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HR Horror Stories: What’s the Absolute Worst Thing You Could Do on the Job?

Suzanne Lucas

When you're an HR person, for the first few years everything is interesting and sometimes shocking. The longer you're there the less shocking things become—because you've seen it before.

Someone's watching porn in the office? Yep, time for a firing and disinfecting, but this person wasn't the first and won't be the last.

Someone made a racial slur in the break room? Time for training and a possible firing, depending on the situation. But, sometimes, there are things that shock even the most hardened HR employees.

Here are some stories from real people about horrible things they've encountered in the workplace. In some cases, HR fixed the problem. In other's HR just made the situation worse.

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Cyber Attack; Accident Report

Disciplined for Reporting a Problem

Thomas (all names have been changed), discovered vulnerability in his company's cyber security. He fixed it and documented the fix. Another co-worker accused Thomas of hacking the system and causing the problem. As Thomas tried to explain what really went on, the boss proceeded to publicly rake him over the coals.

Thomas says, “That was the last time I reported a cyber vulnerability. I'm sorry to say, but it's better to have the company attacked and taken down than go through that again.”

Sleeping on the Job

Sleeping on the Job

Samantha worked at a hotel. Sometimes they had to turn away customers because rooms were marked as “unavailable/maintenance.” However, it wasn't that those rooms were actually in need of repairs—a supervisor would mark rooms unavailable when he wanted to sleep off a happy hour that had gone way too long. Once busted, the supervisor was fired.

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Called in Dead

Called in Dead

Chelsea's office received some devastating news—a coworker had been killed in a horrible skiing accident. Everyone was upset, but one lady was completely distraught—even though she had supposedly only met him a few times. Well, it turns out that the distraught lady was having an affair with the “dead” guy.

His wife found out and he figured that calling in dead was the best way to dump the mistress. He pretended to be his own wife and called himself in dead. One might imagine that after the wife found out that not only was her husband having an affair but was now unemployed, he might not need to fake being dead.

woman with a knife

Workplace Stabbing

Eric had one employee stab another with a piece of metal. After stabbing his co-worker, the employee ran out. They called the police who picked him up a couple blocks away.

The victim declined to press charges. The aggressor was fired.

Because it was a workplace incident, Eric's company had to pay for the victim's medical treatment through worker's compensation insurance.

Drinking at Work

Drinking on the Job

Alcohol while at work is a big no-no, but at Melissa's job it's even more critical—she's the HR manager for a day care. They discovered that while the infant room teacher was giving bottles to babies, she was hitting her own kind of bottle—hidden in Gatorade.

Nothing makes parents happier than a drunk day care teacher.

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Santa Arrested; Holiday Office Party

A Not-So Happy Holidays

Anthony was at the company Christmas party when the FBI showed up to arrest the IT director—for storing child pornography on the company servers. The company had a heck of a time getting their proprietary data off the hard drives that the FBI had seized.

Fortunately, the company recovered from this and the former IT director is serving a life sentence in prison.

 Threatening Phone Call

Terroristic Threats

Juan is ex-military and an ex-cop, so not much scares him, and hee wasn't worried when he fired an under performing sales rep. Unfortunately, the now ex-employee showed up drunk the next day and threatened to kill everyone.

Juan believed his threats to be credible and called the police. They had a safety plan in place and activated that immediately, which involved securing the facility and sending non-essential staff home.

The police, unfortunately, didn't want to take the threats seriously and saw them as someone just blowing off steam. After lot of pleading, they guy was arrested 5 hours later and given probation.

Boss Yelling at Employee

HR Failed in Their Duties

Jordan's boss was openly bitter that she wasn't yet a VP. However, she had skills that made the senior team think she was indispensable, even though she was abusive to staff.

When Jordan's work began to get praised by the C-level, her boss went ballistic and began yelling at her in the open office, purposely belittling and humiliating Jordan in meetings, and giving ridiculous assignments with impossible deadlines. Jordan started working 16-18 hour days and couldn't keep up with the demands.

Finally, she began filing complaints with HR. HR's response? Asked Jordan to resign.

What are the worst things you've seen at your office? Your Human Resources department should be immediately responsive to all of these things, but, unfortunately, like in Jordan or Mellissa's case, they can have messed up priorities. Bad behavior by anyone should not be tolerated.

Image Credit: Monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images
Suzanne Lucas Member
Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate HR where she hired, fired, managed the numbers and double-checked with the lawyers. She now writes about how to make your business a success and your employees happy. Send her an email at