In less than a month my book comes out, and in celebration I’m sharing a few pages with you. A quick excerpt of chapter 15…
The Dark and Disturbing Secrets HR Doesn’t Want You to Know
- I worked in human resources for almost fifteen years at a number of different companies, including a religious-based organization where one of my duties was to teach people how to be appropriate and professional. Yes, I do see the irony in this.
Human resources is the place where people come to complain and/or shoot people when they just can’t take it anymore. Choosing to work in HR is like choosing to work in the complaint department of hell, except way more frustrating, because at least in hell you’d be able to agree that that Satan is a real dick-wagon without having to toe the company line. The HR department is the place where people stop by to say, “THIS IS TOTALLY FUCKED UP,” and the HR employees will nod thoughtfully and professionally as they think to themselves, “Wow. That is totally fucked up. I wish that this person would leave so I could tell everyone else in the office about it.”
When I was in HR, if someone came to me about a really fucked-up problem, I’d excuse myself and bring in a coworker to take notes, and the employee would relax a bit, thinking, “Finally, people are taking me seriously around here,” but usually we do that only so that when you leave we can have a second opinion about how insane that whole conversation was. “Was that shit as crazy as I thought it was?” I would ask afterward. It always was. Sadly, HR has very little power in an organization, unless the real executives are on vacation, and then watch out, because a lot of ass-holes are going to get fired.
There are three types of people who choose a career in HR: sadistic assholes who were probably all tattletales in school, empathetic (and soon to-be-disillusioned) idealists who think they can make a difference in the lives of others, and those of us who stick around because it gives you the best view of all the most entertaining train wrecks happening in the rest of the company.
People who aren’t in HR always assume that people who are in HR are the biggest prudes and assholes, since HR is ostensibly there to make sure everyone follows the rules, but people fail to realize that HR is the only department actively paid to look at porn. Sure, it’s under the guise of “reviewing all Internet history to make sure other people aren’t looking at porn,” but people are always looking at porn, and so we have to look at it too so that we can print it out for the investigation. This is also the reason why HR always has color printers, and why no one else is allowed to use them. Because we can’t remember to pick up all the porn we just copied. This is just one of many secrets the HR department doesn’t want you to know, and after sharing these secrets I will probably be blackballed from the Human Resources Alliance, which is much like the Magicians’ Alliance (in that I don’t belong to either, since I never get invited to join clubs, and that I’m not actually sure that either of them exist). Regardless, almost immediately after starting work in HR, I started keeping a journal about all the fantastically fucked-up stuff that people who aren’t in HR would never believe. These are a few of those stories:
Last month we decided to start keeping file of the most horrific job applications handed in so that we’d have something to laugh at when the work got to us. We now officially have twice as many applications in the “Never-hire-these-people-unless-we-find-out-that-we’re-all-getting-fired-next-week” file than we have in the “These-people-are-qualified-for-a-job” file. What’s the word for when something that started out being funny ends up depressing the hell out of you? Insert that word here.
Today a woman came in to reapply for a job. She wrote that she’d quit last month but now wanted her job back. On “reason for leaving” she wrote: “That job sucked. Plus, my supervisor was a douche-nugget.” She was reapplying for the exact same job. I rehired her and reassigned her to her old supervisor, because I totally agreed with her. That guy was totally a douche-nugget.
In the last two months, six separate men filled in the “sex” blank on their job application with some variation of “Depends on who’s offering.” Two answered, “Yes, please,” and one wrote, “No, thank you.” I hired the last one because he seemed polite.
This afternoon an applicant wrote that she’d been fired from her job at a gas station for sleeping on a cat. Everyone in the office read the application, but none of us could agree on what the hell she was talking about, so we brought her in for an interview. When I asked her about falling asleep on her cat she looked at me and indignantly replied, “What? I never wrote that.” Then when I showed her the application she said, “Car. My boss found out I was sleeping on a car. Duh. Why would my boss care if I slept on a cat?”
“Um . . . why would your boss care if you slept on a car?” I asked.
“Because I was the only person working that shift. But I totally would’ve heard if anyone had driven up. I’m a very light sleeper. It’s not like I didn’t have a plan.”
The lesson here is that sometimes you get brought in for an interview just to settle a bet.
Today I interviewed someone who handed me a résumé saying that he’d worked at Helping Hand-Jobs. I choked on my own spit and couldn’t stop coughing. Later I showed it to the interviewer in the next office. She told me that her brother had worked there once but had quit because all the manual labor had given him heatstroke. After I started coughing again she realized my confusion and explained that it was actually named Helping-Hand Jobs and was a handyman service.
Never underestimate the power of punctuation, people.
Today I had to talk to an employee who e-mailed a photograph of his penis to a woman in his department. I knew it was his penis because it said, “This is my penis,” in the subject line. Also, his name badge was clipped to his belt and was clearly visible. I practiced saying, “Is this your penis?” over and over in my office until I could say it without giggling, and then I called him and his supervisor in.
“Is this your penis?” I asked, as I pushed the printout of the e-mail over to him.
I think I was expecting him to break into a sweat or try to jump through the window out of embarrassment, because apparently I’d forgotten about the fact that this was the same man who thought it would be perfectly fine to take a picture of his penis in the office bathroom to send it to a shocked coworker. Instead he grinned cockily (no pun in tended), saying, “I think the better question is, Exactly how did you get a picture of my penis?”
“It was caught in the e-mail filter. The picture, I mean. Not your penis. If, in fact, that is your penis, I mean.” I was flustered, but tried to gain control of the situation again with a deep, calming breath. “Did you mail a picture of your penis?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Would it make it better if I said I was mailing pictures of someone else’s penis?”
I’ve thought about that question for fifteen years and I still don’t have a good answer. Instead I said, “Not really. Giving a coworker a picture of a penis is sort of universally frowned on. It’s in the employee hand book. Sort of. It’s between the lines.”
“Is there anything in the handbook about someone in HR handing you a penis picture and asking you whether it’s yours?”
I couldn’t think of anything to say to that, so I just told him he was fired and made a note that we need to update the employee handbook with more penis-related directives.
As of today I’ve had to ask five separate men, “Is this your penis?” after their pictures got caught in the e-mail filter. (Side note: When I read this to people who don’t work in HR, they stop me here and say, “Really? People actually mail pictures of their penises at work?” And I explain that yes, it happens at least once a quarter. If it’s an HR person I’m read ing this to, they always say, “Really? You worked in HR for fifteen years and you only had to ask five men about their penises?” And I explain that no, I wrote this in my first few years in HR, and there’s another one in the very next paragraph. After that they just got so commonplace I stopped writing about them in my journal. I eventually got to where I could say, “Is this your penis?” without blushing or giggling. That’s how much practice I had at handing random men photos of their junk and asking them to identify their penis. I never once had to do it with a vagina. Probably because women are better at not getting their e-mails caught in the firewall, because they don’t use the subject line “Look at my penis.” Also, vaginas seem to have less personality than penises, so “Is this your vagina?” would probably be difficult to answer. If someone asked me to pick out my own vagina’s mug shot out of a lineup of vaginas, I’d be helpless. And probably concerned about what exactly my vagina had been doing that constituted a need for its own mug shot.
“Are these your penises?”
This is a question I never thought I’d have to ask, because I’ve never met anyone with more than one penis, but in this case it was two men taking pictures of their penises, together, at work. They hadn’t been caught in the filter, but had instead printed out the picture using the office printer and had accidentally forgotten to pick it up. One of the guys just nodded quietly, but the other leaned over to look clinically at the photo before he pointed to the penis on the left. “Just this one,” he said. I thanked him for the clarification, because I didn’t know what else to say. His friend looked at him, stunned, but I think it was probably a good lesson for him in picking the quality of people his penis takes pictures with. Standards are important, you guys.
Finish the rest of the chapter in the book. You can preorder here!
UPDATE: Penguin made me my first book trailer. And yes, all of these pictures are from my personal family album. True story.