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The Worst HR Job I Ever Had

June 16, 2011
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Once upon a time I held a job that has long since disappeared from my resume.  You won’t find it on my LinkedIn profile, I never mention the name of the company aloud, and I’m fairly successful (except in times of extreme duress) at forgetting I ever even had a key to the building.

At the time I accepted the job offer I thought it was the greatest career move of my life.  I agreed to join this small company with 80 employees and great revenue that was poised on the brink of explosive growth in a particularly niche market segment.  A woman-owned, family-run business for 15 years, the company had just signed the papers (ink still wet on the deal) to become a subsidiary of a large corporation.  So although there was now a corporate “parent,” the company was maintaining its own identity, continuing onward with its strategies, and maintaining the wife-husband “owners” as CEO and SVP, respectively.  As the company’s first-ever HR Manager I had my work cut out for me; primary focus needed to be on ramping up staffing and planning the HR agenda.

I lasted 4 months.

**********

In those 4 months, I lived through the following:

  • Being told to “just keep it quiet” when I discovered a staff member with an expired H1-B visa who not only had no work authorization but should have returned to his country of origin many months previously.
  • Witnessing the SVP (the husband) get on the company-wide intercom every hour to verbally degrade, chide and denigrate the inbound sales team for their piss-poor numbers during the previous hour.
  • Being informed by the CEO that she had NO intention of making any employee non-exempt and for 15 years she hadn’t needed to pay one dime in “overtime” and she didn’t intend to start now just because I was telling her she needed to comply with a little something called the FLSA.
  • Receiving daily, frantic phone calls from employees too afraid to be seen talking to me, who begged me to deliver them from the hell-in-which-they-were-trapped.  Also known as their jobs.
  • Watching the envious stares of staff as one of their co-workers gave a head-held-high, fiery middle-finger salute as she proudly marched out the door after ripping off her headset and quitting right in the middle of the work day.
  • Having to go to the CEO’s office every day to pick up my mail which, by the way, she had already opened.  Let me repeat – the CEO of this company opened every piece of mail delivered to the company. Thousands of pieces of mail.  Every single day.
  • Consoling an entire sales team of 8 employees when they received an email from the SVP that said something to the effect of “your monthly numbers are sh*t and at the end of this week I will be firing whoever is the lowest producer for this week.  And I will do that ever g-d week for the rest of this month.  And if in 3 weeks these numbers aren’t acceptable you’re g-d f&*k*#ng manager is getting s%*t-canned too!!”

By month 2 I started searching for a new job.  By month 4, hallelujah, I got an offer.  Being a considerate and conscientious person, I gave my news to the “owners” and provided them with a 2 week notice. They yelled at me and ranted and screamed about how I had “let them down” and after “all they had done for me” and they let me know in no uncertain times that I had “screwed them.”

I walked out of their office and as word spread throughout the building I got hugs and smiles. “Lucky you” and “Please take me with you” were the phrases du jour.

**********

Now I didn’t give a rip about those two “owners” or the corporate parent.  I cared about leaving some sort of support and systems in place for those who were remaining.  Plus, my sense of professional pride wouldn’t let me leave without ‘wrapping up” the job so you can bet that in those last 2 weeks I worked my butt off. 

My last day was a Friday and I was there until 7 PM finalizing some notes and records.  I left my keys and one final note on the CEO’s desk and let myself out the front door.  Parked right there in the driveway was a big-old pickup truck with the tail down and one of our employees sitting on it with an ice-chest next to him and a beer in his hand.  He reached into the ice chest, came out with a cold one, and held it out to me.

“I ran home, picked these up and came back hoping I would catch you one last time,” he said.  “I don’t blame you one bit for leaving cuz this places is f#*k*d up.  But I just wanted to say Thank You and see if you wanted to celebrate over a beer.”

So I popped the top.

Best office farewell party ever.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. June 16, 2011 8:39 am

    Nice post Robin. I am sure many of us have been there, done that (I know I have) and most of us have survived. Love the going away party.

  2. HRBR permalink
    June 16, 2011 9:51 am

    I always love a tear jerker with a happy ending. Thanks for sharing!

  3. June 16, 2011 12:22 pm

    Your depiction of the situation was stellar and I’m sure other people are in the middle of that toxic nightmare. I’m glad you got out and shared the experience, it helped me remember how bad and good it can be! Lot’s of love….. BW

    • June 16, 2011 7:24 pm

      It was toxic indeed. I just couldn’t believe that people had put up with this; some of them for YEARS and YEARS!

  4. June 16, 2011 12:40 pm

    All well and good but did you get laid after the farewell party? 😉

    • June 16, 2011 7:51 pm

      Well no…but one could argue that, in a way, it figuratively happened to our employees every single day.

  5. Doug shaw permalink
    June 16, 2011 3:25 pm

    Powerful story, beautifully told.

  6. June 16, 2011 3:31 pm

    Ugh…i have been in that same situation…a three-month gig at a collections facility. My boss was lovingly named, “Hellbeast” — wish someone had bought me beer when I left them for greener pastures!

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