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Kate Palmer

Peninsula

HR Advice and Consultancy Director

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Dangerous HR liaisons: Threats, knives and throuples

There’s a common misconception that HR’s role is limited to hiring and firing, but there is so much more to it than that. And many of the situations that an HR professional finds themselves dealing with are things that you’d never consider, even in your wildest dreams.
brown coated monkey on branch: shocked by Dangerous HR liaisons

The unexpectedness is something I love about HR. 

No two days are the same. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, a situation comes up that still manages to surprise you. 

HR is so much more than just contracts and paperwork, but failure to get that right can leave your company exposed when something out of the ordinary happens.

The importance of HR

Not investing in a proper HR function can result in both financial and reputational damage. 

Nothing demonstrates the unpredictability of HR more than the top 10 weird and wackiest calls shared by the Peninsula Group.

These are all real calls, received by their advisors around the globe over the last 12 months. It really is all in a day’s work for HR!

1. Christmas party regrets

Topping the list at number one is the employer who received photos from the work Christmas party. The photos showed one of their managers with his genitals on top of another employee’s head. That employee was asleep. 

The employer wanted to know if they had to call the police or if they could simply fire the manager. 

The Christmas party poses a big risk for employers. Behaviour can quickly get out of hand when the festive spirit spills over. 

This case is a clear demonstration of what can go wrong, albeit an extreme example. 

Companies should take a zero-tolerance approach to any incidents of bullying, harassment, or – as in this case – sexually inappropriate behaviour.

The Christmas party poses a big risk for employers

2. Peeping Tom

In second place, we have the case of the peeping Tom. 

An employer was shocked to discover one of their male employees hiding in a cupboard in the female toilets, with a piece of string holding the door almost closed. 

The employee said that he was having his lunch in there. But it was the middle of the afternoon, and the company has a staff canteen. 

3. Working remotely … from jail?

As much as you think you may know your employees, our third placed call shows that this is not always the case. 

When an excellent employee with exemplary attendance asked to work early for personal reasons, their employer had no reason to be suspicious. 

However, when the employee failed to return to work and they had no contact from them over the next few weeks, alarm bells started ringing. 

They were shocked to see newspaper coverage showing that the employee had been sentenced to nine months in jail on the afternoon that they left work early. They called to see if they needed to keep the job open or if they could dismiss the employee while they were in jail. 

4. Anger issues

Our fourth most shocking call came from an employer seeking HR advice regarding an employee who had an ongoing issue with one of their employees getting extremely angry at work. 

They had been sent home a few times due to behavioural issues. The employer was at the point where they needed to let them go. 

However the employee had made several threats against both the employer and other employees, even bringing a knife to work one time, and they were concerned about how to do this safely. 

5. Don’t blame the kangaroo

Any employer who has a company fleet knows that accidents happen. All incidents need to be reported and accident reports filled out. 

One employer, however, discovered that employees had falsified the information in their incident report, blaming a kangaroo strike and even staging photos with fake kangaroo tracks to hide the fact that the two vehicles involved had collided with each other due to employee error.  

Any employer who has a company fleet knows that accidents happen

6. Dangerous case of mistaken identity

Employee safety is key, and there are safety measures that need to be in place when employees are working alone. 

An employer called to seek advice on this after discovering that one of their employees had a close call. 

They run a realty company and the employee had gone out to meet a new client. After being buzzed into the building, a man in the lobby greeted her and she followed him to his apartment. 

He started acting very strangely; the employee got a bad feeling and left, with the man in pursuit. She safely got into the lift where another man said he was in fact the client who had been coming down to let her in. 

7. No dogging on duty

In seventh place is the employer who called for advice after being contacted by a member of the public who had spotted one of their branded company vans at a well-known dogging spot. 

Not just that, but people were visible inside the vehicle partaking in lewd acts. Not only was this shocking for the employer, there was also the reputational damage from a clearly branded vehicle being linked to this kind of activity. 

Company vehicles should be used for working purposes only, so the employer was well within their rights to take back the vehicle and carry out an investigation to determine if the employee’s actions are grounds for dismissal.

Employee safety is key

8. Sorry for your loss

Written notice is a well-known requirement, but one employer was taken aback when one of their employees submitted their resignation in a sympathy card that said ‘Sorry for your loss’ on the front. 

They were unsure if this was an acceptable format and wanted advice on whether they had to accept this resignation or not…

9. Fight club

Another case of activities outside work impacting on the employer is in ninth place. 

An employer contacted us with concerns about what an employee was doing with the company car outside working hours, having heard rumours they may be a gang target. 

The employer met with the employee, who said there’s nothing to worry about as a time and place has already been arranged for them to fight each other. 

It really is all in a day’s work for HR.

10. Two timing at work

Completing the list at number 10 is the employer who had to deal with two of their employees who were in a relationship with the same person, who also worked at the company. 

There were a few incidents in the workplace, and IT found explicit photos on a company phone. The employer wanted to fire them all.

If you enjoyed this article, read: Five of the weirdest HR queries from around the world

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Kate Palmer

HR Advice and Consultancy Director

Read more from Kate Palmer
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