Top HR Horror Stories (and How to Overcome Your HR Fears)

Morgane Lança
October 24 2022

Every HR professional has that nightmarish story to tell… But whether it’s about recruiting, onboarding or daily employee management, HR experiences can be intriguing, entertaining (and sources of HR memes), and, most importantly, enlightening!

In the spirit of Halloween, here are our Top HR Horror Stories (and quick tips to overcome them)!

1) Panicking Employees – and the Importance of Thorough Employee Management

This first story goes to show that onboarding training and good communication are a must to avoid daily struggles and misunderstandings:

In our early days, when we didn’t have nearly as stringent vetting processes as we do now, we had the occasional team member who would go offline/panic the moment they came across a challenge. This was particularly common with junior developers. They tended not to be upfront about not knowing how to do something and tried to cover it up instead of letting us know so we could loop in the right people. – Vito Peleg, Founder & Ceo of Atarim

While facing professional challenges can be motivating, it can also be quite stressful, especially for newer employees. Miscommunication on daily issues leads to panic and a lack of productivity, which can quickly damage an entire team’s performance. 

HR Horror Story indeed, but fear not: open communication with your employees, daily meetings and comprehensive management are ways to detect these productivity issues before they get out of hand. Helping new employees get used to their roles before taking on more challenging tasks also prevents them from panicking when faced with new challenges.

Check out our article to discover onboarding statistics that reveal how crucial onboarding training is!

2) Time off Gone Wrong – Why Vacation Planning Matters

Everyone needs their well-deserved vacation… But imagine the nightmare if every team member took their time off simultaneously! 

The common issue before we had strict policies around how taking time off works was that people would not give proper notice when taking time off, which ended up with multiple team members taking time off at the same time (when at least one needed to be around, etc.).Vito Peleg, Founder & Ceo of Atarim

The best way to prevent these HR horror stories is to use PTO management technology. With a vacation calendar and simplified request and validation processes, your employees will know their coworkers’ days off, and everyone will save precious time!

3) Managing Remote Employees Can Feel Like Swimming in Murky Waters

As remote working expands and transforms management practices, specific HR issues have arisen: 

Ever wonder if a remote employee was double-dipping? I’ve been hiring remotely since 2008, so what’s become a more common fear is something I’ve been looking out for for a long time. I once worked with an employee who never seemed to be “around”. He took a long time to reply to messages and sometimes blamed travel and a poor internet connection when he hadn’t given the rest of the team a heads-up that he would be travelling. He was always a bit difficult to pin down and never complied with requests to be more responsive. Finally, I asked him point-blank if he was working another job. He said he wasn’t, but I told him that whether he was or was not, he had managed to give everyone the impression that he was, which was reason enough to let him go. The really “spooky” part is that I never found out, and I will never know how many other jobs he was holding down. But I strongly suspect that he figured out the “hold three remote jobs at once” move long before it was trending on hacker news!Laura Roeder, Founder of CoachCompare

Fortunately, many great resources are there to support remote employee management, and monitoring techniques are evolving to follow the expansion of this trend. Here are some articles that will help you avoid experiencing your own remote HR horror stories: 

Remote employee management will never again be one of your greatest HR fears!

4) Recruiting Mistakes and Their Scary Consequences

Questions that haunt recruiters and managers at night: “Did I make the right decision by hiring this candidate? Have I rushed the whole process, or have I lost too much time? How will this impact my productivity?” Indeed, a bad hire can quickly lead to HR nightmares: 

My first HR nightmare was when I was in charge of the hiring process for a new position, and the candidate I chose was actually the wrong person. It wasn’t necessarily my fault—the interview process had been rushed, and I ended up being too hasty in my decision-making. I didn’t realize it until after we’d gone through all of the steps of hiring someone and were about to start training them.

It was a huge mistake that cost us months of productivity as we spent time trying to find someone who would be able to do the job better than our first choice. We eventually got it right, but not before losing tens of thousands of dollars in wasted time and resources.Gauri Manglik, CEO and Co-Founder of Instrumentl

Rushing the hiring process leads to mistakes that impact productivity and cost money. So why not use recruiting tools to help you make good choices while saving time?

5) HR Consultants Always Have the Best HR Stories

HR consultants undoubtedly have the most interesting (and spooky) stories to tell… 

We recently worked with a finance team that had huge HR nightmares. Managers were bullying and harassing their team and even screaming in the office. Their HR Business Partner took the side of the bad manager and blamed the staff rather than deal with it.

As an outside consultancy, we were brought in to help the organization overcome it. We did an external review, made recommendations, and ultimately the above manager no longer works for the business. Thankfully.Jo Taylor, Managing Director of Let’s Talk Talent

… And they are here to improve our HR practices, one step at a time! 

6) Spooky Candidates – And Even Scarier Recruiters!

Interviewing applicants is not always a walk in the park: 

I’m meeting with a candidate who is very confident – maybe too much. He is swinging on his chair, and I start to get scared that he might hurt himself. A few seconds later… BANG, he falls backwards and hits his head on the wall. “Sir, are you okay?” He answers after a few beats and gets back up, stunned and wounded in his pride. He was able to get back home on his own. Of course, I was very scared that he might be hurt and that he’d have to come out of the room in an ambulance… even more so considering that other candidates were waiting in the hall! – Maryse Ward, Senior HR Consultant at Go RH

Interviews can also be hellish on the “other side”… Raise your hand if you have ever had one of the most stressful experiences of your life during a job interview! Does your horror story beat this one? :

A friend of mine got to a job interview. There were NINE interviewers, and only one actually knew the position for which she applied… Definitely not a good first impression! 

These stories show that recruiters must also improve their practices and remember that job interviews don’t have to be dreadful.

Look on the bright side: every HR Horror Story has a silver lining and can lead to improvement of your HR practices. With useful resources and an efficient HR strategy, you can face any challenges that come your way. 

And you, what are your HR Horror Stories?

Want to avoid this type of HR Horror Story?

We have all the tips and tricks you need to improve your practices!


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