HR horror stories: the calls HR professionals dread

It may be the scariest time of year for most, but those of us who work in HR don’t scare so easily.

Barely a day goes by where we don’t hear a scream-worthy story from one of our clients, striking fear into the heart of even the bravest of employers.

Whether it’s the case of the disappearing furniture, or a side hustle gone wrong, HR is always there to solve the mystery.

Let’s take a look at some of Peninsula’s most hair-raising cases so far this year.

Most people would agree that colleagues should try to lift each other up – but not by the throat. One employer called as this was happening in their workplace and, scariest of all, the manager saw nothing wrong with it.

This behaviour is enough to make anyone’s toes curl.

Clearly training was needed for all, especially the manager who found this behaviour acceptable. If physical violence is happening in the workplace, something is seriously wrong and needs to change.

It's crucial to set workplace boundaries and let employees know that there are consequences for crossing them. You may think that some boundaries are clear, but any HR expert will tell you that’s not always the case.

One employer didn’t think they needed to state that sharing explicit content on work accounts was ghoulish behaviour and were shocked when an employee sexually harassed another by sending scarily inappropriate images via the internal messaging system.

This raised two big concerns. Not only did the employee who sent the images need to be disciplined, there was also potential  for a sexual harassment claim from the person receiving them. Luckily HR always saves the day, ensuring your business can ward off such scary situations.

Another call came from a boss who discovered their chef was offering way more than condiments to customers with their takeaways – he was also selling drugs on the job.

Whilst putting too much salt and vinegar on someone’s chips could be a minor offence, drug-related activity is another kettle of fish altogether.

If proven, you run the risk of your business being shut down. Criminal activity can lead to dismissal, if fair procedure is followed, as this kind of behaviour is likely to cause real reputational damage.

Hair-raising activities often come from those you least expect and, this time of year, it’s always wise to keep your eyes peeled for mysterious goings on. The case of the disappearing furniture had one employer going crazy as clients reported large household items vanishing during their move.

The breakthrough in the case came when it was discovered employees had been stealing and selling the furniture online. To ensure no further reports of sticky fingers, the employer suspended all staff while they conducted a full investigation to discover the identity of the phantom thieves.

No employer wants to spend their time talking to witnesses and looking over CCTV footage, but in cases of gross misconduct, it’s important to solve the clues and have all the facts before proceeding with any disciplinary action. Not only will this help you avoid making false accusations, but it could also keep you out of tribunal – a terrifying prospect for any employer. 

Kate Palmer is HR advice and consultancy director at Peninsula