My entry into HR was subtle. I was brought into a role as a technical trainer, and my team leader just kept stretching me. Giving me assignments that were not related to training. Assignments that required me to learn something new and think more broadly than I was used to at the time.
One aspect that I was not prepared for was the aspect that people, in some instances, see HR as who you go talk to – about anything. Part confessor, part best friend, the sounding board of choice.
As an introvert, I didn’t like that part. Not even a little. No sharing, please.
Then I learned the way to curb it, or so I thought.
Jolene came to my office one day and sat down across from me. “You got a minute?” she asked, ” because I gotta talk to somebody about this.” I had known Jolene well, and we were friends, so I thought this was just a “something’s on my mind” kind of drop-by.
“First”, she said, “you have to promise that this is between you and me. You can’t talk to Bob (the HR manager) about this.”
I quickly saw a way to curb the discussion, but I also knew it was too late. “Jolene, if you are about to tell me something about someone’s behavior or action they took, I can’t just advise you, I probably have to investigate it.” I knew that even if she decided not to share, I now had to at least get to the nature of her concern. Damn it.
“Well, Ricky knows that I was just divorced, and he keep asking me if I’m lonely at all, if there is anything he could do for me, and I know he means sex, I can tell.”
“Have you said anything to him, asked him to stop?” I knew Jolene, and I knew Ricky. She probably did, and he probably didn’t.
“I told him I wasn’t interested. Can you just give me an idea of how to get him to stop? I don’t want anyone involved and I don’t want him to know I went to you to ask for help. I don’t want to get him in trouble.”
“He’s not in trouble – yet,” I told her. But it’s out of your hands now. I have to talk with him. But don’t worry, it won’t happen again, and he won’t be in trouble.
The next day I spoke with Ricky, told him that Jolene’s personal life was hers and he needed to stop talking to her that way. Work only, nothing more. There would be nothing to worry about as long as it didn’t happen again. “And Ricky,” I cautioned, “Jolene didn’t put you here in my office, you did. Understand?” He did, and that chapter ended right then and there.
I keep trying the “If you tell me about certain things I am required to investigate them” line when someone comes to see me. They tell me anyway. I would get so much more HR work done if there were less people involved.