I spent many years as the head of a Human Resources function in a mid-sized company. The department is responsible for being an advocate for the employee and the company. That’s like being for and against something at the same time. In reality policies that are good for the employee are good for the company. Happy employees are the goal. Oh yeah, next to earnings.
Over the course of my years, I was involved in many….ummm….interesting situations. Here are a few of the more bizarre.
Declining date requests – If the wrong (not a stud muffin) person invited someone out, I was asked to intervene under the guise of harassment. Really? Whatever happened to just saying, “No, I’m not interested?” I had to do this more times than I care to remember. Sometimes it was just an innocent request for lunch (no date). The employee who chatters endlessly in the lunchroom could not get up the courage to say no thanks.
The shoulder rubs – Again under the guise of harassment; I had an employee approach me about her manager. (All the little hairs on my neck stood up!) Her manager was close to 75 and an old-timer. Old-timers were the worst when it came to proper behavior in the office. As it turns out, this employee was complaining because he used to rub her shoulders but lately had transferred his attention to a younger employee. She was complaining that he WASN’T rubbing her shoulders anymore. Obviously all shoulder rubbing was stopped and everyone hated me.
Unsolicited loans – Again under the guise of harassment, an employee approached me about a male employee who gave her $50 because she was short money for her rent. She said it was creepy. He wasn’t creepy at all. What was creepy was that she would whine about not having money to pay her rent; someone helped her out; and she slapped him with a complaint. I asked if she accepted it. She said yes. I told her to pay it back and counseled him to keep his money to himself. Everyone hated me.
It’s in the policy – Whenever we changed a policy we made the change public in several different ways – emails, announcements, employee meetings and in newsletters. People wouldn’t pay attention until it affected them. Then they would complain (and of course blame HR). One employee accused me of making a change in health benefits (the carrier made the change nationally) just so she wouldn’t be covered for a drug (as if I know what drugs employees are taking). Another accused me of changing severance policies although we didn’t change it. What really happened was that he voluntarily changed his status to part-time a few years earlier and no longer qualified for severance. Everyone hated me.
Human Resources is both a rewarding and unappreciated department. Sometimes you can make a minor correction that makes a major change. Sometimes you can help an employee reach a goal. You can watch people grow.
Employees will do things that surprise you. Sometimes it’s a pleasant surprise and sometimes it will annoy the hell out of you but you can’t take it personally.
Usually employees only hated me for a short time. Then something good would happen and all was forgiven except maybe for those shoulder rubs. I am not sure the affected employees ever forgave me for that.
Despite these examples (and I have a lot more), I also have very rewarding stories that maybe I’ll share one day.