Open Door – The Non-Complaint

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.

THIS, you can share. From Woodstock, GA Streetfest, 2012

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.

6 Responses to Open Door – The Non-Complaint

  1. Weird…I’ve used that exact line many times over the years when a student has come in to get some things off his/her chest. You’d think we were related or something.

  2. Did exactly the same thing for one of my employees – took the ‘offending party’ for a coffee and carefully indicated that while things were not serious enough for formal warning at this point, if things didn’t stop then that was precisely where we were going…

  3. You made me smile. It took me MANY years and too many conversations before I learned the secret HR language that nobody listened to anyway. Thanks for sharing.

    On another note, I really like your topica, writing style, and sense of humor. Keep em coming!!

    • Thanks Dave, I’m glad you found the blog and took the time to comment. Hope all is well in your world. Great to hear from you!

  4. It’s great that there is always someone around for an employee to talk to, in confidence or not, someone that will take their words to heart and help in a way deemed best. It’s important to know that whether in an HR capacity or not, that the person is willing to step up and help in any way possible. Thank you for sharing! I enjoyed reading this post from your perspective.

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