. He also asked me to evaluate my performance, which I concluded was “done to a satisfactory level.”
He then asked “if the meeting was performed to satisfaction” then why was she still on the property and still performing her regular duties? I quickly looked at the person he was pointing towards, and my heart immediately raced and my face turned as red as a radish. I had terminated the wrong person.
My boss then went [on] to utter some words inappropriate for even some backyard garage settings but then settled down and called this my first learning experience in the “real world.”
It took me a few sleepless nights and a week’s worth of Tim Horton’s to pay back the affected parties, but I managed to survive and have never entered a meeting unprepared since.”
So the lesson here seems to be that when you need to make serious restitution, try to live in a city with a good sandwich shop. (source)
Preventing Trouble Before It Starts
All humor aside, most HR professionals would probably agree that better internal communication policies and procedures might have kept some of these unfortunate situations from happening. So don’t leave your workplace communication practices to chance; revamp and streamline them now to prevent trouble later.