HR Blunders

OMG! Moments As An HR Professional…

By Anne-Marie Orrock

We all experience our little mishaps, blunders, and failures during our career as Human Resources professionals, and hopefully we learn from them. Here I share some of my memorable HR OMG! moments. Perhaps you have had similar moments too? I’d love to hear them!

1. The Very Patient Candidate.

Our interview rooms were external to the main office area that was security pass access only. Our receptionist had left ill at 3pm, so we winged it for the next couple of hours of the day. My candidate came in for a 3.30pm interview. My assistant had got mixed up, and handed me the wrong CV. I discovered this at the beginning of our meeting and told him to wait and I would be ‘right back’. I went to my office to get the correct CV. For the 10 seconds I was in my office a call came in from my USA VP of HR. It was odd, as it was the middle of the night for her. Curiosity killed the cat, and I took the call. (duh!) She was advising me that the company was being acquired, which came as a shock, and we settled in for a long discussion on strategy, next steps, etc…Forty minutes later I had the sudden “Oh My Goodness, The Chips!” moment….. Amazingly the candidate was still there waiting patiently!

2. Bonus Boo Boo.

I advised all the employees in the Sales Administration team that they would be receiving bonuses based on information that had been passed onto me via our Remuneration Director in the USA.  I duly sent them notification letters with individualised bonus amounts, and the dates they would be paid. The Marketing Director, their up line manager in the USA, hit the roof when he found out as he had a change of ‘generosity’ over night. Being in Australia and a day ahead, in time zone  I was already on the job….being efficient didn’t pay off in this case.

3. ‘How Embarrassment’ (aka Effie).

This was early in my career, and my first HR role as a junior. I was assisting the Recruitment Director of a large financial institution recruiting high volumes across the organisation. One particular role was replacing the PA to the Head of Legal. She had been a long term, well respected employee. The role was filled with a candidate who we were paying $5,000  more than the current PA. Not thinking, I took the offer letter to the current PA, in an envelope, for the Head of Legal to sign. My inexperienced logic, (and prior instruction) told me, all letters go through her for the Head of Legal to sign….Ooops!, except this one! Needless to say the Head of Legal wanted my head on a plate. It was my first lesson in being discreet as an HR professional.

4. Termination Turn Off.

I don’t recommend this one. You know those moments when you know you shouldn’t laugh, but no matter how much you try not to it makes it worse?  It  was a very tense situation as we were letting an employee go who was very  disruptive to his team and really not fitting in, either productively or culturally. He was very angry and vacillating from anger to teariness as his manager and I went through the process. On the floor above, preparations were underway for a company event that evening. The two office juniors charged with the task of decorating with balloons where getting into the helium, and clearly unaware that they could be heard through the dodgy office intercom system. All we could hear was a couple of chipmunks swearing their heads off and laughing high pitched. I tried to keep the lid on it but my shoulders gave me away as they involuntarily started to bob up and down. I let out a ripper of a snort, and that was it. I was off….

5. Foot In Mouth Disease.

I was reasonably new to this organisation and had only been there about six weeks. One of the managers that I was helping with a particularly difficult recruitment assignment, opened up and gave her views on some of the politics amongst the managers. I opened up in response and expressed that I found one particular manager, whilst being a very good operator and manager, was a bit of a sleaze-ball and a flirt. She didn’t reciprocate that she had experienced the same behaviour, and in fact very tersely shut down the conversation and exited from my office. I thought it was a little strange, but then didn’t think any more of it. Two weeks later whilst out to lunch with a colleague she asked how I was getting on with everything. I mentioned the exchange with the manager, and my colleague replied “Oh my God!” You didn’t say that? “Well I kinda did, why?” Don’t you know? she said, ‘know what?’ I replied, I could feel my stomach bottoming out. ‘They’re married!’ She gleefully announced.

6. The Domino Effect.

This was a combined effort. If you have ever organised a company-wide team building event. You know the logistics can be a nightmare. I had a large group of people being transported to a location two hours drive away, in 4 coaches for a team building scavenger hunt. The company managing the scavenger hunt had another company session booked for the afternoon, so we had to be ontime. Of course, Murphy and his bleedin’ law stepped in. I arrived at the client offices early, as had the 4 coaches. But no crowd of people. I was only talking to the client yesterday to confirm everything was hunky dory. Except they failed to advise me they had moved offices in the six weeks of organising the event. They had moved a good 45 minutes away. The bus company had bookings for the afternoon also. Ugh! The whole day was a domino effect. ‘Nuff said.

I know I am not alone and we all need a Mistake Recovery Guide for when we stuff up. Ah well, we are all only human…..

Now it’s your time to confess! What blunder did you make in your career that you can now laugh about?