Monday, June 14, 2010

BougieTales of the Workplace: A Human Resources Nightmare… for a rookie no less


I fell into Human Resources quite by accident. I'd intended to be a lawyer you see. I was going to save the world from injustice one case at a time. And then I figured out that the actual practice of law was nothing like what I saw on Perry Mason, LA Law, Law & Order or The Practice. No, it was work and a lot of it… for years before you got to do the sexy stuff I wanted to do. My professor suggested I get an entry level job and bounce around a large corporation until something appealed to me. I started off as a temp at GTE (now Verizon) Corporate Headquarters. I was the executive assistant to the Senior Director of IT Field Services. Sounds impressive but you can strikethrough all of that and just say "drone who typed fast." Back then I typed about 90 words per minute, I knew all the latest programs and I didn't have to be told things twice. I was a hot commodity. My first job out of college paid $13.50/hour plus overtime and benefits after 90 days… I was high-rolling. Three months into my assignment, the Human Resources girl came into town and asked to "borrow me" for a project. And that was it.

It took me no time at all to realize that being an administrative assistant was not a great fit for me. Me of the side-eyes and seriously's and constantly thinking 'NO one else can DO this?'… not a fit. I wasn't humble enough (then) to make coffee and offer other people's phones. I hated it. I left and went to work for a global photography and imaging company. I went in as a junior recruiter and human resources generalist. Basically, that meant I would fill positions my boss didn't feel like filling and do whatever other random Human Resources tasks fell off someone's desk onto mine. My second day on the job, I did a new hire orientation for an Assistant Vice President of Sales and Marketing. She was a little blonde thing with boobs a little too big, skirt a little too short and answers a little too glib. She gave off a shady vibe and some of her verbal answers didn't match her written ones. [things that make you go hmmm] Seems the Vice President of Sales (a bit of a leech) simply had to have her on board. With a five-figure non-refundable sign-on bonus that they were determined to pay out immediately. I asked the HR Director if we'd thoroughly checked her references… I was told to basically mind my own and get this woman on payroll. "Michele, just do the paperwork and cut the check." Ooo-kay.

The next morning, she whizzed into the parking lot in a brand new red convertible Porsche. Climbed out flashing crotch to all within sightline. I saw all of this from my office window but I turned a blind eye because… I was minding my own. Before week's end, I was called into the conference room for an emergency meeting. I walked in and it's clearly a BFD (big effing deal). Three VPs, the HR Director, my boss (ditzy Recruiting Manager), two other managers and two admin assistants were sitting grim-faced around the table. It seemed as though one of our mid-level managers went into the stock room for supplies and caught AVP Hot Pants bumpin' and a grindin' on the Loading Dock Dude's lap. No, I'm not making this ish up. Middle of the damn day, door not locked and they were sweating up the bubble wrap. Now, Loading Dock Dude was an African American male in his early twenties. He had been with the company for four years, never had a bad performance appraisal and was nine months away from being fully vested. AVP Hot Pants just arrived and had clearly already spent her five-figure bonus. My lips were pursed as tight as they could be so that the words, "I told you something was wrong with that hoochie!" didn't accidently fly out of my mouth.

Then the ridiculous happened. Someone suggested that we reprimand Hot Pants and fire Dock Dude. Instead of screaming, "The HELL?" I calmly pointed out our possible liability and the inferred inequality of that action. They all wanted to fight me because this is a company that was used to doing whatever the heck they wanted and getting away with it. But I was on my game and cited cases (see how the law thing came in handy after all) where companies had been slapped with huge civil actions (not to mention Equal Employment investigations) based on behavior not even as heinous as what they were suggesting. By the time I shared the dollars involved in those cases, they were on my side. But because I opened my big mouth, guess what? "Michele, you handle the investigation and report back to us by next week." My mouth dropped open, "Wha..?" It was my first week on the friggin' job – whatever happened to easing someone in? And then I got it, I was the fall guy. If I jacked this up, they could blame it on the new girl not knowing what she was doing. Fine. I flashed my patented "No Problem" smile and said, "Great, I'll handle it."

I got the surveillance tape from the stock room. That is twenty minutes of my life I wish I had back. There in grainy black and white, old girl waltzed in and went to work on dude. According to the film, she'd been hitting on him all week and he'd been saying no. On this day, the lack of panties seemed to do him in. To his (meager) credit, he did not make the first move. She jumped him (literally). I mean she took him down like a lion on a hapless gazelle near the watering hole. Damn! She had that boy unzipped and covered (she just happened to have a Trojan tucked in bra) in no time flat. I fast forwarded through most of the freaky-deaky but they appeared to quite heavy on the calisthenics and light on style. Anyway, it was clear it did not occur to them that they were on film and that any old body could just walk in. Which is of course what happened. Now HIS face? Mid-Manager? When he walked in and realized what was going on? Priceless.

So I called in Dock Dude first. I asked for his side of the story. He cried. He was married, two kids, and his wife was going to kill him not only for losing the job but how he lost it. So I asked… why? His words, "She just kept throwing it at me, man. She just wouldn't quit. She wouldn't quit. She got me, she got me." And he cried some more. I told him he was suspended without pay while we conducted the rest of the investigation but he could use his personal, sick or vacation time to stay on payroll while we worked it out. He said, "What am I going to tell my wife?!" I said, "Presumably, not what you told me."

Next up was Hot Pants. She came in, flounced down and before I could even ask a question she said, "We both know you don't have the power to fire me. So sure, I did it. So what? I wanted him, I had him. You didn't have me sign a morality clause." I was flabbergasted. Did one need a morality clause to know not to get freaky on company time with the Dock Dude? I asked her if there was anything else she wanted to add to her statement and she shrugged, "Things happen. Get over it and stop being such a prude." She got up and walked out. Did I mention that I taped both of their statements and advised them of this before we got started?

I decided there was no way she hadn't pulled something like this before. I did a little research and it turned out that I had a friend of a friend at her last company. She agreed to meet me for happy hour after work. She not only had the scoop, she had a copy of memos from old girl's file. Lo and behold, she had rather notoriously slept her way to the top at the defense contractor corporation she'd come from. She left a trail of scandal, ill will and skankery everywhere she went. She was also an exhibitionist and had been warned for public lewd (and semi-nude) behavior. When the company threatened to fire her, she threatened to start calling wives. They gave her five figures to leave and not look back. Hot Pants was straight hustling.

The next day, I reached out to the company Hot Pants had worked at before the defense contractor and was informed that under the terms of a legal confidentiality agreement, they were unable to give out any information other than to say that she had been an employee. But I received a voicemail that night saying that under no circumstances should we hire the woman. She was (and I quote), "A menace and a maneater." That was title of the report I passed out at the meeting. My recommendation was to bring back Dock Dude and place him on 30 day performance improvement, to fire Hot Pants, to tighten up pre-employment background checks and to have everyone participate in a Sexual Harassment training and sign an ethics pledge. 100% agreement… but you know who ended up doing all that, right? New dude cried when we brought him back, old girl threatened to sue when we let her go. And I learned to trust my hiring instincts.

So anybody ever have a work nightmarish problem to solve? Ever met a corporate piranha like Hot Pants? What advice would you give Dock Dude? And isn't it amazing the thing people think are okay to do in a "professional" setting? Comments, thoughts, insights… the floor is yours.

28 comments:

sunt97 said...

I have never witnessed any full out skankery but I do know of a few stories and a credit card company. The human resource manager (lol) had every rumor swirling around her, not to mention every manager, about some indecent moments she has had with some managers. Apparently she had slept with them, as well as the old HR manager and that sky rocketed her from telemarketing to a cushy office in the back. I knew she didn't have any sense when I interviewed with her and she started talking about her nails and ish. She was just another hood rat that got through.

Peace, Love and Chocolate
Tiffany

Page Bartlett said...

Crazy! We have a Hot Pants here who got that new title under "interesting" circumstances. Le Sigh as you say. Great story.

BB Waite said...

I love a BougieTale. That is all.

ASmith said...

::sigh::

I've been waiting for this week with great anticipation and... I can see it's going to exceed all my expectations, per the usu.

I could relate to your having a huge undertaking thrown at you. That mess STILL happens to me. (I was tempted to ask my boss to stop hazing me, once). I should say, within reason, my office is relatively laid back and my working relationship with my boss is very good. We joke a lot. Anyway, one of the tasks he gave me was to figure out some really intricate and involved numbers. Something like "how many children between the ages of 5 and 17 in America live with one parent and at or below the poverty line?" Go figure that out and come back.

No. Really. I'll wait.

Anyway, it was a task like that AND he needed it by COB. Did I mention it was already 12:00? O_O. When I finally completed it and emailed it to him, the subject was "Magic from a Magician."

I realized that he's not hazing me, he just knows I can get a job done. Damn me for being unable to be anything but awesome. :)

BTW, my replacement is NOT awesome and I'm lightweight pissed off. By the time I leave, I will have been working with him for 3 months and I fear he just won't ever pick up on stuff. I don't know how much basic I can make this.

derek love said...

Currently working for Director who clearly hired me to do things he doesn't want to do. Which is everything but come in late and eat 2 hour lunches. Just biding my time. I assume that's what you did?

OneChele said...

Sort of, eventually jumped to new company for better title/comp.

Onlyme said...

I bet Hot Pants had a new job in no time.

Crystal said...

Oh. My. Goodness!!!!!!!!!! I cannot believe that happened, in real life. I do not know if I would have been able to handle that (perhaps this is why I am a Graphic Designer, Yay for art school!!!) You handled that (craziness) like a true pro, but I am glad you found your passion as a writer (truly, your stories are a fantastic and funny start to my day). This story would be good in a book. BTW people just have some darn nerve (and stupidity, sorry Dock Dude) don't they?

Ebonee said...

Not bad at all for your first week on the job. It's amazing though how the higher level execs never think they have to follow the rules! I'm an HR person as well. Check out my blog... http://navigatHR.wordpress.com

Nadette@Eat, Read, Rant! said...

Chele, ol' girl's response literally had me snappin my neck so hard it hurt. OH NO SHE DI'INT! I can't say that i've encountered anything close to this nonsense. but then again, i work in public health and i have no power. LE SIGH!

rozb said...

You are the woman, Chele! I love the way you showed class and professionalism, and let them know you were on your game.

I ahd a job wher I worked for a woman whose husband was at the same site. I got assigned to his project, and immediately we ckashed. He was used to throwing his weight around and bullying, until one day he invaded my personal space. I stood up (2 inches taller than him) and told him to step back, and that as a grown-A woman I would have to knock him on his ass if he didn't move out of my way. I left the space for some air and he called his wife whining about my attitude. My co-worker witnessed everything, and in spite of it, I lost my job. Got hired somewhere else 2 1/2 weeks later, though. I know I will never work for a spouse team ever again.

MeetCharlieL said...

Bless you for not going in on the UTTER STUPIDITY of Dock Dude. He risked EVERYTHING cuz some Barbie Becky was throwing it at him? Grow the Eff up. He was extremely lucky to have you advocating for him. Without out, he was out of there. All that time and his reputation out the window. No way was she worth it. Sure she was to the tramp side but he should have known better. More men done in but their d**ks than anything else in the world.

Pardon my rant

OneChele said...

A toast to you. It's a tough, tough job. Usually underpaid and under appreciated.

Mr. Skyywalker said...

Thank you brother, I was just thinking this when you typed it.

Pure Choco said...

Her kind seem to land on their feet... back? Whatever. Oldest tale in the world.

Eye Candy said...

We had a junior hot pants here, she got fired and told ALL the wives. Had pictures, DNA (ugh) and the whole bit. Not sure how it all turned out but it doesn't seem worth it.

baileyqc said...

Wow, just wow!

Sarah said...

Another good story. I have never meet a woman who is as sex-crazed as the one in your story. I don't think I want to. You handled the situation well. I'd definitely would want you on my team in a crisis.

Sarah said...

OK. I'm tired. A grammatical ouch in the last sentence: one too many 'would's, but you know what I mean. I get self conscious writing comments here since I know you know your English and it reminds me of my Mom :-) She went on a mini-rant once about how people should proof read their emails.

GrownAzzMan said...

I think I will settle for a simple 'cosign' here...LOL

SpkTruth2Pwr said...

lol OneChele how the heck is your life so interesting!

Yofabulous said...

Had my stint in HR and most of the stories are unbelievable if you hadn't dealt with them yourself. Brilliant work! She's gonna find herself someplace where she's gonna have to show-n-prove...and then what?

The Deal said...

This is how you do your job, WELL.
Everyone, let's light a candle, put your lighters up or whatever, for all the incredible people in HR or in any office doing what I could never do: putting up with the craziest characters on the planet. I've worked in two offices in my life and that was all that I needed to convince me that office politics are the worst politics on the planet. Really enjoy the style of your writing, by the way.

Citizen Ojo said...

Why is is that some people fall into Human Resources and people that want to work in it can't get in? but I digress.... women like that on the job keep the moral up (pun intended) *wink*.

Max said...

Wow! There was a Jr. Hot Pants at my old firm who boned her way into the President & COO's good graces at the wizened age of 24. She attempted to come at me in a less than professional manner and I had to get my Claire Huxtable on and let her know in no uncertain terms that I was an OG and she needed to play her position or face the consequences. But I digress.

My husband is an HR professional and it always stuns me how little value is placed on the HR function. Management is never ever clear on how many times their balls have been saved from the fire by HR. An excellent HR Director can be the difference between getting sued out of existence or maintaining your company's assets. It's so amazing that more often than not they don't see it.

Evansaw said...

All I can say is "WOW""!

Nicohya said...

Wow at the office politics! I have only worked at hospitals and I have heard some stories chile...I am proud of how you handled that situation.

Karen Caffee said...

Oooh, I would, but should not, so I won't. BUT must say that you handled your business well and saved bro' man's bacon and livelihood!

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