September 27, 2016

Here are Some of the Strangest HR Requests Around

HR and Personnel are extremely rewarding departments to work in. There’s the pride of implementing new benefits packages, the demanding intricacy of dealing with grievances, and the championing of a safe and fair workplace. Then there’s the… stranger side: the weird queries and the bizarre requests.

These are the things that can make the job truly interesting. The type of things that make you want to shout ‘really?!’ from the rooftops – if only confidentiality wasn’t akin to your Hippocratic oath.

Well, to celebrate the launch of DPG’s Level 5 Online Programme, we thought it was about time we shared a few of the weirder wonders you’ve come across (anonymously, of course) as a chance to, well, vent some of the oddness. We asked our readers and followers over on the DPG Community to share some of the stranger things that employees have asked the HR department.
Check out what we found below:

1. Requesting a late start to get nails painted…

nail-request-large

Full marks for trying here but, unfortunately, health and beauty treatments are not normally the sort of thing that flexible working arrangements are made for. This request should probably be dealt with by stating that flexi-time isn’t for such occasions clearly and affably, and suggesting that a half-day of annual leave is one solution.

2. Asking to use spare budget on hair and makeup for the Christmas party…

hair-and-makeup-request

Again, we have to commend this employee for trying, but there’s little chance that this would wash with most companies. We spoke to Cathleen Snyder at Strategic HR about this request:

‘I’d say “Unfortunately, we’re not able to accommodate your request. This party is intended as a celebration of the past year for the company. It wouldn’t be appropriate to open it up for anything outside of that. Especially since we’re not able to do it for everyone. Perhaps you could come to the company event for a while, and then meet up with others after. We’d love to have you at the event”.’

3. Requesting expenses to cover a cat sitter…

cat-expenses

Depending on company policy and the individual’s position, this request may actually have a solution that satisfies both HR and the employee – although we don’t think there’s many companies out there that would allow this on the expenses account.

Instead, suggesting that the employee takes annual leave is the obvious solution, so we’d recommend starting there. If this isn’t an option and the employee’s position and workload allows it, arrangements could be made for the employee to work from home for a few hours a day.

4. Requesting a sick day after being up too late…

up-late-too-tired

Context is important here, as it might be that the employee is dealing with a bereavement in a way that is not immediately obvious, for example. Speak with the employee to find out as much as you can about the nature of the request.

If it turns out that they simply burnt the candle at both ends, there are a couple of things you could do. You could consider offering them an unpaid day off or, if your policies permit, you could allow them to come in a bit later in order to catch up on some sleep. Many companies, however, might see this as a lack of commitment.

5. Asking whether employees need to declare that they’ve been arrested…

convicted

This issue has to be dealt with carefully in order to avoid being accusatory as, whilst to some this may appear suspicious, it may actually simply be innocent curiosity. In this case, it’s best to outline the company’s policy clearly and suggest the opportunity for a private chat if there are any concerns.

In any case, these scenarios would require a different train of thought to your day-to-day activities. There’s a wealth of guidelines, legislation and advice out there to help with many of the requests and queries you’re likely to come across in HR, but sometimes you can’t fall back on this, and will need to approach the issue logically.

We spoke to Scott Agostini, a Director of HR, about the best way to deal with some of the ‘out there’ requests. He said:

‘It’s good to try to generate a two-way dialogue with the employee to make sure you understand the motivation behind the request. This is usually an area in which managers start making assumptions. Then, when you talk to the employee, make sure you tell them that you will be putting the request through some decision-making criteria.

  • ‘The first area that you consider with a request is the impact on your customer/client. Could there be any impact on their experience if we grant this request?
  • ‘After that you consider the effect on the business operations. Will there be a substantial negative impact on our ability to complete our objectives?
  • ‘Then finally you consider if granting this request is something that you can do for everyone in the company. Will this start a precedent that we can support as an organisation?
  • ‘With these three things considered – in addition to the ubiquitous, “are we required by law to grant this request?” – you can usually cover all of the potential objections that management might throw at you about granting a request OR you will have compelling reasons to give the employee about why the request could not be granted.’

Paul Drew, Managing Director at DPG continued:
‘Part of working in HR is taking the usual with the unusual. Dealing with weird and wonderful requests can be entertaining (and occasionally taxing), but maintaining a professional outlook is the most important factor.
‘It’s important to strike a balance between being open to out-of-the-ordinary requests and maintaining a level of standards. Sometimes, however, you might just have to disappoint the employee making the request.’

Would you know how to deal with these requests? What about the ones below? We’d love to hear your thoughts – as well as whether you’ve got any stories to share!

6. Asking to work from home – just to watch the tennis…

tennis-at-home

7. Requesting managerial visits to employee homes…

manager-home-visit

8. Asking how frequently drug tests are done – just after New Year’s…

drug-test