During one of my recent keynote speeches, a member of the audience asked me to share the funniest or most unusual story about Human Resources management I had ever heard in my 35 years as management consultant. Several came to mind, but I thought it would be fun to invite my newsletter subscribers to share their funny HR stories. If you need a good laugh, these stories won’t disappoint!
I was doing employee survey feedback sessions for a company in Michigan and I met with the third shift of the manufacturing operation who scored very, very, low on the Human Resources Policy survey dimension. I asked the group why they scored so low on the HR dimension, somebody put their hand up and said “Oh, that was Cheryl’s heart attack.”I said what does a heart attack have to do with human resources policy? They went on to explain that they had a fellow employee, Cheryl, who thought she’s having a heart attack and the whole group carried her to an ambulance and she went to the hospital. Three hours later she returned to the grave shift (pun intended). Upon her return, she announced the great news that it was not a heart attack, but simply indigestion. Despite all that, her supervisor, who by the way, actually helped carry Cheryl to the ambulance, wrote her up for an unexcused absence. I expressed disbelief and asked, “is that actually true” and lo and behold, in the back of the room a woman raised her hand and said: “Yes, I’m Cheryl and that did actually happen”
I worked for a mid-size manufacturing company who hired H-1 VISA engineers to unskilled machine operators. The culture instilled and created by HR, was high performing teams. This resulted in employees having pride in all their jobs no matter what position they held. Our janitor’s cleaning cart became a unit of sanctuary. One of our employees attended a fundamental, Pentecostal church and experienced a religious conversion. So of course, being reborn, she wanted to share her beliefs with everyone. This resulted in a group of employees attending the Pentecostal worship. The employees started to brag during lunch who had stronger gifts bestowed upon them by God. One woman claimed vehemently she could sense evil in people. Wait, this gets better. She put her hands on a machine to sense if the operator had evil intent in performing their tasks. She knelt down next to the machine to pray. Of course, there is accommodation for religious beliefs, but this doesn’t fit the bill. So the group starting praying and chanting on the manufacturing floor. Non-Pentecostals thought that the group cursed the machinery and wanted an exorcism to rid the floor of bad karma. One half of the floor was on their knees while the other half was huddled together in fear. I was called. The supervisors froze. I entered the second floor manufacturing operation and asked if the religious group could come in my office. I attempted to explain how although it may seem honorable to witness their faith, it could not be done at the work place. I further explained our workforce is comprised of multi-cultural, diverse personnel of many faiths. The leader raised her hands and knelt and seemed to go in a trance. She was so convincing, the HR Business Partner in my office whose job was to witness my conversation ran out of the office alleging that the woman was possessed. I looked at the women with such a stare and she said, “Don’t worry, I was told you are OK.” I ended and said, it is not OK if you continue to witness your beliefs. This woman slowly accused everyone of being evil, similar to the Salem Witch trials and soon the group turned on her and she left our employment.
There was a short Hindu man who worked on second shift as a machine operator. Everyday around 6:00 p.m. he would walk to my office to say hi. He was so pleasant. He ate the same thing every day, an apple with a yogurt. He was such a nice guy. He died suddenly. So along with the Director of Manufacturing I attended his wake. I was never at a Hindu wake. I entered and both myself and the Director of Manufacturing knelt next to the coffin. I remember there was a toothpick in his mouth with an herb attached. The religious significance was to allow the spirit of this extraordinary man to leave his body and be reincarnated. Well there was a line of all men. As I entered and knelt, a woman with her head covered ran up to me and said you defiled my husband. I turned and all the women sat is a separate chamber with covered heads. Here I was in the men’s area with my head fully exposed. Two of my employee’s brothers walked me to the women’s section. Each woman stared at me and the grandmother was just ready to spit on me when the Director of Manufacturing held my hand and we left.
All offices have that one employee who knows everything. The type of personality that just gets under your skin. Well a group of us were congregated near the water fountain. As this conceded, obnoxious women came out of the ladies’ room I saw employees stand from their desk like a domino effect. Laughter started to escalate. As she walked by, I noticed that her skirt was raised and stuffed in the band of her nylons exposing her entire posterior. She proudly walked wiggling her posterior not knowing it was fully exposed.
At a summer, company sponsored picnic, pets and employee’s children were allowed to attend. One of the men who was a rude supervisor dived in the pool. He was an executive. It was a gorgeous day with incredible weather. Well because he was in the pool not too many employees wanted to jump in. He arose from his dive and there was something on his head. Another executive, mindful of his position said there is something on your head. He pointed and the rude supervisor stuck his finger in the soft plop and screamed. A dog shit and the poop was floating and when this rude supervisor came out from under the water, he came out at the right time and the right angel. A humbling experience.
I was an HR Representative and Benefits Specialist for 13 years before changing careers and entering the safety field. I love the employees I work with. There was one interaction with a highly intelligent employee that makes me smile every time I think about it. This employee was a top salesman and technical advisor in animal nutrition but he had a unique relationship with his wife. They did not live in the same household but it seemed to work out well for them. One year, during open enrollment for benefits, he contacted me because he wanted to change his beneficiary for his life insurance policy. At the time it was his wife who was the sole beneficiary but he had recently set up a trust but didn’t explain any details to me. He asked if he could change the beneficiary to himself! I tried to be as tactful as I could and told him that he could not name himself as the beneficiary but if he wanted to name the trust he could do so. He said it would be a better idea if I just let him name himself. I explained that he would not be able to collect the proceeds and he said, “why not?” I didn’t want to insult his intelligence but I was getting a little tired of the conversation so I blurted out, “because you will be dead.” He said okay, let’s go at this from a different angle, what if I leave the beneficiary designation as blank? I said then the insurance company will see if you have a legal spouse and if so it will go to her, if not they will look for natural children, step children, parents, etc. if none of those survive you it will go to your estate and the state will determine who gets the proceeds. He said, “See, that’s why I should name myself!” It was one of the strangest conversations I’ve ever had but also one of the funniest.
I was on campus to interview for full time positions within our CPA firm. Often with student candidates, there is a wide range of interviewing experience and resulting comfortability in the interview so I’ve learned to meet candidates where they are. This candidate was particularly fidgety, rubbing his temples often and closing his eyes in the way I can describe as what I assumed was “deep in thought.” I finally stopped the interview and said “Hey, it’s okay to be nervous, but I want this experience to be enjoyable for both of us. Would you like to take a second and stand up and shake it out or look at your notes and gather your thoughts and then we can continue?” He looked up with complete relief asking “are you serious?” to which I responded “yes of course, no harm no foul, let’s hit reset.” The candidate proceeded to lean forward and pull out his glass eye, blowing hot air on it and shining it up on his suit jacket. No sooner than I was able to realize what was happening did he toss the eye back into its socket and smack himself upside the head to align it and said “wow thank you I feel so much better, where were we?”
I used to work for a staffing agency in Richmond, VA. I was responsible for recruiting contract Customer Service Representatives for a large contract with a local company. I hired an employee that was supposed to start the following Monday. Prior to her start date I received a voicemail from her stating that she couldn’t start because her Grandfather died and she had to go to a town 60 minutes away for his funeral.
A week later she calls and says she is still interested in the job and I wouldn’t believe it, they revived her Grandfather! How much you want to bet that her Grandfather had never died in the first place.
In the island of Jamaica, certain benefits are not available as they are in other jurisdictions. One that comes to mind, is two days in a new job as HR Manager, another department head stopped by to ask when the pay increases would be ready. I advised her that my immediate concerns were renewal of health insurance plans and executing the company’s annual awards event, both of which had to be done in less than 6 weeks. She responded that she had just returned from Maternity leave and was expecting to be paid more as her family had now grown to 3 (she was a single mom and this was her second child). She was quite put off when I told her there was no obligation on the part of the company to pay her more just because she had become a mom for the second time! She thought the purpose of HR was to ensure things like that happened… I had to laugh when she left the office.
One of my most unusual encounters I had with Human Resources management was a while back when I was working for a vision company doing lots of work on computers with lab orders for glasses and giving out members benefit information and all the normal everyday information that would involve working in an office environment for a vision company we had great benefits for vision hence I was working for a vision company and our production was going smooth and everything was working very efficiently. After about 2 years are HRM decides they are going to remove our vision benefits and take on more work. Low and behold our production began to drop and the numbers just were not where they used to be and they could figure out why are workers were producing at a slower rate and everything was delayed. As the employees we stated to HRM that we are no longer provided the proper tools to do our job, it makes zero sense that you’re a vision company and everyday in the workplace you emphasize how important your vision is to being successful at anything you do in life but then you go and take away the number one tool that allows us to be successful in our workplace. It was very unusual and to make a long story short due to the decline in production the company was never able to rebound from the setbacks and was bought out by another company. Very unusual they couldn’t “see” this happening.
I was the chairperson for a hearing where the staff member was accused of theft. It was an interesting case in that she had “permission” slips to remove the items from the premises.The more her proof stated to unravel the more agitated she became. She clung to her hand bag on her lap like it was a lifesaving device. When the case was really closing in on her, she took a sip of water and the next thing drop a hand full of pills down her throat. I nearly died on the spot! Never did I think someone will attempt suicide in a hearing. So next followed a circus of events, getting a wheelchair and rushing her to the EC. Luckily we work in a hospital. Only after three months of medical and psychological care did the hearing commence and she was dismissed.
How about this one. My manager created a phone tree to review possible closing due to weather in the morning (since the Bomb Cyclone shut down the city yesterday). She took 3 hours to create a document with who needs to call whom based on distance from the office) and held up the office for an hour so she could have a meeting about it. How about a group text next time???
We had an individual hired for a controls technician role. The company we worked for at the time did pre-hire background checks and drug testing. This was a hair drug test and the candidate knew that so he went for the drug test but had no hair on his head. Next they look at the eyebrows, arm and keep going lower. He said he just shaved last night (his entire body) but I can go home and get the hair out of the garbage can. Needless to say offer was retracted and he did not get hired.
I was working at a translation and localization company. We had a new receptionist who thought she recognized the voices of the spouses, including mine. One day I was in a meeting in my office with two program managers who were also friends. My line dinged, it was our receptionist announcing that my husband was on the line. I said thanks and said to my two PM friends “watch this” – then in my sexiest voice I answered the call with “what are you wearing?…..” –-dead silence, for what felt like an agonizingly long period of time. Finally, a male voice on the other end of the line that DIDN’T belong to my husband said, “I’m looking for Kristin Dagg,” I said, again in my sexiest voice. “please hold.” (I’m losing it at this point). By this time my friends were on the floor in absolute hysterics. I walked to the receptionist, and asked if she confirmed that call was my husband, she said no, she recognized his voice. I went back in, my friends are still laughing, I pick up the phone and in the most country western twangy accent I can muster I say, “this is Kristin, what can I do for ya?” (again, my friends are in hysterics). I continued to talk in a western accent but ultimately had to come clean because we hired him. I never did that again!!!
I referred the wrong candidate to the wrong company for an interview one time and the guy got hired.
I had a candidate take his dog to the interview because he couldn’t find anybody to “babysit” the dog.
I had a candidate fall asleep right in the middle of an interview with the employer.
I had a candidate that accepted a job from one of my clients on Friday. He called me on Monday and said that he could not accept the position because he had a vision from God over the weekend that he was supposed to go to Brazil and become a missionary. He and his family did just that. They went to Brazil for a year, where they were missionaries. He returned and called me to see if the company that offered him a job would still be interested in speaking with him.
I am a Talent Recruiter and interview several people a day. One individual I interviewed answered a question with the most honest, but off-putting answer.
To start the interview, he answered the phone with “Hello, this is…” After I introduced myself he said, “Can you hold on one sec?” I was confused but answered “sure.” He then continued a conversation with his spouse that I assumed he was in the middle of when I called during our agreed upon interview time.
The rest of the interview went okay at best. My final question was when I heard an answer I never had heard before. I asked, “What about you is different from others who may be interested in this position.” To which he answered with a laugh, “I am so tired of interviewing!!!” I was silent with shock…but let out a nervous laugh as he continued to attempt to answer the question.
Needless to say, he did not move forward in the interview process of course and I was able to offer him some feedback. I will never forget this interview!
I was working with a communication agency that had no HR Department. My boss invited me to lunch. After we were seated at the restaurant, he said, “I suppose you know why I asked you here.” “No,” I replied. Now my mind was racing. What had I screwed up that he couldn’t speak to me about at the office? “It’s time for your six-month review,” he said. “Oh?” Now I was really feeling unprepared and nervous. I took a deep breath to control my racing heartbeat. My mouth went dry.
I tried to keep my voice calm. “How am I doing?” “Fine,” he said, picking up a menu. “What would you like to have for lunch?”
That was the first and only performance appraisal interview I received at that company. Then I left and started my own business—so it turned out to be my last!
At a previous company, I was sitting with the CEO and COO at the conference room table. The windows overlooked the parking lot. While discussing a few serious operations issues, the three of us watched one of our female customer service representatives go out to an overnight delivery truck (company name omitted). She got into the passenger seat and she and the driver went at it hot and heavy so much so that she was partially undressed on top. They then proceeded to climb into the back of the truck where it was very evident the truck was bouncing around somewhat. The COO said nothing; however, the CEO (quite hot-headed) started screaming to me (not at me) to go out and get her out of the truck because she took more time than her 7-minute break. It was quite the show but all he was worried about was her extended break. I found it hilarious.
Thanks to everyone who submitted stories!
Kevin Sheridan is an internationally-recognized Keynote Speaker, a New York Times Best Selling Author, and one of the most sought-after voices in the world on the topic of Employee Engagement. For six years running, he has been honored on Inc. Magazine’s top 100 Leadership Speakers in the world, as well as Inc.’s top 100 experts on Employee Engagement. He was also honored to be named to The Employee Engagement Award’s Top 101 Global Influencers on Employee Engagement of 2017.
Having spent thirty years as a high-level Human Capital Management consultant, Kevin has helped some of the world’s largest corporations rebuild a culture that fosters productive engagement, earning him several distinctive awards and honors. Kevin’s premier creation, PEER®, has been consistently recognized as a long-overdue, industry-changing innovation in the field of Employee Engagement. His first book, Building a Magnetic Culture, made six of the best seller lists including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. He is also the author of The Virtual Manager, which explores how to most effectively manage remote workers.
Kevin received a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School in 1988, concentrating his degree in Strategy, Human Resources Management, and Organizational Behavior. He is also a serial entrepreneur, having founded and sold three different companies.