Human Resources: Ever hear the one about …

Higher ed HR professionals share humorous employee stories
By: | Issue: July, 2019
June 28, 2019
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Carol Patton writes about human resources issues.

As a recruiter at Emporia State University in Kansas for many years, Asher Delmott has heard some real doozies. Take the applicant who called herself an established office administrator, but never held any job for more than four months. Or consider the candidate whose last job was temporary, but he repeatedly stressed that no foul play had occurred.

But perhaps Delmott’s favorite story (and mine) is about the individual who applied for a job in the school’s theater department. In his cover letter, he claimed that he possessed letters from Queen Elizabeth II, former President Barack Obama and other famous people, expressing that one of their personal wishes would be fulfilled if he landed this job.

As an HR professional, you may think you’ve seen or heard it all. Maybe not. Consider these favorite stories shared by your HR colleagues at other schools, which demonstrate that in the HR world, anything can happen.

  • Texas State University: Several years ago, the facilities maintenance department had an applicant for a blue-collar job, says John McBride, assistant vice president of HR at the school. But a standard background check turned up a three-page rap sheet, including assault convictions from San Antonio to Laredo.
    “So we called, suggesting that the department not hire this person,” McBride says. “Someone in the department replied, ‘Thank God. We were all afraid of him; we were too scared to tell him that we didn’t want to hire him.’”
  • University of Phoenix: Recently, the HR staff began recruiting for a management-level position. One individual from a nearby state looked promising, so a staffer scheduled an interview and informed him about the university’s reimbursement guidelines for lodging, meals and transportation, says Cheryl Naumann, chief HR officer at the school.
    After the first round of interviews, the candidate handed the recruiter his receipts for reimbursement.
    “They were for a couple of bottles of wine, two pork loins and a spa massage,” she says. “We had so many questions: Where did he cook the pork loins, or did he take them back home on the plane with him? Did he consume both bottles of wine in one day? Needless to say, this person didn’t get hired.”
  • Missouri State University: Several months ago, HR Director Tammy Few received an anonymous email with a video attachment. The sender believed that the man in the video was a university employee who was stealing money from a tip jar in a local doughnut shop. The store featured the video on its website, asking the community for help in identifying the thief.
    “You should have seen me,” she says, laughing at her attempts to see whose hand was in the tip jar. “I’m 46 years old, and I had to magnify the video. I realized it wasn’t him. It was his girlfriend, who wasn’t our employee, so I deleted the email.”
  • The University of Texas at Dallas: A university employee couldn’t understand why she couldn’t use Family and Medical Leave Act time to cover the week she was in jail.
    “She said it wasn’t her fault that she couldn’t make it to work; the jailer wouldn’t let her out,” says Colleen Dutton, chief HR officer at the university.

Dutton recalls other stories, too, such as employees’ ex-girlfriends who sent letters to HR about how their boyfriends cheated on them and should be fired or disciplined.

One employee contacted HR after becoming frustrated when his boss did not respond to an email requesting mediation to settle differences with a coworker. But he wrote “meditation.” His boss simply thought the employees were spending a few minutes sitting cross-legged in an office chanting, “Om.”
And there was the HR professional who was counseling an employee about sexual harassment.
“The counselor didn’t realize that his fly was unzipped the entire time,” says Dutton.

Carol Patton writes about human resources issues.

Do you have your own memorable, humorous, interesting, alarming
or just plain head-scratching HR story to share with our readers? We want to hear it. Please contact Tim Goral at [email protected]