My name is Kristin, and I’m a former human resources exec. That’s right: I spent about 15 years in human resources after taking a strange turn early in my career. I’m not here to bash my former HR/personnel department brethren. I’m here to do a soul cleanse and dish all the crazy stuff I had to deal with as one of their coworkers.
Because, as you can imagine, the craziest stories you will ever hear from anyone you work with aren’t from your wild drinking buddies in the marketing department. They’re not even from your awesome management team.
Nope, the down and dirty, tabloid-worthy stories are from the woman in the sensible pumps (or the man in the always perfect suit) with the seemingly mild-mannered temperament who is always either super happy or droll and never cracks a smile.
That’s right, people, the HR department are the Keymasters and the Gatekeepers. They know ALL the good stuff.
I’ve worked in some vastly different companies, many of them Fortune 500-level, a few tech start-ups, and one search firm (which I just don’t talk about without a therapist present). Every once in a while, I get an email from a headhunter, asking me if I’d like to go back. The answer is not only “No,” but it’s “Only if you held my entire family at gunpoint, and then it would depend on which order they would be taken out.”
I’d rather not go back to the role of therapist/Mother Superior/crackpot attorney/mitigator/life coach/career counselor/relationship guru again.
You want to know why I don’t want to go back? Because here are just a few of the things I had to deal with in my time as an HR manager:
- I once got a late-night phone call from one of our facilities that a maintenance worker had discovered a couple having sex in a stairwell. The maintenance worker, finding the man on top of the woman on the stairs in the heat of passion, thought he was attacking her because she was screaming so loud. Their coitus was interruptus because she cracked him on the back of the head with a mop handle. I had to calm the maintenance worker down and send the stair jockeys home to their respective spouses before suspending both of them. How they explained a month suspension without pay to their significant others is beyond me.
- I had to answer a complaint where a group of executives were doing blow off an intern’s stomach at a holiday party. So, you know, let the HR person get a glass of wine first before you start snorting illegal narcotics off a paid intern’s stomach while wasted at the holiday party. Did I mention we were in the office building at the time?
- I was once assigned to watch over a philandering executive on a remote project because there had been so many complaints of his affairs. I was told, “If you even hear a zipper go down, your career is going down with it.” So, I had to start by breaking up his series of one-night stands with my best friend at the time.
- Dress code violations were always hilarious. I had an administrative assistant who was eventually fired for insisting on wearing her underwear outside her clothes. One Casual Friday, she showed up in a merry widow with teased hair and played the "Purple Rain" soundtrack repeatedly. When I came to send her home, she broke into an interpretive dance to “Darlin’ Nikki” before security escorted her out. I liked her so much I insisted we give her a severance package.
- At one of the financial institutions for which I worked, I had to investigate a teller who was reportedly stealing money from her cash tray. She put up a convincing argument. That is, until she got up and we realized that her underwear looked, shall we say, padded. She had packed about $5k in her panties in a hurry because she thought she might get caught. She was right.
- As a recruiter, I once had a candidate follow me home and appear in my driveway with his resume in hand after a long day of interviewing, attempting to persuade me to give him the job right there. When I told him there wasn’t anything I could do, he said, “I’ll wait until you change your mind,” and proceeded to camp out in the parking lot of my apartment complex until I called the police.
- Also as a recruiter, I had the parents of a candidate who had been declined for a job call me to personally threaten me. “You have no idea what we can do to you, you little bitch,” said the father. I had to file my own case with the company and I had security walk me to my car for three months after that. He still did not get the job.
- I’ve had no less than three candidates throw up on me at an MBA Recruiting Fair cocktail hour. I’m talking Technicolor yawn, projectile-through-space vomit.
- I’ve had to intercede in countless coworker tiffs, but nothing gets your morning going than having to deal with a phone call that someone in one of your groups is standing on the ledge of a building, threatening to jump. Evidently, you can make someone correct an Excel spreadsheet so many times until they crack and the macros can make you mental.
- I once had a coworker threaten to sandbag one of my major reports if I didn’t cover for her while she went out and had sex with her husband at work. She came back the next morning and acted like nothing had ever happened.
- Every crazy boss I ever had was in HR. I once had a boss tell me that I was so peppy it made her want to smack the shit out of me. I also had another boss pull me into a conference room after making a mistake on a spreadsheet and scream at me until a blood vessel popped in her right eye. I had another boss do that to me once, but after I fogged over (you get used to the screaming), he started throwing objects from his desk onto the wall behind me.
- Every sexual harassment claim I’ve ever investigated was true. You know who the toughest people are to deal with when it happens? The spouses of the accused. I’ve had at least two drinks thrown in my faces from wives of men who decided a game of grab-ass would be a great idea. I was never allowed to retaliate or say anything. After all, I was a representative of the company, even if I was loaded on dollar margaritas at a Gin Blossoms concert.
So, no, I’m totally thrilled to write for a living. My time at the HR desk is done, but I hereby raise a glass for all the people who are diligently still there, trying to make a difference and keep their sanity at the same time.
For every crazy story I have, I also have a million great ones of the people who are still working and safely ensconced in a great career. But I don’t miss the stress, the late night phone calls, the what-the-fuck-were-you-thinking conversations, or the piles and piles of paperwork. HR peeps, I salute you.
OK, so let’s dish: Have you ever taken something crazy to your Human Resources person? Are you an HR person who has a battle story of your own? Let’s get “personnel” in the comment section.