HR Horror Stories to Spook You on Halloween

Share your own scary stories with us online

By Kathy Gurchiek Oct 31, 2017
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​HR professionals often find themselves in a workplace chamber of horrors—even when it's not Halloween. We gathered some spooky tales from HR professionals around the U.S. and invite you to tell us your best scary HR anecdotes on the SHRM Facebook page.

We Hear You Knocking

Kimberly Marek, an HR consultant in Spotsylvania, Va., recalled the time a previous employer went into lockdown mode after a former client—for whom the company had a no-trespassing order—tried to kick down the office door.

"The wild part—as if this wasn't already wild enough—was that it was the first day of new employee orientation," Marek told SHRM Online. "We had 10 new hires that we had to walk through our emergency response plan. No one was hurt but talk about a terrible first day! Let's just say we let them go home early after the scene was safe. Surprisingly, everyone came back the next day."

He Said/She Said

Justine Miller, SHRM-CP, an HR consultant in Philadelphia, faced a challenging situation when she was an HR manager at an information technology company.
A newly appointed manager wanted to know the company's policy on performance management because she said she had a team member who was underperforming.

"I was immediately concerned for two reasons: At this time, she had only been in her role for three weeks, and our annual performance review cycle had been completed only one month earlier.

"And there had not been any recommendation for anyone on that team to undergo performance counseling. I wondered what had happened in the ensuing weeks for the situation to have apparently changed so dramatically."

Miller did her own investigation and found that the team member's performance was above average. She set up a meeting between the manager and the team member.

"I ended up mediating a conflict between two ex-lovers. It turns out the manager and the team member had enjoyed an office romance, which had soured. … Revenge was on her mind," Miller said.

Both employees were offered counseling through the company's employee assistance program, the manager was placed on a performance plan and coached on best-practice manager behaviors, and the team member was assigned a different manager.

It was, she told SHRM Online, "a horror story I have fortunately never experienced again."

[SHRM members-only platform: SHRM Connect]

I'm Fired? Are You Sure?

Linda M. Duffy, SHRM-SCP, an HR consultant in Orange County, Calif., has had her share of tough work scenarios in her 30 years of HR, but one stands out in her mind as particularly bizarre.

Fairly early in her career, there was a layoff at a manufacturing company where she worked. A senior inspector in his 40s who had been with the company for 20 years was among those who lost their jobs.

Two weeks after the layoff, Duffy came into the office to find the ex-employee there, along with his manager. The manager explained that the former worker, who had no recollection of being laid off, had showed up to work that morning.

"This was quite concerning," Duffy said. She asked a member of the employee assistance program to come out immediately. The consultant convinced the employee to voluntarily admit himself into a psychiatric unit to receive help.

A Serious Threat

Jon Decoteau, SHRM-SCP, was the director of HR for a manufacturing facility in 2005 when an employee's marital problem posed a potential threat to her and the organization.

The woman had a restraining order against her spouse, who was a police officer with access to firearms. She feared for her safety and that of their child, who was at the company's day care facility.

Decoteau's situational assessment team—made up of members from HR, security, operations and the employee assistance program—kicked into action.

The challenge, he said, was to not violate employee confidentiality while making sure the child and employees were not at risk. The team worked with local law enforcement, which stationed a police unit in front of the building for two weeks. The team also blocked the man from entering the building and took the extra precaution of alerting the day care staff to the situation.
The husband never appeared onsite, and the situation deescalated, Decoteau said. The company also provided counseling to the female employee.

These days, Decoteau is membership divisional director for the West at the Society for Human Resource Management, but he has one more unpleasant HR memory: In 1998, he was awakened by a late-night phone call from a security guard at a pager manufacturing facility.

The guard had discovered an employee with 58 pagers surreptitiously strapped to his body. Turns out the employee had a side gig—reselling the pagers at local malls. The guard wanted to know what Decoteau, as senior manager of HR, wanted him to do with the employee.

"I said, 'Just set [the pagers] to vibe and send him a message,' " Decoteau recalled. The company did send a message—the employee was terminated for theft.

Do you have a frightening HR story to share? Head over to our Facebook page and see if you can spook us. 

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