Mercury is in retrograde from January 30 to February 21. The theory is that everything goes a bit bonkers when this happens. I'm not a big fan of astrology, but there is plenty that goes south in HR.
Here are 39 real examples of things employees have said to HR managers or HR managers have had to say to employees. How many will you experience while Mercury is in retrograde this time around? Maybe we should make a bingo card.
- Got told to "have a nice life, b!tch."
- Someone loudly yelling "I'm a very chill person" at you when you talk to them about telling a co-worker to "f*ck off."
- After the birth of my son, "maybe now that you're a mom, you will have a heart."
"Is that even legal?" Or "Isn't that illegal?" When employees hear/are being told to do something they don't like, but there's no actual law.
I have been called the devil, among other choice words.
Being asked, "What do I do with this chair? Someone peed on it," and being told, "I think someone pooped in this chair." And no, I'm not HR for a day care.
Just because you were told to do your job doesn't mean you are a victim of harassment.
"When you list your employer on your Facebook, then yes, your social media actually is our business, sir."
Being called a "racist white b*tch" when explaining to an employee why she was let go for violating policy.
I told an outside recruiting firm who was cold calling that we don't use outside recruiting firms, and he said, "Ok then, why don't you just suck my wiener" and then hung up.
"It is actually our business who you are having 'relations' with, especially when it's your co-worker, on company property, and on the clock. STOP HAVING SEX AT WORK!"
I had a terminated employee tell me he hoped I got Covid-19.
"You cannot use your company credit card for bail."
I had an employee come up for a random drug test. Our safety manager went on-site to pick him up to drive him to the clinic. "OO, cool, let me just grab my synthetic urine out of my truck. I can warm it up on the way. You're OK with that, right?" Um, no. Just no.
A caller kept demanding that I give him a job. He said, "If I was sick, I'd go to the doctor. I need a job, so I'm calling you."
In response to a rejection email: "Whatever, c*nt."
"You'll be hearing from my lawyer." Every. Time.
Context: Terminating someone for violating their quarantine and coming into work because they "feel better." HR: "It is your own responsibility to follow the company's pandemic protocols." Now Former EE: "That is b&ll sh!t--the company can..." (Person was cut off and the conversation politely ended.)
Getting called the Policy Nazi for enforcing policies.
Got something thrown at you during a termination meeting.
I wish someone told me while I was in college for HR that talking to people about their hygiene would be something I dealt with a lot. Literally, in every HR job I've had, there's at least one smelly one. Call me naive, but I did not think adults didn't know about personal hygiene.
"Ummm, someone pooped on the bathroom floor, and facilities said to call you."
One of my "favorites" was being screamed at by a daughter whose mother didn't enroll in medical benefits during open enrollment. Mom didn't come to info sessions. Guess who interceded with benefits? No apology or thanks from either person.
For a while, I kept track of how many different languages I've been cursed at in!
Day 3 of a new job: Did you know that X employee is blackmailing his manager because of the racy photos he has on his phone of her? Oh, and the manager paid the blackmail!"
Open filing cabinet at employee desk only to find an open and chilled can of Four Loco.
Observe an employee crush up her pain meds and snort off the top of a garbage can. The best part, it was a mirrored atrium, so everyone saw her do it, but when in the atrium, you can't see inside the building. When questioned about it, she said, "I didn't think anyone could see me!"
"I don't do drugs. My girlfriend must have put something in my food."
I had an employee in a call center who answered my question, "How many personal calls do you think is reasonable during your work day?" with "Hmmm, I don't know, 40?" I shockingly said, "Forty! That is 200 a week!!!" And her response was, "Is that a lot?!?!?"
An employee goes to the HR manager and says she needs to "file a claim for crabs." I asked the HR manager to elaborate. EE's boyfriend said she must have gotten crabs from the office bathroom and not from him. Again, how is this an HR problem? "Crabs are not compensable under workers compensation, but I'm sure a trip to your doctor would be covered by your medical." Give me patience, Lord.
At a restaurant, I had to fire a cook for watching porn on the line during service.
"I admit I'm not performing my job well, but clearly the reason my manager is addressing my performance is obviously because I am [in this protected class.]"
"I failed my drug test because I had a poppy seed bagel for breakfast this morning."
I was once an HR manager for a company that operated multiple warehouses. I had an employee, whom we never caught, who would climb to the very top racks to poop. There was no restroom up there. He/she would just drop their pants and poop in the racks. Where merchandise could be stored, they even had their own toilet paper up there, so it was not a one-time occurrence. My facilities guy was, oh, so happy to have to clean that up. And we in HR and facilities referred to them as the unknown poopatrator.
"Executive candidate accidentally attaches nude instead of corporate headshot." He withdrew from consideration for the position.
How about when the (former) employee's parent shows up at your office to ask why their adult child was terminated?
I can't come to work because I was bitten by a sick lizard.
A call center employee hung up on 100 cable customers in less than an hour. She was terminated for cause and tried to get unemployment. She said she did the whole thing because she was about to have a baby, and she wanted to go out on unemployment. That plan didn't work out so well.
After firing an incompetent employee, I was told, "Now that I am not an employee, maybe we can get together sometime?"
Hopefully, this period of mercurial retrograde isn't as bad as previous ones. But, maybe warn your employees against eating poppyseed bagels so they don't fail those drug tests--just in case.