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Halloween HR Blunders

More Spooky HR Tales

By Staff Writer

We promised to share any HR horror stories that we collected. Well, hang on tight and try not to scream. Here are some of the worst HR blunders, just in time for Halloween.

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Blinded by Fury

We had a service technician who was out on a job and was fired for insubordination and yelling at his superior. He was told to drive back to the main facility, drop off his car, remove all of his personal items and go home.

He came into the shop at the main facility, yelling and screaming. He ripped up his termination letter and threw it into the air.

The pieces of paper floating through the air, blocked his vision and he tripped and fell to the shop floor. He cried out in pain because he had badly cut his hand. But, because he was no longer an employee, he could not file and workers’ compensation claim.

So, the only bright side to this story is that we didn’t have to take a hit on our insurance even though he was hurt in the shop.

- Kerry, Wenatchee, Wash.

Maintenance Mayhem

I was working for a university when one of our maintenance supervisors decided to poke fun at someone on his team about messing up on the job. He rolled up a newspaper and pretended that he was going to hit the person but really only tapped them lightly on the shoulder.

Unfortunately, the person he chose to pick on did not take the joke well. This employee began to sob hysterically. It turns out that the employee had been abused as a child and the sight of someone approaching them with a rolled up newspaper triggered a total meltdown.

The supervisor was not fired but was demoted from a supervisor of maintenance role to a level one maintenance worker. This was a drop in salary from around $70,000 a year to about $25,000.

I felt sort of sorry for the supervisor because he couldn’t have known his subordinate’s personal history. But, the supervisor had caused other incidents so, within that context, his demotion made sense.

- Jeffrey, Concord, Mass.

Secret Departure

An HR consultant was hired by a small, young, growing company to work on an exit strategy for an executive team member, the founder. Secret meetings were held with the consultant and other members of the executive team to create a plan. After the first round of work, the HR consultant’s assistant sent an invoice for the work to the company. The founder still had not been told he was leaving but, unfortunately, he opened the mail that day and saw the invoice.

Enraged, the executive emailed the entire company, organized an emergency meeting and asked all of the employees to join him in his fight to stay at the company.

Despite the effort to stay on board, the founder eventually did leave.

- Kelly, Lincoln, Neb.

Salary Spook

The VP of Sales asked the HR department to help him find a new sales manager. It was going to be a critical role in the organization and required care in selection. The HR team wrote up a job description and brought in candidates. The VP of Sales and others in the organization took their time to interview many candidates and narrow down their selections to a person who really suited the organization and its needs. Everyone was very please when they found a person who they considered to be the perfect candidate.

Then, the VP of Sales took over the salary negotiation process. A bit of a hothead, the VP prided himself on making people demonstrate their worth and was unwilling to give very high starting, base salaries, as a general rule. The job candidate was unhappy with the offer and asked for a higher base salary. It was a fairly insignificant increase.

A heated discussion ensued where the VP told this candidate that the deal was off. The salary was actually more negotiable than the VP let on but he let his pride get in the way and a great candidate was lost.

HR had to go back to square one with a fresh job listing and a new round of interviews.

- MaryAnn, Detroit, Mich.

Payroll Pain

We had a third-party payroll provider have a huge computer glitch. So, the last two digits of everyone’s direct deposit amount were removed. For example, a person who was supposed to get $1,200.00 instead received $12.00. This happened on a Friday. The payroll provider could fix the problem but wouldn’t be able to do so until Monday. Our employees couldn’t wait three days to get paid. So, we stayed up until midnight to calculate the difference in pay and write checks manually out of the company checkbook.

People came by on Saturday to pick up the checks in their mail cubbies. They were angry to have to make the trip but there was nothing else we could do to get them their checks sooner.

Barry, Lakeland, Florida

Harrowing Harassment Story

This story is from many years ago. It happened in a very conservative town in the Midwest.

There was an executive who came to me about an employee of his. The employee’s name was Ted. The exec came to me and said, “I think Ted is harassing a girl in our group.” He had heard a few things, seen a few things and wanted us to investigate. I was running employee relations at the time so it was my job to do the investigation.

I first went to the girl to find out if she was being harassed. She said that she was not but that I should talk to some other people who were close to Ted because they were worried that something was going wrong in his life. He seemed depressed.

I spoke with these other employees and, eventually, Ted and found out what was really going on. It took Ted two weeks of meetings with me to admit it. The executive had been sleeping with Ted and Ted had tried to call off the relationship and now the executive was trying to get him back in for ending it by accusing him of harassing a woman in their group. The exec was a 50-something, married, church-going man.

The rumor had been that Ted was thinking about quitting. He was in his early 20’s and everyone assumed that he was going to quit because this girl was rejecting him.

It turned out to be the most complicated harassment case I ever encountered in my HR career and I was only in my late twenties.

The executive was fired. He eventually sued the company for wrongful termination based upon racial discrimination and age discrimination. He didn’t have a chance. The judge threw out the case because the evidence and witness testimony were so strong.

- Kenneth, Tulsa, Okla.

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