A quick excerpt of chapter 15…
The Dark and Disturbing Secrets HR Doesn’t Want You to Know
- I worked in human resources for
almost fifteen years at a number of different companies, including a
religious-based organization where one of my duties was to teach people
how to be appropriate and professional. Yes, I do see the irony in this.
Human resources is the place where people come to complain
and/or shoot people when they just can’t take it anymore. Choosing to
work in HR is like choosing to work in the complaint department of hell,
except way more frustrating, because at least in hell you’d be able to
agree that that Satan is a real dick-wagon without having to toe the
company line. The HR department is the place where people stop by to
say, “THIS IS TOTALLY FUCKED UP,” and the HR employees will nod
thoughtfully and professionally as they think to themselves, “Wow. That is totally fucked up. I wish that this person would leave so I could tell everyone else in the office about it.”
When I was in HR, if someone came to me about a really
fucked-up problem, I’d excuse myself and bring in a coworker to take
notes, and the employee would relax a bit, thinking, “Finally, people are taking me seriously around here,”
but usually we do that only so that when you leave we can have a second
opinion about how insane that whole conversation was. “Was that shit as
crazy as I thought it was?” I would ask afterward. It always was.
Sadly, HR has very little power in an organization, unless the real
executives are on vacation, and then watch out, because a lot of
ass-holes are going to get fired.
There are three types of people who choose a career in HR:
sadistic assholes who were probably all tattletales in school,
empathetic (and soon to-be-disillusioned) idealists who think they can
make a difference in the lives of others, and those of us who stick
around because it gives you the best view of all the most entertaining
train wrecks happening in the rest of the company.
People who aren’t in HR always assume that people who are
in HR are the biggest prudes and assholes, since HR is ostensibly there
to make sure everyone follows the rules, but people fail to realize that
HR is the only department actively paid to look at porn. Sure, it’s
under the guise of “reviewing all Internet history to make sure other
people aren’t looking at porn,” but people are always looking at porn,
and so we have to look at it too so that we can print it out for the
investigation. This is also the reason why HR always has color printers,
and why no one else is allowed to use them. Because we can’t remember
to pick up all the porn we just copied. This is just one of many secrets
the HR department doesn’t want you to know, and after sharing these
secrets I will probably be blackballed from the Human Resources
Alliance, which is much like the Magicians’ Alliance (in that I don’t
belong to either, since I never get invited to join clubs, and that I’m
not actually sure that either of them exist). Regardless, almost
immediately after starting work in HR, I started keeping a journal about
all the fantastically fucked-up stuff that people who aren’t in HR
would never believe. These are a few of those stories:
Last month we decided to start keeping file of the most horrific
job applications handed in so that we’d have something to laugh at when
the work got to us. We now officially have twice as many applications in
file than we have in the “These-people-are-qualified-for-a-job” file.
What’s the word for when something that started out being funny ends up
depressing the hell out of you? Insert that word here.
Today a woman came in to reapply for a job. She wrote that she’d
quit last month but now wanted her job back. On “reason for leaving” she
wrote: “That job sucked. Plus, my supervisor was a douche-nugget.” She
was reapplying for the exact same job. I rehired her and reassigned her
to her old supervisor, because I totally agreed with her. That guy was
totally a douche-nugget.
In the last two months, six separate men filled in the “sex”
blank on their job application with some variation of “Depends on who’s
offering.” Two answered, “Yes, please,” and one wrote, “No, thank you.” I
hired the last one because he seemed polite.
This afternoon an applicant wrote that she’d been fired from her
job at a gas station for sleeping on a cat. Everyone in the office read
the application, but none of us could agree on what the hell she was
talking about, so we brought her in for an interview. When I asked her
about falling asleep on her cat she looked at me and indignantly
replied, “What? I never wrote that.” Then when I showed her the
application she said, “Car. My boss found out I was sleeping on a car. Duh. Why would my boss care if I slept on a cat?”
“Um . . . why would your boss care if you slept on a car?” I asked.
“Because I was the only person working that shift. But I totally
would’ve heard if anyone had driven up. I’m a very light sleeper. It’s
not like I didn’t have a plan.”
The lesson here is that sometimes you get brought in for an interview just to settle a bet.
Today I interviewed someone who handed me a résumé saying that
he’d worked at Helping Hand-Jobs. I choked on my own spit and couldn’t
stop coughing. Later I showed it to the interviewer in the next office.
She told me that her brother had worked there once but had quit because
all the manual labor had given him heatstroke. After I started coughing
again she realized my confusion and explained that it was actually named
Helping-Hand Jobs and was a handyman service.
Never underestimate the power of punctuation, people.
Today I had to talk to an employee who e-mailed a photograph of
his penis to a woman in his department. I knew it was his penis because
it said, “This is my penis,” in the subject line. Also, his name badge
was clipped to his belt and was clearly visible. I practiced saying, “Is
this your penis?” over and over in my office until I could say it
without giggling, and then I called him and his supervisor in.
“Is this your penis?” I asked, as I pushed the printout of the e-mail over to him.
I think I was expecting him to break into a sweat or try to jump
through the window out of embarrassment, because apparently I’d
forgotten about the fact that this was the same man who thought it would
be perfectly fine to take a picture of his penis in the office bathroom
to send it to a shocked coworker. Instead he grinned cockily (no pun in
tended), saying, “I think the better question is, Exactly how did you
get a picture of my penis?”
“It was caught in the e-mail filter. The picture, I mean. Not
your penis. If, in fact, that is your penis, I mean.” I was flustered,
but tried to gain control of the situation again with a deep, calming
breath. “Did you mail a picture of your penis?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Would it make it better if I said I was mailing pictures of someone else’s penis?”
I’ve thought about that question for fifteen years and I still
don’t have a good answer. Instead I said, “Not really. Giving a coworker
a picture of a penis is sort of universally frowned on. It’s in the
employee hand book. Sort of. It’s between the lines.”
“Is there anything in the handbook about someone in HR handing you a penis picture and asking you whether it’s yours?”
I couldn’t think of anything to say to that, so I just told him
he was fired and made a note that we need to update the employee
handbook with more penis-related directives.
As of today I’ve had to ask five separate men, “Is this your
penis?” after their pictures got caught in the e-mail filter. (Side
note: When I read this to people who don’t work in HR, they stop me here
and say, “Really? People actually mail pictures of their penises at
work?” And I explain that yes, it happens at least once a quarter. If
it’s an HR person I’m read ing this to, they always say, “Really? You
worked in HR for fifteen years and you only had to ask five men about
their penises?” And I explain that no, I wrote this in my first few
years in HR, and there’s another one in the very next paragraph. After
that they just got so commonplace I stopped writing about them in my
journal. I eventually got to where I could say, “Is this your penis?”
without blushing or giggling. That’s how much practice I had at handing
random men photos of their junk and asking them to identify their penis.
I never once had to do it with a vagina. Probably because women are
better at not getting their e-mails caught in the firewall, because they
don’t use the subject line “Look at my penis.” Also, vaginas seem to
have less personality than penises, so “Is this your vagina?” would
probably be difficult to answer. If someone asked me to pick out my own
vagina’s mug shot out of a lineup of vaginas, I’d be helpless. And
probably concerned about what exactly my vagina had been doing that
constituted a need for its own mug shot.
“Are these your penises?”
This is a question I never thought I’d have to ask, because I’ve
never met anyone with more than one penis, but in this case it was two
men taking pictures of their penises, together, at work. They hadn’t
been caught in the filter, but had instead printed out the picture using
the office printer and had accidentally forgotten to pick it up. One of
the guys just nodded quietly, but the other leaned over to look
clinically at the photo before he pointed to the penis on the left.
“Just this one,” he said. I thanked him for the clarification, because I
didn’t know what else to say. His friend looked at him, stunned, but I
think it was probably a good lesson for him in picking the quality of
people his penis takes pictures with. Standards are important, you guys.