HR people, what's the worst thing you've had to confront an employee with?

Inspired by this thread, in which someone suggests that the HR department talk to the boss about his habit of adjusting his boys during working hours. I couldn’t help picturing some poor HR person calling the guy into a private office and having to explain to him that he really needed to stop playing with himself.

I know there’s more than a few HR professionals lurking among us. Give us the dope; what’s the worst thing you had to confront someone with, and how’d ya do it?

I’m not an HR person, but as a Finance VP, I often have HR reporting to me.

One of the worst situations I have had to handle:

  • A contractor met a girl on the internet and invited her to his house. When she showed up and he realized she was underage, he brought her to our office on a Saturday to use a phone to call her parents. We had to terminate him for this - the legal exposure he created for the company was unacceptable - and we couldn’t trust his judgement.

Another situation I had to handle was emotionally excruciating. A guy on our staff was just not getting any work done. After repeated counselling and warning sessions, we decided to terminate him. In the termination meeting, he broke down and said he was being treated for cancer and had had a nervous breakdown. We decided to give him the choice of going on disability leave so he could deal with his problems. Fortunately, he decided to go along with that. His wife called me to thank me for influencing him to do this. He did get the help he needed - and then moved to another company for a fresh start.

Well, I am not an HR person.

But once I received a complaint that someone who reported to me was in violation of the dress code. He was wearing a black, lacy bra under his white T-shirt, and it was visible (he was fairly obese, it was a hot day, and he was sweating freely).

I checked with HR. There was nothing I could do, because it was casual Friday. :slight_smile:

The person in question left our employ some months later of his own volition, and for unrelated reasons.


George Costanza’s dad worked for your company?



You must not be a Seinfeld fan. One of the most classic episodes involves Kramer and George’s dad (Frank) developing a bra for men. Kramer wanted to call it “The Bro” and Frank wanted to call it “The Manzier”.

It is hysterical.

Ah - thanks.

No, I have never watched an episode.


Not in HR.

My friend had to complain to HR about a white guy wearing a shirt with “HNIC” emblazoned on it. Just realized that not everyone is savvy, so HNIC stands for “Head Nigger in Charge”

I used to work for a satellite TV company. A coworker noticed that there were customers popping up with a dealer that we never heard of, and he asked to keep an eye out as well. The problem is that dealers are paid for each customer that he signs up. In this instance, we were supposed to ‘escalate’ these issues to a guy who handled problem dealers. We did but nothing was being done, so we escalated it past him. Turns out the guy who handled the problem dealers had set up a dummy dealer, and was tagging unclaimed customers with the dummy dealer, and cashing the checks. Might have gotten away with it for a while, but he got greedy. Started cashing commission checks totaling tens of thousands of dollars.

In my organization it’s the department manager that gets to deal with HR problems. I have had to:

-Fire people for taking money/items from people they were working with. This is an agency that provides a variety of services for persons with disabilities.

-Fire a staff member because she dropped her purse and a pistol went off. :eek:

-Had someone escorted off the premesis by police because she refused to believe she was fired. :confused:

-Had to explain that cut off shorts were not appropriate for office wear. Also tank tops, halter tops, spandex and once (I swear) I sent a guy home to get a shirt because he showed up to work shirtless. He never came back. Hmmmm…

-Had to have staff members escorted off the premesis by police for being under the influence of alcohol/drugs.

-deal with staff members who got into shouting/screaming matches threatening to kill each other.

-deal with more than one fist fight among co-workers.

-explain that company phones are not for extended “I wuv you snuggums” conversations with the current flame.

-tell employees they cannot do their personal laundry or their boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s/neighbor’s etc using company laundry equipment.

-tell employees they cannot sleep in the building at night.

And, last but not least,

-tell an employee that he had to move all his furniture out of a classroom where he had decided to store it after he was evicted over the weekend. (the sleeper in the building at night, surprise!)
We’ve had some real winners around here.

Good stories! Keep them coming!

except, of course, that story about the guy with cancer. That was a SAD story.

I’m not an HR person, but our company’s HR guy relayed a story about a guy who
was called in because he was looking at porno websites at his desk.
He was embarressed and swore he’d stop.
A week later someone caught him again. HR told him this was his last warning.
Again, he swears to comply.
The next day the computer in the next cubicle is detected surfing to the guy’s favorite site. The guy whose cubicle it was was out sick.

They escorted the surfer out.

Another guy came into HR crying, saying he was just diagnosed with cancer. They set him up with all sorts of support groups/make sure he’s seeing the right doctor.
Then they don’t hear from him. They call his mother (he was young and lived at home). They ask how his treatments are going and she replies “What are you talking about? He moved to Florida last week.”

I’ve never been a manager or HR type (thank goodness), but somehow was “nominated” to be the person to tell a summer hire she did not smell good, EVER!

I worked in another division, it was high summer, and girl stank to high heaven. Not only BO, but other um…aromas wafted from her. She literally made people gag. Many of the people (officer and enlisted folk) came to me to complain. I kept telling them to tell my boss.

The immediate boss didn’t want to deal with it because he was a male was uncomfortable discussing personal hygiene w/a female. The next boss in line didn’t want to do it because she didn’t want to hurt the girl’s feelings.

As it turns out the girl was supposedly “allergic” to soap products and deoderants. This I can understand, however, I had to point out there were products for people like her and she needed to check into them. I was nice, but God it was hard. At any rate, it worked for awhile. When she left, we had to leave the window in the office she occupied open for 3 months to air it out. I am not exaggerating in the least. She was that bad!


But I knew one who had to ask someone “Sir, do you have any sort of disability or any religious belief that prevents you from bathing or showering before work?”

I had met the guy. We were as embarrassed as he was and his manager did his best to avoid embarrassing him, but he smelled like a cesspool and his odor had effectively shut down a department.

I’m not in HR but I have been a retail manager so I’ve hired and fired people. The stickiest case I ever dealt with still bugs me.

I was managing a record/video store which was located out in a suburban strip mall in Georgia back in 1990. Of course, all my employees were teenagers and I was also fairly young at 23. When we were slow, everyone would chat and, of course, the girls would talk about all the guys they thought were cute. I’d just hired this one guy who was just starting to come out and he liked to join in the conversations about cute guys. I got word from some of my employees that customers had complained.

I wound up talking to the guy and asking him not to be so “out” at work. I felt like shit and I still don’t think I handled it correctly. He transferred to a store in the city a couple of months later where it wouldn’t be a problem. ARGH. I still feel bad about this…

IANIHR, but I have personal knowledge of someone who was recently fired because of the pistol she insisted on brandishing at work.

I’m not in HR, but I worked for a very small company once that hired this guy right out of school as an industrial designer. One day he was acting really weird, talking about Jesus and, as I remember, soccer. We all looked at each other and couldn’t figure it out. Some of us were convinced that he was under the influence of something, so a manager sent him home for the day. Later that day, I took a frantic call from the employee’s father asking why he was sent home and was his job in danger. (Note that the parents were immigrants and the employee was the first member of the family to go to college.) I had to tell the father that his son was acting, frankly, weird, which was awkward at best.

After a couple of other incidents of odd behavior, we found out that he suffered from bipolar disorder but was off his meds. So the initial problem wasn’t that he was under the influence of something, but that he wasn’t under the influence of something that he needed.

Did you ever find out why he didn’t just call from a pay phone?

I used to be General Counsel for a state agency that had lots of field employees who drove state owned vehicles. This was a never ending source of hilarity and mayhem.

We had one guy who sent his car in for service to the motor pool. Much of the routine work at the garage is performed by inmates. Our employee left his .357 Magnum (personal – our employees weren’t required to carry guns) under the seat. An inmate found it and, luckily, turned it in. He disciplined but not fired for that.

He was fired later when he turned a state car over on the Interstate at 4 a.m. He was driving home from visiting his father in the hospital, then stopping in at a bar afterwards. Needless to say, state cars are to be used for official business only.

Another employee was drunk and ran into the side of a convenience store. She left the scene of the accident. Again, not fired for that. About a year later she was drunk and driving the vehicle home from the grocery, swerved off the road and ran into the side of her neighbor’s house. We were able to fire her for that.

I just love seeing our tax dollars used for such noble purposes.


Forgot a couple:

We also had inmates working in our offices, mainly doing janitorial work and that sort of thing. Some of the women in the office became, uh, enamored, with the inmates. We had one woman write a series of 30 or so very explicit letters to one of the inmates. We also had a situation where a corrections officer caught one of our employees in a closet with an inmate. I got to confront both of those employees.