7 HR complaints that will leave you open-mouthed (and hoping you never get them)
For a profession that demands patience, understanding and a cool head, HR really pushes the envelope for contact with unreasonable, inappropriate and downright bizarre workplace scenarios.
Jess Hildyard: BrightHR Content Strategy Manager
We can speak from experience to show you some of the strangest complaints uttered behind the closed doors of HR. How would you deal with some of these out of the ordinary grievances?
1. The email faux pas
When an enamoured boss proudly shared a photo from her daughter’s prom with her team, she wasn’t counting on it being forwarded, with some cruel comments.
Unsurprisingly, she didn’t take kindly to being accidentally copied back into the thread and faced with the multiple choice: Does this picture make you want to a) vomit, b) ask her on a date or c) run in the opposite direction?
Cringe worthy, and fairly destructive to team relations. Not to mention, it could constitute bullying as well as inappropriate use of a company’s email facility.
2. Office PDA
Office fancies. They happen. Sometimes they evolve, and a mild flirtation can bubble over into romance. Often it’s just making sure a couple keeps their demonstrative, touchy-feely moments out of work.
So pity the HR executive fielding concerns that the stationery cupboard, bathrooms or — God forbid — boardroom are playing host to a couple’s passions. Before you throw cold water over them, a tactical email about workplace decorum might be the best approach.
3. Outsourcing your own job
Why do your job when someone else can? That’s what one software engineer thought when he discovered he could pay someone in China a fraction of his salary to carry out his daily tasks. What did he do in the meantime? Watched cat videos on YouTube, browsed Reddit and shopped on eBay.
Until he was caught, obviously. The alarm was raised when someone noticed unusual VPN activity on the business’ network and an investigation launched. The offending work-dodger was of course removed for his deeply unprofessional, morally bankrupt actions.
4. There’s a man in the photocopier
Imagine this. You’re on the way to copy some documents when, to your surprise, you happen upon a colleague embedded into the photocopier, limbs in the air and pants unceremoniously stuck around ankles.
Instil a philosophy that office equipment should be treated with respect and you should avoid your own human-copier hybrid situation.
5. (Not) Knock-knock jokes
Annual business conferences. Necessary and valuable opportunities to review the last year of business, and to set objectives for the next. Or, for some people, an invitation to mischief.
Take the employees of a national retailer who, inebriated and over-excited after a full day of conference, decided an expenses paid night in a popular hotel chain was a good excuse to play knock-a-door-run around the hotel. In the nude.
A horrified head of HR rightly took serious action on the gaggle of staff who had severely tarnished the name of the business. Several employees were dismissed, sending a clear message that misbehaviour, even out of the office, cannot be tolerated.
6. A lunchtime night cap
Many modern businesses are comfortable with employees enjoying a drink in the pub over lunch. An innocent beer or glass of wine is one thing, but regularly overindulging and spending afternoons visibly drunk is another.
We’ve heard of one employee make a habit of lunchtime drinking to the point where it became a concern. It came to a head when, after slurring their way through an awkward, wince-inducing board meeting, they promptly fell asleep in their chair.
An obvious problem, with multiple layers of concern. While it’s seriously unprofessional behaviour, a HR might find a moral duty to look after an employee’s wellbeing and health in situations like this.
7. When bosses behave badly
Being the boss should undoubtedly have its perks; the odd early finish here, the occasional task delegation there. What it shouldn’t permit is taking real liberties with employees. That includes asking them to iron your copy of the Financial Times, or hiding in the office hung over, sending requests for food and coffee via email.
Unorthodox bosses can be a real HR sticking point — they’re your boss too, after all. The best HRs will have the gumption to represent employee concerns, the persuasive skills to gently encourage superiors to consider their behaviour, and the sensibility to ensure the company’s interests are being observed, all at once. Nobody said it would be easy, after all.