Category Archives: Customer Service

The Day HR Got Real – My Worst Day on the Job

I love Louisiana and, in particular, Baton Rouge. I love LSU even though our governor, Bobby Jindal, seems dead set on stripping all its funding and turning it into a Diesel Driving Academy with a football team. I gripe about mosquitoes the size of handbags and how I can’t walk outside my door in the summer without my hairdo going full-on Kotter in two seconds, but the music, the art, THE FOOD, and the culture all make up for that, especially our culture of collaboration. People here help each other and look out for one another.

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In that spirit, here are two blogs from other Baton Rouge HR gals that I’d like you to check out today in addition to mine. These ladies have helped me and taught me things. They have made me laugh on bad days and been happy with me on good ones. Their blogs are interesting and funny and educational. You’ll love ‘em. They’ve collaborated with me here on the #BRHRCarnival. Today we’ve talked about our worst day in HR. I think a counter-post about our best day will probably happen too. Mine revolves around turkeys, so there’s a teaser.

HR Schoolhouse by Robin Schooling and HR Tact by Christine Assaf

Also in the spirit of collaboration, Robin Schooling is attending the National SHRM Conference in Chicago soon. A kickball game has been organized with prominent social media personalities playing to raise money for Share Our Strength: No Kid Hungry. Robin will be representing Louisiana and we want her to raise lots of money! If you’d care to, please check out the link and sponsor her.

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Now, onto the blog. Thanks for sticking with me through the housekeeping!

The Worst Ever, No Good, Very Bad, Horrible, Awful Birthday

My worst moment in HR was Friday, June 20, 2008 around 3 p.m. How do I remember the exact date and time nearly 5 years later? For starters, I have an awesome memory. Also it was just a SUPERBLY terrible day — that just so happened to be my 29th birthday. The first one. The real one.

I had started work at this company on a Monday, and you can see here that my first day was pretty bad. The whole week was like that. In the past, I had done some HR assisting and payroll at a small organization with less than 300 employees. When we first took payroll in-house and I began doing it, it was a difficult transition that often took me a few days to process. After a few years I had made the process so efficient that I had streamlined myself right out of a job.

I started this new job with Huge Corporation X on a Monday. I didn’t get a computer till Tuesday. On Wednesday, I was given a huge stack of folders, each containing info for a field office around the nation and told to pay around 900 people with vastly different pay structures…some hourly, some exempt salary, some non-exempt salary, some with shift differentials, and some who were paid per project/visit. I did the best I could and had minimal help from others to make sure I wasn’t paying anyone millions of dollars, but for the most part – I was thrown to the wolves.

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On Friday, my birthday, the results of my wolf-toss would become clear. I was told that for an organization with around 15K employees, half of whom were paid one week and half the next and so on and so on, that payroll was never perfect and Fridays were more like working in a call-center where people would call to complain about their checks. Sometimes they would speak to their actual payroll processor, but we were also required to help others that we did not personally pay. Sometimes they had legit concerns and a visit or their OT had been left off. Sometimes they were just new and didn’t know how to read their statement. With all these pay structures, it wasn’t hard to sympathize with that.

This one lady, though, she was different. I can’t remember her name, so I’ll call her Susie. She was a branch manager in South Carolina. She was one of my 900 people. When I got to work that morning, I had a voicemail from Susie. Being an hour ahead of us, she’d already been in the office and was astounded and PISSED that her check had only been for $87. I called her back and tried to work out what happened but, not fully understanding the system, I mostly just sat there while she yelled at me. I told her I would move Heaven and Earth to try and help her. I got my boss — even she couldn’t figure out what had happened.

bigstock_Angry_Woman_in_Comic_Book_Styl_25804979Then more calls came in from other branch managers in South Carolina, and I noticed a few other people taking calls and looking at me. My 900 people were largely paid incorrectly (mostly little errors, but a few biggies, like Susie) and that was due to a lack of training. Susie and these branch managers, though, no one could figure out where I had gone wrong. She called repeatedly throughout the day alternately yelling and crying that her mortgage payment would be automatically withdrawn from her bank account in 2 days and she couldn’t believe this was happening. I was devastated and she was WELL BEYOND devastated. Eventually I discovered the problem. Susie was salary, non-exempt, and did not fill out her timesheet correctly. Huge Corporation X required all salaried employees to do a timesheet and automatically fill in 40 hours. Non-exempt employees, hourly or salary, filled it in exactly and were paid for overtime. Susie had received her overtime only.

When I told Susie this, she protested that she was not a salaried employee. She insisted she was hourly. Turns out the company had made her salary that same week and not told her, so she filled out an hourly timesheet that was overlooked by the computer because she was now a salaried employee. Not my fault, but that doesn’t matter to the woman in South Carolina weeping about her mortgage and utility bill. My heart was broken. We cut her a check and overnighted it and everything was ok but still, I felt her stress. I was going through some financial troubles of my own at the time and I sympathized with her and felt so guilty, even after I found out this wasn’t my fault.

The first week at a new job is mentally EXHAUSTING in the same way that driving a long distance is exhausting. Sure, you’re just sitting there, not digging ditches, but you’re tired when it’s over. You’re on alert and can’t relax, ever. Plus this place sucked. Plus I was super-PMS-ing and turning 29. I know it’s cliché but 29 and being a payroll specialist and having people screaming at me was NOT part of my life plan back when I was so bright-eyed and fresh-faced at a boarding school for gifted kids and going to be the world’s first supermodel/astronaut/vibrator-tester. My life was not supposed to turn out this way! We got Susie all squared away and then it all just hit me, all at once.

So then, I start to cry. Just little tears at the corners of my eyes, lump in my throat, biting my tongue to distract myself and not lose my shit completely. I’m doing ok. I WOULD HAVE BEEN TOTALLY FINE, but then the super sweet girl across from me notices and “Awwww…what’s wrong?” and I’m all “I’m fine. It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. I’m ok.” and thinking to myself that this is like when you’re nauseated…don’t make me open my mouth or I’m gonna lose all control. She goes and gets a supervisor. By the way, the ENTIRE DEPARTMENT was female. What do girls do when someone is crying? Huddle and focus and make it a million times worse, that’s what. I became an ugly, tear-stained, snotty and blubbery mess. “Everyone’s been *hiccup* screaming at me all day and *sniff* I don’t know what *sob* I did wrong and *hiccup* it’s my *hiccup* birthday and *sob* I just need *sniff* a minute. I’ll be ok.”

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giftedBy this time it was 3:30 and they let me go and clocked me out at 5. Thanks Huge Corporation X. Twenty something dollars totally makes up for a day of abuse that will haunt me forever. When I showed back up on Monday (my next mistake), everyone was all “We didn’t think you’d be back.” and I was all, “Me either.” and they had no idea how serious I was with that response. It was one of those moments when you summon all your personal strength and courage and persistence and apply it in the completely wrong direction.

I was, by no means, in charge of anything on the day HR became real for me. I didn’t even work in HR; I was in payroll. This wasn’t me firing someone or announcing layoffs. This wasn’t about giving bad news or any other ways in which HR can be terrible. This was when I learned that HR was a big deal — because when it’s done so blatantly wrong, it can really destroy a company’s image and an employee’s self-esteem. I learned on that day that EVERYTHING Huge Corporation X did was the total opposite from what I wanted to do in my career. The interviews, the hiring, orientations, training, everything was so glossy and pretty and sparkly on the outside and it was a box full of crap on the inside.

A transparent box inside a Tiffany box...that's the ideal.

A transparent box inside a Tiffany box…that’s the ideal.

HR is not about the bows on the package. It’s a transparent box. You might not like everything in the package at any job, but it’s clear and it’s straightforward and it’s not a pile of shit hidden in a Tiffany box, you know?

I called my mom that afternoon from the grocery store and told her how I had screwed over the entire state of South Carolina and countless others. It was kinda funny by that point, since I knew it wasn’t my fault. I’ll never forget. She asked, “Well, what are you gonna do the rest of the day?” and I answered, “I’m going to buy a frozen pizza, a key lime pie, go home, fall into a food coma, watch TV and go to bed.” That was exactly what I did and it was awesome. Not a huge birthday spectacular, but definitely the most memorable birthday of my whole life.

Would you like to share your HR horror stories in the comments? I’d love to read them and so would the others from #BRHRCarnival. Check out their blogs and them come back here and wallow in the comments!

Have a great weekend! Zumba on Monday at 7:30 — think happy thoughts for me! – HRGF

I’m a Big Ol’ Liar – Orientation Guest Post Instead

I know, I know.  I said “the Plan” would be coming out today BUT…

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a) The weekend got away from me and I haven’t written it yet.

b) My guest post was published!  I want to tweet about that and get that some notice first.  SmartRecruiters, and in particular Lexie Forman Ortiz (@LexieFO), took a chance letting me write for them AT ALL, let alone about a topic that isn’t about recruiting.  The least I can do is plug that as much as possible.

 

Here’s the link to the SmartRecruiters blog:

http://www.smartrecruiters.com/blog/5-tips-for-getting-new-employee-orientation-right/

Please enjoy.  ”The Plan” will be revealed later in the week.  Cross my heart!

Why I am 99% Against the Death Penalty

Because I wanted to kill a man.  I was pushed to that level and now I understand murder just a teeny bit more than I did before…and maybe some of those people on Death Row were pushed too.

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It all started a couple weeks ago with that (#*!&#)$_*( scanner!  Gah!  First I thought I had it plugged in wrong, then it froze a couple times, then I got everything working right…except the duplex scanning.  It would scan the front side, flip, scan half the backside, then turn into some cheap Salvador Dali impersonation and the paper, if it came out at all, was askew.  Most of the time it got stuck and I had to pull gently, but hard, in a wiggle back and forth motion to get the paper out.  And I did this about 11 times.  I fantasized about picking up this incredibly expensive piece of machinery and dropping it off the roof of the Ed Sullivan theater like Letterman used to do with stuff.  Instead, I called Hewlett-Packard.  The scanner, at this point, was 9 days old.  Mind you, I don’t feel like this was an issue with the scanner, per se.  I feel like something got bent in shipping and I just want it fixed.  Or replaced.  It’s not hard.

Like a million bouncy balls, I wanted to set the scanner free.

Like a million bouncy balls, I wanted to set the scanner free.

The first person I spoke to was Ambitesh, and he changed everything I thought I knew about myself.

My friends often say that everyone should be forced to be a waiter or waitress for a little while in their career to understand what it’s like to serve people.  I was a restaurant hostess, so I did my time there.  I’ve been told to fuck myself by a man wearing a Santa suit who arrived with his church group, party of 20, five minutes after calling to make their “reservation” and angry we couldn’t immediately seat them.  I’m good on taking crap from the restaurant industry.

I’ll take it a step further.  I think everyone should have to work in a call center.  I spent 6 weeks pretending to be “Jenny” and asking people if they might like to refinance their mortgage before the situation felt iffy and I quit.  I came home every night crying because the people were so rude, or they were desperate and really wanted my help but they lived in a trailer or an apartment and I couldn’t help them, or my boiler room boss didn’t think I’d gotten enough leads.  It is a truly horrible job and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  Now imagine you’re in a foreign country (or Omaha, or L.A…I really don’t know where Ambitesh was) and you speak with a very thick Indian accent.  It must be so crappy to be on the phone with idiots like me all day who make dumb mistakes with their computers and have to ask you to repeat things you’re saying all the time because they don’t understand either computers or your accent.  I feel for Ambitesh, I really do.

Telemarketing and tech support is hard, you guys.

Telemarketing and tech support is hard, you guys.

That being said, he’s an a$$hole and I wanted to kill him.  The first thing he did was sigh a whole bunch in that “I can’t believe I have to talk to this idiot” tone that set me off immediately.  Then he told me that the printer was top of the line and therefore it was impossible that it was broken.  Then, “This printer doesn’t even HAVE a duplex scanning function, Ma’am.”  Silence.  He goes to speak with manager.  “Like I said, you cannot duplex copy from this machine.”  I wasn’t trying to duplex copy, I was scanning.  “This machine doesn’t do that.”  Silence.  ”Manager” again.  “Oh yes it does.  Let me take over your desktop now to check some things.”  He did.  He checked nothing.  Then he got angry at me and told me to QUIT PRANK CALLING THEM AND WASTING THEIR TIME.  When I asked to speak with his manager, he pretended to go get someone who sounded exactly like him (faker!) and connected me to the “complaint department” which I’m pretty sure was just the phone off the hook in his cubicle while he went to lunch.

Something inside me changed that day.  In my mind’s eye, I saw myself taking his stupid Britney Spears headset, wrapping the cord around his throat and jamming the ear and mouth thingies into his eyeballs so I could wiggle them around inside his skull.  I was so pissed, and nearly ruining my boss’s 2008 tax documents in this debacle was not helping.  I called another number at Hewlett-Packard and I got Charles.  Speaking with Charles was when I realized how vile I had become.

My ideal murder weapon of choice.

My ideal murder weapon.

Charles said they could send another document feeder but first I’d have to go through 17 steps with him and prove it wasn’t software-related.  When I refused this on the basis that him altering 1′s and 0′s and electrons in my laptop wasn’t going to fix the bent piece in the document feeder, he got upset.  (To be fair, I was already upset so he was just catching up.)

At this point, I became the a$$hole.  I became Ambitesh.  I told him that I was very active on Facebook, had my own blog, and that I was a Twitter celebrity.  I said I would bash HP from then until doomsday if I didn’t get another effin’ document feeder ASAP.  In truth, I hate FB, I love my blog but it’s new and we’re still building a platform of readers, and I’m nowhere near a Twitter celebrity.  I have no idea why I said it.  I was just so angry that lies and spittle were ushered forth from the darkest depths of my soul.  Charles, if you’re reading this, I’m very sorry that I lied to you.  You were a prick and your solutions made no sense whatsoever.  I didn’t appreciate the runaround, but that was no excuse for me to impersonate Ashton Kutcher or Laurie Ruettimann or genuine Twitter celebs of any variety.  My bad.  Also, when I told you I had just gotten off the phone with an a$$hole in India (most likely), that was Ambitesh, and if this makes it into his performance review, I won’t cry.  That part was accurate.

I feel even worse about my deceit, naturally, now that I realize I have upset the tiny version of Harry Potter.

I feel even worse about my deceit, naturally, now that I realize I have upset the tiny version of Harry Potter. Maybe I could convince him Ambitesh killed his parents.

I had to go have a drink cool off a while after this – remove myself from the situation.  I decided that if Hewlett-Packard wouldn’t help me, I’d go to the source and call Amazon.  Amazon doesn’t have a phone number that I could find specifically related to returns, so I called some other department and got Victoria.  Oh Victoria.  She was sent to me by Jesus or Buddha or my shrink or something.  I was on a metaphorical ledge at that point and she talked me back down.  First off, she located the order even though it was my boss’s account and I had none of the required info.  We pieced it together.  She worked some magic and sent an email on our behalf to the 3rd party seller who should be getting back to us any day now.  Actually they’re a little late, but I’m not worried because Amazon is everything that HP is not.  They are willing to listen.  They are willing to help.  They don’t accuse you of prank calling and wasting their time when your $700 brand new piece of equipment that your boss purchased on your recommendation instead of buying herself an iPad turns out to be broken!

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I’ve calmed down now.  I no longer want to murder Ambitesh and I’m sorry that I had those thoughts, however fleeting, and possibly not serious.  But I do wonder just what lengths I could be pushed to under the right circumstances.  I don’t believe in the death penalty in most cases.  I think it’s swift justice for torturous crimes and it’s too good for people, mostly.  But also now because I wonder…were they on the phone with bad customer service when provoked beyond all limits of the human psyche?  Did they not have a Victoria to talk them down?  Hear me now world, if I’m on a jury, I will never convict anyone given those circumstances.

Though I will not kill him, if I do ever meet Ambitesh anywhere in this life, I will trip him.  In front of his kids.  And I will laugh and laugh.

Oh yes, that little bastard will be shamed in front of his spawn!

Oh yes, that little bastard will be shamed in front of his spawn!