HR rigged our company raffle

A reader writes:

Over the weekend, my fiancé’s company held their annual employee appreciation picnic. During the raffle, he witnessed something rather strange. One man would pull a name and show it to the HR secretary, and she would either nod or shake her head. If she nodded, the name was given to a woman from the QA department who would call it out. However, if the HR secretary shook her head, that name would be crumpled up and a new one would be drawn. My fiancé was able to witness all of this because he was standing in the front of the crowd around the prize table. And due to his location, he was able to hear as the QA woman would try to pronounce names before she would belt them out.

When they got down to the last prize, a grand prize of a 48″ LED television, he plainly heard the QA woman attempting to pronounce his name, which is distinct and difficult for most people to pronounce correctly, so he knew it was his name. But before she could figure it out, the head of HR picked a different name, and my fiancé’s slip was crumpled up and tossed aside and the new name was called out instead. At least three other people saw this happen.

Further confirmation came when he retrieved his name from the crumpled pile. He then took it to the HR head and told her that they had pulled his name, and she told him that she didn’t remember seeing it pulled and then immediately turned away from him. Then he tried to talk to the person who was calling the names and asked her why was his name crumpled up. She tried to tell him she didn’t know what he was talking about and then changed he story to saying that the names only count if the head of HR draws them. Mind you, the HR head rarely drew any of the winning names. They just picked and choose who would win in the raffle and pretended ignorance when confronted.

Usually you go to HR when you have a problem, but who do you do to when HR is the one who caused the problem? I want to see some action to fix this injustice, but my fiancé fears that if we attack them too hard he will have a target on his back until they find a way to fire him. We always suspected that they were cliquey and played favorites, but to take it to that level is so wrong I’m at a loss of words.

Well, first, this is 100% your fiancé’s decision to decide how to handle. It’s his job, he’s the one who knows the internal politics there, he’s the one who will have to live with any consequences of reporting something, and it’s up to him to decide how much he cares and how much he wants to push it (if at all).

As for the question of who you go to when your problem is with HR, people in HR have a boss. Usually there’s a head of HR who the HR staff reports to. If it’s a one-person HR department or if it’s the head of HR who’s the problem, then they report to someone like a VP of administration or a COO or the head of the organization. Additionally, if your company is large enough, it might have an ethics line that your fiancé can call to anonymously report this.

Whether to report it depends on factors that I don’t have access to — what the culprit’s boss is like, what your fiancé’s relationship is with that person, what kind of channels for communication the organization has set up (both formally and informally), what kind of standing your fiancé has versus the standing of the culprit, and how much your fiancé cares.

If he does decide to report it, “attacking hard” isn’t the way to do it. Calm and factual is the way to do it: “I observed Jane approving and rejecting names that were drawn during the raffle, with multiple names discarded on her disapproval. In addition to witnessing this, I found some of discarded names crumpled up, including my own, and I thought it was something I should report.” But that’s about all he can do — calmly report it and then leave it to someone else to handle (or potentially not handle — and he should prepare himself for the fact that he may never know what comes of it, because companies don’t usually publicize it when they discipline people). As crappy as this was of the HR person, it’s also low stakes enough that it will make your fiancé look off-kilter if he pursues it with the zeal of a special prosecutor.

But yeah, this HR person sounds like a loon.

{ 297 comments… read them below }

  1. A.*

    Wow. This is terrible, but if I were OP’s boyfriend, I’d probably just let it go. This is one of those ‘pick and choose your battles’ situations, and it’s just not worth it. Make a mental note of how crappy some of the people you work with are and just move on.

      1. fposte*

        If they had to pay for raffle tickets, their behavior is likely to be illegal in the US (and probably the UK, too).

        My guess is they didn’t have to pay, though, since it was an employee appreciation picnic and the OP didn’t mention paying.

        1. Jamie*

          Agreed if they paid it’s illegal to fix them – but I’ve never seen anyone have to pay for a company raffle so that never occurred to me.

              1. Laufey*

                That would be charity raffle though – the company (theoretically) doesn’t profit from the raffle. Still unethical, but I’m not certain it would be illegal.

                1. fposte*

                  I think once there’s money involved in a game of chance, the authorities are interested in what happens.

          1. Anonathon*

            In some places, paid raffles are actually overseen by the state lottery organization — even if they are held at small private events. So while it’s unlikely, there could be legal issues in play.

        2. UK Anon*

          Very possibly they didn’t pay – although I don’t think I’ve ever been to a free raffle *pout* – but I’d definitely class it as one of the ‘legally problematic but not worth pursuing legally’ matters, given the cost of a legal case!

          1. Jamie*

            Just for sport I looked up the definition of raffle (because I always thought we were using it wrong in my company), because I’m a word nerd and found this obscure definition:

            a jumble or tangle of nautical equipment

            Now I want to have a tangle of old boat lines and junk for our next raffle – so I can win a raffle in a raffle. And I am the only one here who would even get why that would be funny.

              1. Laufey*

                Can we please make this a thing?

                “Just remember to sort the trolls out from the rest of the raffle.”
                “Oh, the raffle’s gonna love this post.”

              2. LiteralGirl*

                Completely off topic – is your gravitar Moomin? I noticed it the other day and swooned a little.

              3. ella*

                I work in a library in a neighborhood that has a TON of kids; we have 12 schools in the immediate area (and 9 community pools) and it feels like all of them come to our place after school. And that’s not even counting the hordes of kids in diapers who come to story times. I started using the term “an insanity of children” as my collective noun after awhile.

                “Don’t try to shelve in picture books–there’s an insanity of children out there.”

            1. Loose Seal*

              Yarn Harlot (a knitting humorist — yes, that’s a thing) was talking about the boat they are restoring on her blog the other day and said, “Everything on the boat has a name you’ve never heard before- even though it had a perfectly good name before.”

              How do you think the conversation came about where the word raffle was used nautically? I mean, I’m always making up words that perfectly describe something to me, but I can never get them to catch on.

              1. NavyLT*

                Ah, obscure nautical terms. I wonder if “raffle” as we currently use it came from the other term, though, as in drawing tickets from a jumble.

              2. Gene*

                Takes me back to being a sailing instructor. Especially the difference between rope and line. And yes, everything has a name, and it’s different than what it’s called anywhere else, and it’s traditional, so just use it and know it for the test. When you get your own boat you can call the twing anything you want, but be aware that other sailors won’t know what the heck you are talking about because they learned the proper name for it.

                1. Mabel*

                  This sort of thing is fun! It’s like learning another language or a code. I learned to sail when I was a Girl Scout, and I think I remember that the “sheet” is the rope you pull or release to tighten/loosen the sail. This also makes me think of two others: (1) when I was studying for my MCSE (a hundred years ago), I noticed that the “printer” is the printing software, and the actual printer is the “printing device.” and (2) when I was a volunteer stage manager, I learned that the “lamp” is the actual light bulb or fixture.

                2. Mabel*

                  Oh, and last night I learned that “swung quavers” (UK) means to sing the quarter notes in a swing rhythm (US).

      2. Chriama*

        Yeah, it sounded like a company appreciation day where prize draws are just part of the activities. If there was any sort of fundraiser or employees purchased the tickets, that’s seriously unethical and would be worth pursuing.
        If the tickets were just given at the door, I think you can take it as evidence that this HR person is unethical and be careful in dealing with them in the future (e.g. save all conversations you have regarding benefits or company policy and don’t take anything confidential to them if you can avoid it — ESPECIALLY anything to do with interpersonal conflicts at work). Deciding to pursue the issue further would be dependent on how much power I had compared to the HR person and how safe I felt from retaliation

      3. Brett*

        If employees did not have to pay for the tickets, it still could fall under sweepstakes laws for that state, and rigging would still be illegal. More importantly, it might simple be illegal to have a game of chance with a prize of that value in the first place.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Yeah. As lame as this is, I personally wouldn’t consider it worth creating trouble at work over, especially if the team OP’s fiance actually works with day-to-day (as opposed to HR, with whom he probably interacts less often) has a good rapport.

      This HR person is super dumb, though. If you’re going to rig a raffle, aren’t there less obvious ways to do it?

      1. EngineerGirl*

        I hate to say it, but it may be too late with HR. An unethical person will do just about anything to prevent exposure. When you confront an unethical person they feel threatened. They know that you know, and that makes you The Enemy. The fiancée probably already has a target on his back just because they challenged what happened.
        It’s possible that the HR person was just stupid, but the fact that they involved others makes me worried that it is way more than stupid.

        1. Jennifer*

          I thought the same thing. It may already be too late, but he should definitely not pursue it. The prize isn’t worth his job and reputation being ruined over it.

        2. Jazzy Red*

          “It’s possible that the HR person was just stupid, but the fact that they involved others makes me worried that it is way more than stupid.”

          Exactly this. My former company was run by the owner, HR was run by his brother, Accounting & Bookkeeping by his sister, etc. Most of them were incompetent in their roles and all of them held grudges against employess who “crossed” them.

          The fiance needs to keep his head down, do his job well, and watch for signals that he should move on.

      2. Girasol*

        This. If the fiance speaks up, will it result in a fair and fun raffle at next year’s party, in which he will win the big prize? There would have to be a pretty big and certain payoff to make it worth teeing off HR. Otherwise maybe he’d do better to keep a firm hold on his job and then happen to be fresh out of cash when the raffle ticket sales come around next year.

        1. Ka'El*

          I’d have taken that as my cue to get the hell out of there, because if they can’t run a raffle ethically (anybody seen Father Ted and the car episode) then it makes you wonder what else is going on. In any case the 48″ tv from the abyss will probably blow a fuse shortly and cause a fire resulting in a law suit thereby closing the company and leaving everyone out of a job…

  2. some1*

    Gross. As I started reading I have was hoping the discarded names were of really high – up employees, but it doesn’t sound like it. And even then, the names shouldn’t be in the pot in the first place.

    But I definitely agree this is your husband’s fight. He knows the politics and culture better than any of us. I think we have all worked places where we would not feel comfortable pursuing this.

    1. Poohbear McGriddles*

      That was my thought at first, too – that maybe the prizes were not intended for senior managers or something. But then, why have their names in the hat in the first place?

      Probably the best thing is to just mention it to the HR person’s boss, noting that it didn’t look right (bonus points if you work in the word “optics”).

      Beyond that, there really isn’t much he can do. And the OP should do nothing, except maybe give him a shoulder to cry on when he’s watching football on his current TV and thinking about how much nicer the prize one would have been.

      1. louise*

        Well…if they hadn’t discarded previous names and continued to draw, they never would have gotten to the fiance’s name anyway. The only way he could have won was if they still screwed all those previous people, but didn’t discard his name, too.

        Not that that’s any consolation.

        1. JB*

          Oooo, that is a really good point. If the OP’s fiance somehow manages to convince them to give the prizes to the first names drawn, he’s not actually going to get that TV.

          If HR was doing something to make sure their favorites won prizes or something like that, that’s terribly unfair, and completely out of the spirit of employee appreciation. But I don’t think I’d make a big fuss about it because of how people are likely to hear it. It won’t come across as “this should be done totally above-board in away that avoids the appearance of impropriety because otherwise it hurts morale.” It will come across as “it’s unfair because I want a free tv and I’m entitled to it.” Just alerting them to possible rigging is probably going to sound fine, but making a big deal about how it turned out has the chance of hurting your reputation.

          1. Gina*

            If his name wouldn’t have been drawn first anyway and he pursues it, I’d think that would make his argument stronger, because he doesn’t stand to gain anything by it. Of course, since he doesn’t want to pursue it, that’s fine too, but that’s why things like this keep happening, because only a few people see it and they’re too afraid to say anything. I would never feel the same about working there.

        2. GrumpyBoss*

          What bugs me is where is the outrage for the others that got wronged? If OP’s fiancé didn’t lose out on a TV, would he be wanting to escalate within HR on behalf of these other victims?

          1. Cassie*

            If it were me, I would (well, I would want to – whether I felt my job was safe enough to speak up is a different question).

            Years ago when I was dancing with a regional ballet company, they had a raffle at the end of the performance for little kids (the prize was a princess tiara). Some of the other dancers thought it would be HILARIOUS for the boyfriend of one of the dancers to win the prize so they got the person drawing names to go along and sure enough, the boyfriend “won” the tiara and went up on stage to get the tiara and everything. I was disgusted – parents were paying for these raffle tickets, these little girls were hoping to win, and you pull a stunt like this? I was also disgusted with myself for not putting a stop to this when I overheard the plot – I should have told the company director or something.

      2. The Other Katie*

        My first thought as well. That maybe there was a mistake with the pool of employees, and managers & supervisors were the names that were being passed over. Something like that happened at my mom’s job once. She was drawn for a ski weekend vacation, and asked for that prize to be redrawn for someone else. But she also made that choice and was aware of what happened. At least the HR people should have explained what was going on, if that was the case. If they were just trying to get the prizes to their friends or people they liked, that’s disgusting.

    2. LQ*

      I had this happen once, I “rigged” a game and one name that shouldn’t have accidentally got in the pot. When it came up I quickly discarded it and called another. A couple people came up to me after extremely incensed and certain that I’d not called one of their names. The name I hadn’t called was my own. They were still furious after and even when I explained that all the people who’s names had been removed were mine and a couple members of my team who it seemed like a bad idea to let win because then people would flip out about the game being rigged they were still mad.

      I hate doing games because someone will always be a poor sport about it. Even when they odds are actually in their favor.

        1. JB*

          Me, too. People get really worked up about them, and no matter what you do, someone will feel it was unfair. I personally hate them because having to walk to the front of a large crowd, with all eyes on me, is the worst. I would rather not win just about anything to avoid that.

          1. Karowen*

            Wait until you slip and fall…while wearing a party dress…to claim a co-worker’s prize since the co-worker left early. That was not my finest moment.

            1. Karowen*

              (To clarify, the organizers were cool with people not being there for the drawing, and I was collecting the prize to pass on to the co-worker next business day. Not trying to do anything shady where the above scenario was karmic justice.)

            2. JB*

              Wow, suddenly just claiming the prize doesn’t seem so bad. :)

              But wait, never mind, now I’m worried this will happen to me.

        2. GrumpyBoss*

          The worst behavior I’ve seen from humans comes at raffles.

          I once watched a fist fight over a Rotary Club door prize drawing.

          1. Ethyl*

            You should have seen my team during our annual HAZWOPER refresher when the trainer thought it might be fun to play “Health and Safety Jeapordy.” There weren’t even any prizes!

            1. Jamie*

              Oh, trivia type games are brutal – I’ll go the mat over those.

              When I moved back to this state I had to take the written test to get a new driver’s license. I missed one question, because it was worded incorrectly. When turning it in I pointed it out, they didn’t care. I asked to speak to the manager. They didn’t care (meanwhile my husband was mortified and beyond annoyed that I’m delaying just getting the picture part done and out of there because I need to go on the record.)

              But it wasn’t just about the point for me, although it was, what about everyone else who will get it wrong and not know they were right all along. I was fighting for every man.

              The episode of TBBT where Sheldon goes to the DMV is one I cannot watch if he’s in the room because he mocks me all over again.

              It’s just so hard to let people be wrong.

              1. Gene*

                When I was taking my written test for my Balloon, Hot Air, With Onboard Heater pilot rating (which I never got because the check pilot didn’t turn in the paperwork before he died in a fire – but that’s another story), one question had no correct answer. I knew the answer they wanted, the area needed to launch a balloon is 100 feet square and the answer available was 100 square feet. I pointed out to the FAA Examiner that there was no correct answer listed; he didn’t take it well. I gave the answer they wanted and later submitted the error the the FAA. I heard it was changed.

                1. Loose Seal*

                  Um, I feel like an idiot who failed math because I *am* an idiot who failed math but what’s the difference between 100 feet square and 100 square feet?

                2. TychaBrahe*

                  100 times.

                  OK, but seriously….

                  100 square feet has two sides, x and y, which multiply to 100. It might be 50 ft by 2 ft, 20 ft by 5 ft, or 10 ft by 10 ft. There are infinite possibilities.

                  100 feet square is a square where all four sides are 100 feet long. It’s actually 10,000 square feet, so 100 times 100 square feet.

                3. phxchic*

                  For Loose Seal: 100 feet square is 100ft x 100ft, or 10000 sq feet, IIUC.
                  100 sq ft is 10 ft x 10ft.

                4. Nancie*

                  @Loose Seal:

                  One term means 100 feet x 100 feet (= 10,000), the other means 10 feet x 10 feet (= 100.) I think that’s 100 feet square and 100 square feet respectively, but I’m not positive. I’m good with numbers, but terminology always trips me up.

                  (Love the name, btw.)

                5. Jamie*

                  100 foot square would be 100′ w x 100′ h = 10,000 square feet.

                  100 square feet is a 10′ w x 10′ h = 100 square feet.

                  Unless balloon math works different than regular math, in which case I have no idea. I’m afraid of heights and fire so this whole thread is making me twitchy. :)

                6. Loose Seal*

                  Wow, thanks for all the responses. That *does* seem like a big deal and I’m glad the FAA changed it after you pointed it out to them.

                  Now, can someone come over here to the house and figure out how much mulch I need …

                7. Kas*

                  A similar story with a better outcome:
                  I had to renew an internal certification at work – it involved reading the material they wanted you to revise, and then sitting an open-book multi-choice test. You could also repeat the test a few times if you wanted to improve your mark.

                  One of the questions had no correct answer as far as I could see, even after reviewing the relevant sections of the material multiple times and answering the problem question a couple of different ways. My final mark was good enough to pass, but just under 100% correct; I wanted to get 100%, but I had other stuff to get on with so I eventually shrugged, turned my answers in and moved on to the next item on my to-do list.

                  A few days later I (and my boss) got an email from the certification people saying that they had found that one of the questions was incorrect (possibly because everyone was getting that one question wrong in an otherwise straightforward test!), and they were giving everyone credit for that one no matter what their answer. So I ended up with full marks!

              2. Enid*

                I had a similar reaction when I was taking a remote course in accounting from a local community college. They made it virtually impossible to even see how you were graded on the online exams; you were just given a final score, with no way to review the questions or answers or which ones you missed, unless you drove to their office in the middle of the day on a weekday (because obviously the audience for online courses should be expected to have the flexibility to do that). When I had finally gone to a great deal of trouble to confirm that the computer had in fact graded me incorrectly, the professor’s response was “I’ll give you the points for that question.” No acknowledgement that there might be a bigger problem with an automated system giving incorrect grades. It made (makes) me so mad.

        3. Cassie*

          I don’t like raffles either – I think it’s just the whole uncertainty of everything that I don’t like. Sitting there wondering if my name will get pulled, wondering what kind of prize I’ll get, looking wistfully at the person who won an iPod and getting stuck with some promotional t-shirt that’s like size 3XL. I also don’t like white elephant gift exchanges for this reason too.

          1. Dmented Kitty*

            *snort* I won three coffee makers in three different raffles (read: white elephant, Bad Santa, and a company raffle) all in one season (it was company Christmas & year-end celebrations). I did NOT need any coffee maker that time and no one wanted to trade with me either.

            At least it’s better than the one person who won a piece of cheap, oversalted Christmas ham.

      1. Anna*

        I appreciate you being willing to take your name out. I worked at a place where the organizers (one in particular) always seemed to win the really sweet prize. I don’t think she cheated or rigged it, but it did feel a little off-putting when the awesome winery tour for two would come up and she’d pull the ticket and “Oh, how embarrassing! It’s me!”

        1. LQ*

          Yeah, I thought back later that if I’d been wiser I’d have made a joke about this person not being allowed to win and then showing that it was my name and pulling the next. Just discarding it right away made it look suspicious. But I really had thought I’d gotten all the tickets with my name out so I wasn’t ready and I’m not good on the spot.

        2. chewbecca*

          For the past several years, one of vendors has gifted our company 3 gift cards ranging from $25 – $100 for a drawing we do around the holidays. The past two years, the $100 card went to a member of our leadership staff (last year, I think all 3 went to leadership).

          Our company doesn’t do employee appreciation and most of the gifts in our holiday drawing are from vendors – therefore mostly just popcorn or candy. Those of us that knew what happened took a morale hit.

          1. Mabel*

            Why do employers do this? Are they stupid, oblivious, or what? Or do they just not care about employee morale?

        3. AB*

          For organizers, I think it really depends. Having been an admin, we tend to do a lot (often all) of the organizing for these types of events. Not only do we have to go to the events (whether we want to or not), we generally do not get to participate or have fun at them because we’re working to make sure everyone else can and frequently have to be there beforehand to set up and stay afterwards to clean up. If we didn’t at least get to have our name in the hat for drawings every once in a while, we’d never get to participate in these events at all. I had to deal with an employee once that was absolutely incensed that I had won an office contest. The contest was a blind contest, entries were judged by a panel who didn’t know who submitted what. Since I was the one that sent round the emails and created the flyers, the employee felt it “unfair” that I should win the $25 gift card and the boss decided that, from then on, admin staff could not participate in any office contest or drawing.

          1. Vera*

            Right on! Every year at my company’s holiday party, I feel awful for the employees working the registration table or photo booth. I think they get “volun-told” for the honor of doing it.

        4. James M*

          I’m quite sure she palmed the ticket with her own name and “drew” it for the grand prize. Palming objects is a Highly Useful Skill that’s great fun at company events, even if you’re not drawing raffle tickets.

    3. JB*

      I thought that, too. Names of higher-ups could have been left in because HR thought it was ok for them to win some of the smaller prizes, but they didn’t want them winning big prizes. And . . . I kind of agree with that. If the point of the prizes is employee appreciation, then it seems counterproductive to let the higher ups win, when they already have more privileges and bigger paychecks–yes, and more responsibilities, but also more of an ability to buy those kinds of things out of pocket.

      That said, there’s not enough information in the letter for me to know what happened.

      1. some1*

        But if the fiance’s name was discarded for a good reason (he’s too high up, he won the grand prize last year, or he’s not in good standing as HR Mgr suggested below), you’d think the HR person would have just said that instead of playing dumb.

        1. fposte*

          I agree, but the way they handled this was so stupid regardless I wouldn’t be hugely surprised to find out they handled a reasonable triage stupidly.

      2. Anon for this*

        That’s how we’d handle prizes for employee giving campaigns at Old Job. Everyone who donated was automatically entered and we used a random number generator to pick winners, but it just didn’t seem fair for VPs to win big prizes when they already get great perks, so they never did. We also did a little tweaking to make sure only local people won local prizes (so someone living in Cleveland didn’t win local soccer team tickets or something) and that we had at least a little distribution across business divisions, functions, geography, etc.
        To be fair though, as we’d pick, we would say, “Okay, for this prize, the next non-HQ person who doesn’t work in X division wins.” And just keep picking till someone fit the bill.
        If we’d just gone with who we picked the first time it would likely have all been people at the Director or VP level at HQ, mostly because those people were most likely to donate. And then there would have been backlash over the winners and it “wouldn’t have been fair.” Sigh.

    4. Joline*

      I had hoped that the raffle prizes were for people that were still there and that the discarded names were people who didn’t bother to show up or left early.

    5. Karowen*

      Ditto – I know we’ve had letters here before about executives always winning the big prizes and how they should graciously decline; I was hoping that the HR person’s story was that the prizes went to people who were lower on the totem pole. Given how they reacted when confronted, though, it seems like that isn’t the case here.

    6. GenericGen*

      Yeah, this happened to me at a job 20 years ago. At the Christmas party, they handed out gifts for employees. They did this later in the evening, when people had had a few drinks. The names were already assigned to the gifts so at least we didn’t witness a poor sleight-of-hand like the OP. HR called your name and you went up to get your present, which was unwrapped. Of course, the sweet CD/boombox, DVD/VCR and other exceptionally nice items went to upper management-types and the lower level stuff went to the peons.

      What they didn’t count on was the gifts were given out randomly and people started heckling upper management when they went to get their swag, so the big wigs stops accepting the nice gifts. I felt bad for them but it was so obvious what was going on.

  3. Kai*

    This is pretty bad, but for a raffle, it’s not high stakes enough that I’d want to do anything about it. The only concern I’d have is that it might be indicative of what else this HR person could be doing that would more seriously affect people. If she’s selecting certain people to win raffles–and playing dumb about it–what else could she be doing? Eeek.

    1. Anna*

      I had the same thought. This in and of itself is annoying but not a big deal. However, it might indicate she has flexible ethics in other areas.

  4. Jamie*

    Am I the only one thinking there are much easier ways to rig a raffle that don’t telegraph to everyone what’s going on?

    My first guess would be the yay or nay would be based on who is there, like if you had to be present to attend and HR had a list of who was there…but still – you do that by only having the names of people present in the hat.

    We do a holiday raffle each year and I know how seriously some people take these things, it was shocking the first time I saw people actually getting upset. And there was no rigging – everyone gets something but the prizes have a range of value so people either want their name called early for best selection or dead last as that’s the grand prize. I never care because I always grab something little like a coffee mug or box of candy or whatever. I don’t think it looks right when management or even non-management but more highly paid employees grab the big ticket items. It bothers me.

    (I’ve also taken my name out entirely so they don’t notice I skipped out of the party early to go back to my office, shhhhh, that’s my gift to my introverted and misophonic self.)

    To the OP – Alison is right – there is nothing to be done except reporting it if he wants to do that. Fwiw I hate when my husband gives me advice about what I should do about X situation at work when it’s delicate and he’s not the one who knows what the fallout will be. What I should do in a perfect world and what makes sense to do in the world I actually live in are sometimes two different things.

    1. louise*

      The ideal raffle prize for me? A get out of jail free card that I can cash in to avoid the next group gathering, repercussion-free.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        If you were going to rig a raffle, then all the pieces of paper in the hat should be blank, then the HR person gives out the names of their choosing.

        This situation really does sound off.

        1. Ezri*

          That was my thought – why would you pick and choose while you’re calling the names? It’s just a weird thing to do, and the whole ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’ defense makes it seem like *something* was up.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            If they had straight forward reasons, they would have said so. Their reasons are not above board, that is why they cannot say.

      2. AVP*

        “In Corporate Life, one day you’re in and the next day you’re out. But whoever wins this next raffle will get IMMUNITY in our next round of layoff’s. Have fun!”

    2. hildi*

      “Am I the only one thinking there are much easier ways to rig a raffle that don’t telegraph to everyone what’s going on?”

      Yeah, I found it pretty bold of them to do it while everyone was standing around watching?? That combined with the HR’s reaction to blatantly deny is the height of arrogance, IMO.

    3. Elkay*

      Am I the only one thinking there are much easier ways to rig a raffle that don’t telegraph to everyone what’s going on?

      You’re not the only one. I’ve been at rigged raffles before (all the winners were on the MD’s table) so in that respect it was obvious but it wasn’t obvious from the drawing of the raffle. I was just about to comment that their only real crime here was how badly they managed the rigging!

    4. Apollo Warbucks*

      What I should do in a perfect world and what makes sense to do in the world I actually live in are sometimes two different things.

      I really like the way you put that.

    5. Anonymous*

      It’s really nice that you don’t grab for a big prize, especially since you’re not automatically rich just because you’re management. We had a Christmas party every year when I worked at a grocery store where there would be a table full of gift cards and when your number got called, you could go up and pick from whatever was left on the table. It would really bother us hourly peons when the full-time managers would get called early and go pick the $200 or $100 cards. It’s one of those tiny things that gets stored up as overall morale.

      1. Jamie*

        Absolutely – and you’re right, totally not rich by any definition. I think it looks bad when people do it, but frankly even if you could do it anonymously I wouldn’t feel right. A $200 gift card would be great and sure come in handy at Christmas. But is it going to significantly change what I can do for my kids at Christmas? Can it make a big difference to someone making $9 an hour with a couple of kids? I really don’t know how people do that and don’t feel weird about it.

      2. Another comment on the situation*

        My mother was a hospital administrator at a religiously affiliated hospital. The nuns would sell raffle tickets every so often to raise money for various causes. My mom would always buy $100 or more worth of dollar tickets which pretty much insured that she would win something each time they had a raffle. Each nun that asked her to buy tickets from was told yes and my mom would buy tickets from that nun and she got an reputation as an easy touch. Other employees would buy a few tickets or perhaps $20 dollars worth of tickets. Then the nuns told her that she needed to stop accepting the gifts that her name had been drawn for because other people were getting upset because their names were not being drawn. She then offered to not buy any tickets from then on but the nuns thought she should still keep buying tickets. I did not think that was fair and neither did my mother. She thought that the nuns should let people know that she was buying loads of tickets, not just a few at a time if anyone wanted to complain.

        I still have a tv that she won in the early 80’s that still works, because you know, it was blessed by god since it was won in the raffle :lol

        1. Jamie*

          That’s shocking to me that the nun’s wouldn’t have used it as the exact selling point you mentioned…

          Well sure, Peggy is winning loads, she buys lots of tickets, you should buy more than her and increase your odds.

  5. Smilingswan*

    OP- this sucks, and I’d be pissed too. However, I agree with Alison, this may not be the hill your boyfriend wants to die on. Is a TV worth his job? Probably not. This may be a good reason for him to start job searching though, since they are this unethical in public, god only knows what kind of shenanigans are going on behind closed doors. I’m willing to bet raises and promotions are also biased there.

    1. JMegan*

      I agree with all of this. It’s ridiculously unethical behaviour, but also not worth making an issue about in a work context. Your BF might want to be careful about any future work-related dealings with HR, and opt out of non-work-related ones, including the raffle, from now on. But other than that I don’t think there’s much he can do.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yeah, that was my thought. It’s not about the raffle itself to me, it’s about the fact that HR/management has shown itself to be so unethical. Add to that the OP’s statement that the fiancé “always suspected that they were cliquey and played favorites” and you have what sounds like a lousy place to work.

  6. kos*

    My first thought while reading this is that it’s racial discrimination. If she was only choosing people whose names she could pronounce, then it seems entirely possible that she was only accepting the most “American” names. For that alone, I would bring it to the attention of a higher-up in HR.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I think that’s a big stretch.

      Depending on how big the company is it could just be people she likes or not.

    2. Jamie*

      She didn’t mention that the other crumpled names were all difficult to pronounce. And I’m American and most people who don’t know me can never pronounce mine either, even if they were all difficult to pronounce it doesn’t mean it was racially or ethnically motivated.

      Thinking about it I work with 8-9 people who are American and have much harder to pronounce names than a lot of immigrants.

      OP – if you’re reading I hope you chime in. Was there a pattern to the names discarded – either protected class wise or maybe position? Is it possible they were just stupid and didn’t remove people from higher ranking positions from the hat, but the raffle was for more junior employees? Just curious.

      1. OP*

        He spoke the the HR head yesterday, she said that the names that were tossed without being read was because some of the attendees wrote their names on multiple pieces of paper and placed them in the pot, and they were eliminating the cheaters.
        However, I too worked for this company briefly a few years ago, and I can tell you they are cliquey and if you are not jiving with them they hate you and will look for reasons to fire you.

        1. Mike B.*

          That explanation doesn’t make any sort of sense. How would they know if anyone had made multiple entries unless they (a) went through all the entries in advance, yet left in the duplicates, or (b) pulled individual names multiple times (even though your fiancé was only almost-called once, and they needed to check with the HR person every time)?

          It’s certainly not worth pursuing further, but it’s appalling that they did this so openly and didn’t even have a plausible excuse. And HR of all departments should be aware of what this kind of thing does to employee morale, not to mention the potential liability if someone tries to make the case that the rigging was done in a discriminatory way.

          1. Liane*

            Some HR people–like some people in other departments–just don’t care about morale. I was a temp at a company where HR &/or their bosses didn’t. There were a couple of us contract employees in the QA Lab, working as lab techs. The other tech won a fire extinguisher as an onsite health fair door prize. Someone from HR was sent to the lab to take it back because she wasn’t a permanent employee. At least, they didn’t say so at the drawing in front of everyone!
            This company also gave out turkeys at Thanksgiving to each permanent employee. When a couple of them asked if it was okay to give their birds to the contract people they were told in no uncertain terms that they could either take the turkey home or leave it to be donated, in the company’s name I am sure. And it was strongly implied that these thoughtful folks better not get caught handing off their bird to someone else.
            And it wasn’t just us temps whose morale dropped. Most of the permanent employees who knew about these incidents were unhappy that their employer was being so petty over one fire extinguisher & no more than half a dozen frozen turkeys.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          So they felt your husband was cheating????

          And if he picked up most of the tossed tickets, then he would see the same names multiple times.

          Not meaning to throw fuel on the fire, but I guess I did. It goes to showing the type of ethics inside the company is what I think.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I was thinking the same thing when I read the article. If they were discriminating then this is a big, BIG issue. Well, they were obviously discriminating in some way, but it depends on if they were discriminating against gender, race, or religion.
      But this would be easy enough to prove by looking at the winners.
      I really hope this isn’t the case, because it would mean a completely out-of-control HR department.

    4. EngineerGirl*

      No one can pronounce my family name. We’ve been in the US since the 1630’s. We’re (mostly) white (1 drop failure). And have you ever seen a Polish name? No vowels. None.

        1. James M*

          The French took all of Poland’s vowels during the crusades. The surplus vowels were mixed into most french words, e.g. ‘oeuf’ and ‘queue’.

      1. De (Germany)*

        The most stereotypical Polish last name I know (Kowalski) has three vowels out of eight letters. Many of the common ones end in “ski” or “cyk” (y is pronounced the same as i in that case) or “ak”. This really confuses me, where does that “no vowels” thing come from?

        1. Jamie*

          It’s not no vowels – that’s just hyperbole, but many of our surnames have fewer vowels than we’re used to in English.

          My maiden name has enough vowels to not be weird in English (but everyone gets it wrong anyway) but my married name they took out 2 Z’s to Americanize it when they came here because otherwise people just stare in befuddlement.

          And ftr BRZ is pronounced with a kind of J sound with a hint of SH in there. Yeah – it’s tough.

          So it’s not so much that we lack vowels over all, but we have a lot of consonants together in combinations that native English speakers need to shove a vowel in there to pronounce.

          Went to a polish genealogical website for an example since I don’t want to use any from my Christmas card list – here’s one…WAWRZYNIAK

          Not to often in English will you fine WRZYN together without a vowel. I know “sometimes Y” but that’s not much help. :)

        2. Jamie*

          Meant to add – Kowalski translates to Smith – super common which is why it’s so stereotypical and used as the generic in a lot of fiction when they want to indicate someone is of Polish descent.

          My personal theory on Polish names is that when people see a ski on the end and it has more than 5 letters a lot don’t even bother to try – just say the first letter, mumble the middle, and hit the ski hard. My married name, since they dropped all the z’s a couple of generations ago, is absolutely pronounced just like it’s spelled. Sound out all three syllables and you’re good. My maiden name, you’re not going to get it right even though it looks as easy, because the pronunciation on two vowels could go either way. But you could come close – few do. You wouldn’t believe how both of them get butchered where they are unrecognizable.

          We don’t leave our last name on waiting lists in restaurants – first names only or we’ll never know when we’re being called.

          It’s sad actually because it still bothers me because I wanted to hyphenate when I got married but it just would have been a form of self harm to go through life spelling all that multiple times – and no one would pronounce it. I’d be forever known as “that one over there.”

          My mother’s Irish maiden name – so simple and easy to say if not spell…but the original Gaelic has 14 letters, 6 vowels.

    5. OhNo*

      That was actually my first thought, especially because the OP mentioned someone practicing saying the names before announcing them. If they were picking the names based on “pronouncability”, that would really rub me the wrong way and I would definitely recommend putting it to the higher-ups.

      1. Jennifer*

        I have had people mess up my last name. I had a professor do it for months. To this day I think they should revoke his PHD. It a simple name like Anderson. WTH? How does a US born and raised English professor not know how to pronounce that?

  7. hildi*

    I agree with the advice. It’s so hard to be someone tangentially affected by the one directly affected. You want justice on his behalf, dammit! I get it -so hard to sit back and not act, because it’s really his battle and his decision on what to do.

    I wonder about the man drawing the names – was he an HR employee or was he more a peer of your fiance? If your fiance feels comfortable with it, I’d consider asking the guy that was doing the drawing what was up. In that way Alison advocates – just kind of a casual, curious, “hey, so did my eyes deceive me? It looked like you were told to crumple up some names that you drew?” I don’t know about that wording, but that’s the angle I could see myself trying. I’d be curious what that guy said about what was happening up there. I do like what some1 was thinking above – maybe they wer chucking all of the high-paid manager’s names in favor of the peons. :) But, if your fiance does happen to be a manager….it might be good form to graciously bow out of this battle and move on.

  8. HR Manager*

    For corporate awards/prizes, names are often run by HR to make sure the employee was in good standing, so I don’t find that unusual. But this would never be done so publicly — that is just inane! And the way it was handled, hard to say if that was the criteria she was using.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      “names are often run by HR to make sure the employee was in good standing, ”

      Yes, we do this too. But it’s usually for performance-based awards. When we submit an award nomination they have to get vetted through HR to make sure everyone is in good standing.

    2. Helka*

      Yeah, it’s the doing it publicly, on the fly that is so bizarre.

      I mean, sure, if they want to vet the names that have been submitted, tbh it seems like just going through and picking out names of folks who aren’t eligible to win (employees in bad standing, senior management, etc) before the drawing is held would be the way to go. That still poses a bit of a potential ethical problem, but it’s at least less blatant and crazy.

    3. sunny-dee*

      Yes, but that wouldn’t apply to a raffle, right? You usually have to buy into a raffle, so it has nothing to do with performance, or even attendance.

      My dad works at a mine in the Arctic Circle. They have a yearly raffle at Christmas, with some pretty big prizes. Because only a third of the workers are on-site at any given time, you don’t have to be there to win. And, since you buy tickets, everyone can participate. My dad is the lab supervisor, and he’s won some nice prizes in the past, like a breadmaker and a Wii. I think upper management stays out, but it’s a really open thing.

      If it were rigged, people would riot. It is a seriously big deal.

      1. JB*

        Maybe this wasn’t a real raffle, just door prizes, and they just called it a raffle? We have had drawings, whatever you want to call them, at most of my jobs, and at meetings of professional associations. I’ve never had to buy a ticket, they just give one to everyone who attends. Occasionally, I see it referred to as a raffle even though attendees aren’t paying.

        1. sunny-dee*

          They do raffles for fun! That’s why it’s such a big deal. ;) Because they’re on a compound, events like that take on a huge meaning.

          I don’t want to hijack the thread, but I’ll post something on an open thread later. I’m already typing it up!

        2. Iain Clarke*

          I have in-law relatives who spend 99% of their lives in the Arctic circle – that’s where there family comes from. (not the right town, but look up Kiruna). My mother in-law has a cottage she inherited up there, and we’ve been for midsummer. It’s quite a drive from down near Stockholm, but that’s all.

          It is odd when it’s actually 11pm, but feels like 4pm if you rely on external evidence. It’s also hard to get up in the morning when there’s no dawn to start things off…

          I’ve yet to go in winter though – maybe Christmas next year!

      2. annie*

        I would love to read an interview with your dad about his job – Alison maybe this could be the next in that series?

        1. sunny-dee*

          Oh, actually that would be cool! I think he’d be flattered. For some detail, he’s the assay lab supervisor and chemist for the largest zinc mine in the world. My email is in the post (can you see it?), and I can set that up, if you think it’d be interesting, Alison. And if not, that’s okay, too. :)

    4. Juli G.*

      A guy at my company won a prize in a drawing. The organizer came by to excitedly inform him as he was cleaning out his office.

      As a positive note, people were much less petty about drawings going forward.

  9. PEBCAK*

    I’m the only one here who *might* not be outraged. Is your fiance a higher-up at the company? If the raffle was passing over higher-ups in order to award prizes to non-higher-ups, that would be totally acceptable, IMO, and I have actually seen it done before (though they did it in a MUCH more subtle manner).

    1. Jamie*

      Totally agree with them being excluded from this kind of thing, but it still falls on the idiot who put their names in to begin with.

      They need a control procedure for the processing and distribution of raffle prizes. And it needs to be authorized. And audited.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        I recently “won” a raffle at work and my name was passed over to the next one because I was too senior. I 100% did not care because I was going to tell the person drawing to move onto the next name.
        Afterwards, I asked why out names were there in the first place. This was one of those raffles where you put your ticket into the pile for a specific prize. HR said that when people see the management put tickets in, they are more willing to participate. I don’t know if I agree with that logic, but it was a good enough explanation for me.

    2. Gina*

      It would be really odd not to just say upfront that certain classes of employee can’t participate (most especially if this is a paying raffle so they don’t waste their money, and for her to deny it afterward. I wouldnt be outraged at them doing that, it’s just not likely based on her behvior.

      1. JB*

        True, but, as I mentioned elsewhere, I’ve been at events where they let higher-ups win small prizes, so maybe they left them in for that? Or they didn’t think this through and didn’t think about the possibility of higher-ups winning until after they started drawing names.

      2. fposte*

        And then when you draw names you openly say “Managers and higher are excluded, so if their names turn up, we’re going on to the next.”

          1. fposte*

            I think that a transparency failure on a reasonable policy is actually likelier here than a favoritism scam, because of how crudely it was done.

            1. Jamie*

              That’s my gut feeling. Not because they sound inherently ethical, but because if you’re going to rig it a 5 year old could come up with a savvier way to do it.

              1. Sarahnova*

                Yeah, that was my guess. And I am frequently in favour of calling out injustices and crappy behaviour at work, but I am inclined to let this one lie, regardless. Everyone’s entitled to certain things at work – a safe environment, respect, timely pay – but nobody’s entitled to win a free TV, and a key part of the OP’s feeling does seem to be that her fiance *should* have won the TV. He’s not actually lost anything at this point.

                Don’t get me wrong, it’s either crappy and unethical in a really unpleasant way, or a very badly-handled approach to rewarding more junior people. But I would keep my response to a) job-hunting and b) if appropriate, mildly observing that this seemed an odd way to handle it and is probably not good for morale.

    3. Ezri*

      I think there are several several reasons that some employees may have been ineligible for prizes. But the company messed up whether the reasoning was legit or not. If it was, they chose a method that looks incredibly shady; if it wasn’t, they made it obvious they were rigging the contest. Either way, someone was clearly in charge of the committee for poor decisions at this event.

    4. AnonyMouse*

      Yeah, I actually think it’s inappropriate for higher-ups to be in the running for the big prizes, but presumably if the OP’s fiancé was excluded for this reason, they would have told him when he asked about it. The scenario as described sounds really sketchy, and I totally agree with people saying there are easier and less suspicious ways to rig a raffle if you’re determined to be that unethical! That said, also sadly agreeing that there may not be much he can do.

  10. Labratnomore*

    I agree with Alison that this may not be something to make a big deal about, but I would certainly be looking for a job at a more ethical company!

    1. Mike B.*

      Eh, maybe. Minor misbehavior in HR doesn’t necessarily make for an unpleasant workplace, or cause serious problems. Of course, if you started having trouble with your own department, you’d know that HR could not be relied upon for any assistance.

    1. A.*

      When my job does any type of raffle, we use the numbered ticket kind. I agree this would easily eliminate any potential issues or controversy.

      1. ggg*

        Yes, our company does that too. I give away my tickets because it doesn’t seem right for managers to win things.

      2. Gina*

        We had it where not only the ticket was numbered, but you pulled it out of a box. I don’t know if this was why, but it would prevent someone giving out the tickets from making note of whehter someone they don’t like got a certain #.

    2. OP*

      They used to use the number ones, but they claim that takes too long. They don’t hold the prizes, they call out 2-3 time and move on to the next. I’m not sure why they think numbers are so much longer then names, no mater how you tell them it doesn’t have to be they don’t hear it.

  11. Anonymous*

    I don’t know that I’d make a big fuss about this particular incident, crappy thought it may be. But I’d certainly start paying closer attention to how HR conducts its business in general and start documenting other incidents that seem odd or off. A former boss used to say with regard to behavior issues “once in an incident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern”. If this is part of pattern of bad behavior, then you need to report it.

    1. Colette*

      If this is a normal way of doing business in this company, and if it’s truly unethical (as opposed to being a poorly explained policy or misunderstanding), I don’t think documentation will help. One attempt to bring it to the attention of someone over the head of the people involved would be reasonable, but what are you going to do with a list of incidents? The only practical thing you can do if this kind of thing is OK in this environment is get a new job – and you don’t need a list for that.

  12. Confused*

    It isn’t clear who was doing what in this scenario. The OP started off by stating “one man” (not identified by title)!pulled the names, showed the name to the HR Secretary, who apparently decided if the name was to receive the item or not. Then the ‘approved name’ was called out by yet a third person (QA). So, three separate employees were apparently co-conspirators in this sham draw? And the HR Head he complained to about his concern then feigned having no knowledge of this occuring?

    Not knowing the politics/culture of the organization it isn’t realistic to suggest what the employee *should* do. I guess my question would be whether this type of activity is endemic in the organization?

  13. GrumpyBoss*

    This is as clear a case of “move on” that I can think of (unless the raffle cost money). He’s already pointed it out to multiple people, which is further than he probably should have taken. If you think you’re going to shame these people into reversing the decision, I doubt it’ll happen. Most likely, he’ll be branded as a whiner, a poor sport, and any other number of adjectives that are unfair. You cannot reason with unreasonable people and these people seem pretty unreasonable.

    This sucks – I get it. But it is most likely a really lousy TV that was donated or got on clearance from Walmart. Maybe it was an upgrade for him, but it shouldn’t be valued higher than how you are perceived at work.

    Life isn’t fair sometimes.

      1. fposte*

        Though there’s also the principle of deciding whether this is worth your time. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the OP’s fiance mentioning to somebody higher in in HR, but I also don’t think that letting it go is a bad decision. If HR does do something, it’s not likely to be anything visible to most of the employees, so I doubt there will be dramatic vindication no matter what the fiancé does.

      2. GrumpyBoss*

        Was he willing to take a stand on principle when other names besides his were being tossed out?

        Yes, it sucks. He called it out, he dismissed them, it’s time to move on. His effort is better spent on deciding if this is a company he wishes to remain at (I wouldn’t).

        1. Gina*

          Well, it’s not like he could have said anything until it was over either way. Plus it’s the kind of thing where unless it affects you you aren’t sure if you have the right to say anything. Surely if he hd written in here to say he saw people’s names being tossed out but not his own, everyone would say he needed to mind his own business if it doesn’t affect him.

          If it was me I wouldn’t say anything because I know my own company wouldn’t care. But you said since he was dismissed he needs to move on…he was dismissed by the people who did it. If complaints never went any further up than the person being complained about, how would anything get resolved?

      3. AnonyMouse*

        I agree that it’s unethical if they were truly rigging the raffle, but unfortunately OP’s fiancé does need to consider the likelihood of anything being done if he brings it up against how much damage it could do to his reputation at work. And yes, rigging a raffle is unethical and wrong, but given the stakes, I can see how someone who might be willing to speak up and risk their job after observing a more serious violation (something criminal, dangerous, discriminatory against women/people of colour/other protected classes etc.) would choose to keep quiet now after trying to confront them about it in the moment and getting shut down.

  14. Luisana*

    I’m surprised so many people are saying to just let it go. For me, it’s not even about the prize, it’s about the principle of the matter, especially if there is the potential issue of racial discrimination because the name is from a ‘ethnic’ for want of a better phrase background.

    1. some1*

      Hard to pronounce name =/= ethnic. And the LW is annoyed enough that I feel like s/he would have mentioned if the fiance is a minority and all the winners and people doing the drawing were white.

      1. Anonsie*

        It seems worth pointing out that white/not white isn’t the only possible way one can discriminate on ethnic lines.

        1. some1*

          Absolutely. I still stand by my point that I have a hard time believing the LW would leave out any detail pointing towards discrimination.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      First – none of that is in the letter. There’s no indication that there was any discrimination based on ethnicity.

      Second – even if there was, for workplace discrimination there has to be an adverse action (based on membership in a protected class). It would be a stretch to say that not getting a raffle prize = adverse employment action.

    3. AnonyMouse*

      If it seemed like there was racial discrimination at play, that would be a very serious issue. But I find it kind of hard to believe that someone determined to run a racist raffle would handle it so obviously…couldn’t you just leave those names out, or make a statement about having to exclude management beforehand so there was some plausible reason why certain names were getting tossed, or something else not visible to everyone present? On the other hand, racism is so ridiculously irrational that it wouldn’t surprise me at all to hear about a racist with a bad plan.

      1. Gina*

        I think it’s unlikely in most cases anyone sets out to always exclude a certain group, it’s just that they set things up so only the people they like get nice things or promotions, and they unconsciously don’t like most people in a particular group. In their mind they’re not being racist or sexist, it just happens that they very rarely like a person of a certain race or gender.

        1. AnonyMouse*

          That’s a good point, and definitely one I find frustrating a lot with possible instances of discrimination – a lack of obvious intent makes it much harder to prove. The OP didn’t say anything about race/gender in the letter, but if it does seem like it could have been a factor, that would definitely put a point in the “say something” column.

      2. Anonsie*


        On the other hand, if they really did do it because they wanted names that were easy to pronounce (vs the fiance being management or somesuch, as others have supposed) I feel like that merits saying something because that’s just such… Lame behavior, under any circumstances.

    4. Colette*

      You can’t pay bills with principles. Principles won’t give you a good reference. And frankly, since the employee in question believes that he would have won a big prize except for whatever sketchy behavior was happening, he hardly comes across as unbiased.

      He can fight this if he wants, but he has to be willing to accept the consequences, which may include harm to his reputation with his employer and his peers.

  15. De Minimis*

    I’ve seen a lot of ugliness over these type of things…last year we had an employee appreciation thing with different events and prizes. We had employees get upset because some of the same people kept winning the prizes [it was the same event being played multiple times, so the person won the first time and but continued to play the subsequent rounds and won at least two more prizes.]

    It was literally a cake walk, but was surprisingly violent…more like roller derby.

      1. Xay*

        Cake walks are the pettiest of games. I’ve seen adults almost come to blows over them (at an elementary school event, which was strange).

    1. Jamie*

      It’s amazing how petty people can get over these “morale boosting” activities.

      At one company cookout someone was loudly complaining that “they” knew she hates this time of hot dog bun (no I’m not kidding) and “they” don’t care. I can’t even get my husband to remember that I hate pork after 10 years of shared meals, and a company is supposed to keep track of someone’s displeasure with choice of hot dog bun from Costco?

      And how would “they” know, you ask? Because the year before this employee had made sure to tell one of the owners of the company that they didn’t like that brand.

      Some people will find a way to be offended about anything.

      1. De Minimis*

        We didn’t have an employee appreciation event this year, I wonder if maybe people just decided it wasn’t worth all the headache.

        1. Jamie*

          I like Miss Manners advice on how to appreciate employees, when asked about how to reward employees with a holiday party: (Paraphrasing) Not everyone will enjoy a company party, but the two things all employees enjoy is time off with pay or extra money.

          Although I am jaded enough to learn some people will always complain. I told this story here before, but I worked somewhere where after a very good year all employees got an extra 1K at the holiday party. This was in addition to their merit bonuses, it was clearly stated that it was a gift and everyone from the CFO to the guy who was on his way out for poor performance, to the new employee who had been hired mere days before got the same amount.

          I heard multiple people complaining that it was only 1K and with what the company made it should have been more and why did so and so get as much as them, etc. Wtf – a gift people. Save the bitching if you have issues with your salary or even merit bonus – but it was one of those moments where I feel like I kind of lost my innocence as a manager. It is true that for some people no matter what you do it will never be good enough.

          (But the people who were grateful restored my faith in humanity. And I will never forget the look on the face of the woman who had started mere days before after being unemployed for some time…an extra grand right before Christmas might not be life changing money overall, but it was life changing at that moment for her.)

          1. hildi*

            In the end, to maintain sanity, I suppose a person just has to continue to think, “We’re doing it for the people like the new hire.” But I loved that phrase “lost your innocence as a mananger”

      2. Liane*

        Oh, yes. I call these “People who’d jump all over you for giving them a million dollars–because it wasn’t 2 million.”
        See a lot of them in Customer Service some days, if you can believe that. ;)

        1. Liane*

          PS @ Jamie. A wonderful story, just reading it improved my day, which wasn’t a bad one to begin with, & is now better.

  16. Allison*

    Even if certain employees were ineligible for certain prizes, I wonder if HR should have communicated that beforehand. Most high-level executives know they won’t be winning any big-screen TVs, and it might not have been terrible to say “the top drawing(s) this year will only be awarded to an employee in good standing who has been with the company for at least X months.” And if they can’t be transparent about the eligibility, they really should just use numbered tickets and let the chips fall where they may. Rigging a raffle, even for arguably good reasons, can look really bad if people don’t know what’s going on. Do they really want rumors and conspiracy theories floating around?

    1. OP*

      Based on what happened when he tried to talk the HR head, she doesn’t care if rumors fly around.
      Rumors, and hearsay is the fuel for this company. I briefly worked there myself, and this event is just one very small example of the day to day drama and clique behaviors all the way to the top of management.

      1. Colette*

        So if you know there is drama and cliquey behaviors, what do you expect the outcome of repeatedly complaining will be?

        If you’re expecting anything other than “drama” or “being excluded by the clique”, you’re probably going to be disappointed. This is apparently how this place operates. Your fiance can accept that or find a new job. There’s not likely to be any sort of vindication or recognition that they’re doing something wrong.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Yep, this is what I figured. If he stays the drama is only going to get worse. They keep pushing the envelop. That is what they do.

  17. OP*

    I am honored my question made it here, it was a shot in the dark to try and get some feed back, and I’m more shocked how many people want to add their 2 cents. ^^ Thank you all for any and all comments.
    Some additional info;
    My fiancé’ did try to talk to the head of HR yesterday. He recorded their conversation with his smart phone so I could hear exactly what she had to say. Sadly it was a l0t of nothing. She would not let him talk, cutting him off every time he tried to speak, her answers to most of his questions were that she didn’t know, little to do about it now, and frequent tangents about other problems that happened at the picnic unrelated to to the matter he was trying to discuss. One of the many times she cut him off she said that the names that were tossed without being read was because some of the attendees wrote their names on multiple pieces of paper and placed them in the pot, and they were eliminating the cheaters. She lamented that every time they have these things something goes wrong, she can’t be expected to fix everything, and no one is ever happy about the event.
    My head is a jumbled mess today. It’s not so much that he wants a free TV, but more that he feels she owes him an apology. If she could just admit that it should have been handled better, cause it’s more about the principle and saving employee morale then the money. Maybe I’m just an idealist, but I feel that if you messed up, no matter your level of authority, you should admit to it and apologize.

    1. fposte*

      Okay, he’s not going to get an apology from this person, and he, and even more you, because this isn’t your job, need to let that go. He’s reporting so that people with authority can deal with it, not because he wants a face-off satisfaction.

      But I’m really alarmed by this recording thing. Did he do this without telling her? He is seriously asking for trouble there, in that it may be illegal and it can certainly get him fired even if it isn’t.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      “I’m more shocked how many people want to add their 2 cents.”

      Ha, you must be new here :)

      Now, for this:

      “He recorded their conversation with his smart phone so I could hear exactly what she had to say. Sadly it was a l0t of nothing. ”

      Noooo. You are over-involved in his work life, which can have implications for both his career and your relationship. You don’t need him to play you what happened – he’s a grown man who can do this on his own. And depending on what state they live in, he could be in legal trouble for recording this conversation. Also, what if he’d been caught?

      ” If she could just admit that it should have been handled better, cause it’s more about the principle and saving employee morale then the money. Maybe I’m just an idealist, but I feel that if you messed up, no matter your level of authority, you should admit to it and apologize.”

      Yeah….that’s not how it works. It’s nice, but people also often think that it opens them up to liability if they do so. If you/he expect an apology, you’re wasting your time and energy.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          OK…but even if legal I can’t imagine it going well if they realized he was recording it. If I knew one of my employees was recording a conversation I would assume they were trying to sue me or something.

          1. Jamie*

            This. Even if legal there is no faster way to get the troublemaker target on your back. And it’s creepy.

            If people do this it should be for major things, safety or health violations, severe and pervasive illegal acts which are so harmful to the employees that one is willing to risk their jobs over trying to do the right thing.

          2. some1*

            And I would assume someone repeatedly complaining about not winning an expensive prize needs money and could be more likely to sue.

          3. fposte*

            I’m guessing the motive, in addition to sharing with the OP, was that he could take the recording elsewhere if the HR person admitted anything. But if you’re sharing it with higher-ups, people are still likely to be more blown away by the secretly recording thing than by the questionable raffle practices. And nobody else is likely to care much.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes — if it comes out that he was recording, that’s going to be at least as much of a focus as the raffle thing. People are going to seriously question his judgment.

        2. some1*

          It sounds like his motive for recording it was so you can listen, though. Legal or not, it’s shady to record someone for the express purpose of playing it for other people.

    3. EngineerGirl*

      Time to look for a new job. HR doesn’t care about ethics and is working hard to cover it up. Run!

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        I agree with this.

        There will be no apology, no prize, no remedy whatsoever. The HR boss and raffle scammers suck and they won’t change. I can only imagine how the lack of ethics is playing out in their actual HR jobs….

      2. CoffeeLover*

        Maybe I’ve had some bad luck, but everywhere I’ve worked, HR has been the worst example of management and ethics. Always preaching, but never actually doing. At my last place, I had a friend that was entry HR and the things she would tell me! Favoritism galore.

        I might also be a little biased because HR put up huge, unnecessary and uncooperative road blocks that made my job way harder than it needed to be.

    4. some1*

      “He recorded their conversation with his smart phone so I could hear exactly what she had to say”

      Why exactly are you entitled to hear what she had to say? You don’t work there and she owes you exactly nothing.

    5. Jamie*

      Recording her? Are you kidding? As fposte and Katie just mentioned, depending on where you are that’s a crime. It is in my state.

      Even if not illegal – recording work so he could play it for his fiancee? He risked his job doing that. Even in states where it’s legal without the consent of all parties it’s a quick way to get on the short list to get shoved out the door. If the issue were so egregious and it was legal in your area before you take measures that extreme you have to weigh whether it’s worth the risk. This doesn’t rise to that by any standard I can imagine – at least for me.

      I agree with Katie – you are way too enmeshed in his work. There is a difference between sharing workplace stuff (good and bad) with a partner, everyone does that, and this level of collecting evidence and collaboration.

      And the apology isn’t going to happen. I agree with you that it’s nice when people are wrong that they apologize. I do it when I feel I was wrong, but that’s not how it works in the workplace a lot of the time. Sure, if my husband or kids hurt me I’d like them to apologize, but it only means something when they are truly sorry. I have people apologize to me every day for stuff and for the repeat offenders I smile and tell them I don’t want an apology – I just want them to stop doing whatever they are sorry for doing. (Or start doing whatever they are sorry for not doing, as is the case all day today.)

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Why do it then?

          This really seems like a disproportionate response to me. And I kind of think you lost the moral high ground when he decided to go all Law and Order on HR.

          1. some1*

            Thank you! What exactly were you hoping would happen here? That she’d admit screw ups happened and people would be let go? That you would get a TV? People who just want an apology don’t make secret recordings

          2. AdAgencyChick*

            Agree. HR sucks, but OP just lost my sympathy, especially with the “well, no one knows about it so it’s fine” attitude in the replies. If no one had noticed the raffle rigging, would it have been okay?

          3. Jamie*

            I’m curious too, and I hope you don’t think we’re piling on – because honestly, these responses (at least mine) are due to being shocked at the nonchalance with which you mentioned the taping.

            It’s like if we saw someone running toward the street and yell that a bus is coming. Even if they had already stopped and were okay, it would be weird if they were really casual about almost getting hit by a bus.

            It’s good for any one reading also, who might thing this is a good idea, to know the kind of response it would get from management in many cases.

            But I am curious as to why he was taping her if not just for your benefit? Was it to get her to admit to something and force the issue? Because in some instances, when legal and admissible, that can help in court…but it will never work to mediate a matter internally.

        2. Traveler*

          So why else record it? I can understand if this was something more harmful – suspected discrimination or harassment, etc. That would make sense to me for him to be risking his job over, but a raffle gone bad? Even if we assume the worst, that they were being cliquey and only wanted to give prizes to the people they liked – well its shady, but probably not lawsuit worthy (correct me if I’m wrong employment experts, please). If he got fired for the recording or pushes this far enough that they decide to fire him, do you realize how hard that would be to explain in future interviews when the subject comes up? How the references might turn future employers sour?

          If he (and you) are this angry about the situation there, I highly suggest that he starts a job search. The person that is going to get hurt in this won’t be the company – it will be your fiance, and in the end I don’t know if you will think its worth it.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I think the OP and the fiancé may be ramping each other up on this, especially since it’s also the OP’s old workplace, which she clearly detests. OP, maybe it’s time for you to be the person to help your fiancé walk back from this rather than escalate it.

            1. Jamie*

              It’s funny, but I when I realized I was complaining too much about work at home I took steps to cut way back and it’s done so much for my peace of mind and overall happiness I can’t tell you. Not that I don’t still get bothered by things, but I don’t allow myself to marinate in the active resentment for long periods of time.

              But I’ve found now when something is really bothering me, I may mention it in passing to my husband but I don’t go into detail or dwell. Because when it’s something that’s really a raw nerve him going on about how unfair X is or how Y doesn’t appreciate it…and his wildly overinflated opinion of my worth in the workforce and ease with which he thinks I can get something else is not based on anything close to reality…so while I appreciate the sentiment, it makes it worse.

              Because it validates how crappy I feel about work right now, and having to keep telling him there aren’t 19 million other jobs just stagnant until I decide to show up and let them pay me makes me feel trapped.

              Just saying it’s good to address things, but it’s also okay to leave work at work if it’s going to make it harder to bear.

              1. Kai*

                I completely agree. It can be nice to commiserate with my guy and be told that I’m awesome and the people I work with are obviously all terrible monsters, but if I let myself feed off that it can really affect my attitude at work.

                1. Traveler*

                  I’ve had this experience at well. In fact there were times where instead of being focused on how I could resolve the situation it became a “Wait til they hear this one!” This blog (and the commenters here) were really eye opening for me.

            2. Dmented Kitty*

              I wanted to say the exact same thing. Maybe OP is just a little too invested in this kerfuffle because she has worked in this same company for a short while and already personally detests the work ethics. So I understand why she wanted to support her fiancee’s cause. To me, personally, I’d rather step back (it’s hard when you’ve already emotionally invested on it), and maybe either think of plans to handle future possible shadiness of HR, or just look for a new job altogether.

          2. OP*

            He did suspect they were playing favorites when he started to record, it was before he knew some people had put their name in multiple times.
            And I said I wanted the apology for him, I hate when people can’t admit they messed up, that’s all my thing.
            Please note all of this is only my side, and I have the facts I do cause he told me, I didn’t twist his arm for them. Furthermore I am purposefully leaving his feelings out cause I can not defend them in a blog forum setting. I do not know them well enough, as they are not mine.

            1. Chriama*

              I know you want the apology for him, but it doesn’t sound like these people “messed up”. It sounds like it was a deliberate choice to determine the raffle prize winners. The recording was a little problematic, but I understand why you did it and I don’t think it’s a huge deal overall.

              I’ve heard people tell stories about recording customer service calls with Comcast as a way to force them to honor policies when they’re tempted to give you the runaround. However, this isn’t one of those scenarios. If he’d taken the recording to anyone inside the company OR had been caught while recording, it would destroy his reputation — other commenters have explained why. However, it sounds like he just wanted to have the conversation recording for his own recall (and to share with you, his fiance), so I’m letting it go with a recommendation to NOT secretly record people in the future unless people’s lives depend on it and/or it’s something you’re prepared to lose your job over.

            2. hildi*

              OP – I feel for you. I wish you weren’t getting the crap kicked out of you because as overinvolved as your head and heart is in this situation, I can recognize you as someone else that does what I do. I’ve been there in your shoes before. So, I don’t think the recording thing is as sinister as some here might see it as. I agree it might not help him if someone found out because of how iffy recording anything is these days; but I can see how the idea formed. When I and/or my husband has been tormented by some perceived injustice we feel we have suffered, there is such a strong desire to ruminate, dwell, and talk with the person you are closest to. You talk about it and the more you do, the more the worse the situation seems. Then you try to address it and that doesn’t work. That fuels more desperation to right the wrong and that leads us to making decisions that objectively aren’t really helping us (but that seemed like a good idea). I don’t know how to help you move on, but I agree that it’s at a point you must do that. I don’t think it’s so bad that you are this concerned about your how your fiance is feeling about this – what affects him affects you. But if you begin to act on his behalf, that’s the trouble. I don’t really see any evidence you’ve done that, though?? So I disagree with the others that we’re at the point we should be freaking out on you for how you feel about this. Anyway. What I’ve learned in my short 33 years is that truly there are no solutions to horrible people sometimes. And if you’re an idealist, it’s really hard to wrap your mind around the reality that the scales are not always balanced. Good luck :)

              1. Katie the Fed*

                I get the idealism part – I’m an INFP on the MBTI, which is pretty much the perfect description of tilting at windmills.

                But as an idealist you do have to learn which battles to fight, because people get weary of constant outrage. Deciding which ones to fight is hard – but as Kenny Loggins would say, you’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.

                1. Jamie*

                  I think you mean Rogers.

                  Kenny Loggins would say…”I’m allllrigght….aint no body worried ’bout me…”

                2. Traveler*

                  Yes! I think this, and the “know which hill to die on” bit need to become the new mottos for this website.

                3. hildi*

                  And NFPs(I’m a ENFP) don’t have time to be bothered with details regarding which singer Kenny said what. LOL! That whole thread made me laugh out loud. HAHA. I’d totally do the same thing.

                  Plus, I agree with Katie – if you are young and this is one of the first times you’ve encountere something like this you’ll likely have to learn the hard way that what we think should happen isn’t likely. People and situations will disappoint and we can’t have a hand in everything.

                4. Katie the Fed*

                  Dammit! Yes, Kenny Rogers.

                  Now I’m going to go take the highway to the danger zone, if you’ll excuse me.

                5. hildi*

                  And actually, this point bears being pointed out again (because Kenny Roger Loggins stole your thunder there): “….because people get weary of constant outrage.” Amen to that. It’s wearying for others to be sure, but I have to say that it takes a toll on the rager. It’s not healthy in the long run to be caught up in exacting justice – been there, done that with the in-laws. Doesn’t work.

                6. Fact & Fiction*

                  Jamie – I adore your posts so often – you just made me srsly lol re: Kenny Loggins, though the soundtrack in my head right now is actually “Highway to the Danger Zone!”

              2. OP*

                Thank you, I knew not to take much of what I would get here to heart, internet comment sections eventually devolve into flaming. So I focused on the helpful comments and appreciate the ones that understand.
                You are right I have done no actions other then send an E-mail to this wonderful blog, and the anonymous comments here. I wanted others advise and that exactly what I got.

                1. Zillah*

                  I don’t think anyone is “flaming” you. People may be a bit harsh, but I don’t see personal attacks or judgments about unrelated issues.

              3. Traveler*

                I’m not trying to “kick the crap” out of OP – I’m trying to raise very real questions for her about the potential for this situation to go bad if they continue to pursue it. The “its not just me he recorded it for” made me think there was potential for this to be shared with other employees or people who could possibly report back to HR and endanger OP’s fiance’s job.

                OP’s fiance, and even OP to some degree, has the right to be upset that their company is behaving unethically if that’s the case (though if it was truly to circumvent suspected cheaters their hearts might have been in the right place). I’m not trying to deny them that feeling or “freak out” on them. I’m just trying to warn against things like conversation recording, and explain how others not as emotionally invested in the situation might perceive it.

                1. hildi*

                  Oh, Traveler, I didn’t mean any harm to you! My comments weren’t directed at anyone in particular – truly (I don’t have enough attention to detail to go back through and remember who said what! haha). I was just reading the thread where she got quite a reaction for the recording bit and I suppose I reacted to that.
                  FWIW, I totally agree with you – there are some dangers for OP going forward. I didn’t mean to make it look like I replied to you directly so sorry if it did.

                2. hildi*

                  Oh, I see how that happened. My original comment was buried under yours. So no, I didn’t mean that in reponse to you. I was just jumping in where I saw the OP respond.

                3. Traveler*

                  I am guilty of replying to a situation rather than a person sometimes (and not being as sensitive as I could be). I just wanted to clarify my intentions if it was coming across any other way. No harm or offense taken!

        3. ella*

          I just want to point out that “because I didn’t get caught” is not an indicator of whether a behavior is right, wrong, or indifferent. I mean, I think you meant “he’s fine” in the sense that his job is not in danger because nobody knows that he was secretly recording them, but not illegal+didn’t get caught =\= correct decision.

    6. anon123*

      While I agree it is about the principle, really..just let it go.

      And I think the only thing you need to remind yourself, and him, every time you don’t want to let it go is that the view is always better from the moral high-ground.

    7. Concerned*

      I hate to say it but at this point you have to let it go. If HR says that no one is ever happy about this event, then it’s not worth participating in the raffle in the near future. And it shows management needs to “fix” it so that way people can’t “cheat.”

      With the recording, I would just delete it as this point. The argument is pretty much done and your boyfriend doesn’t want his to come back and haunt him.

  18. CoffeeLover*

    This is kind of unrelated, but I remember years ago at my old company there was a similar raffle (though I don’t think it was done live). One executive won the big prize two-three years in a row (just really lucky). The last time, she asked for the draw to be redone. I thought it was very gracious of her (though I have a feeling she was voluntold to do so). I’ve never won a thing in my life so have given up all hope with raffles, but I can see how it makes others feel. There’s nothing like dampening the spirit of a raffle when someone that makes 4 times as much as you keeps winning the big prize: something they can easily afford and you cannot.

  19. AmyNYC*

    The ONLY way I could see “swaying” the raffle is that it looks bad for the boss to win the big prize, so they pick again for the TV if the CEO’s name come up.

    1. Adam V*

      Still, it’s best to show the name and announce to everyone “oops, it was the CEO! Sorry, [CEO], but we’re going to pick again if you don’t mind!”

      1. Al Lo*

        Any time we do a raffle at my work (not an employee raffle, but a charity raffle open to members and the public), per gaming regulations and our gaming license, the draw has to be filmed. There are pretty strict regulations as to what needs to be documented.

        This is also why Canadian prizes require a skill testing question — for McDonald’s Monopoly or the like. It’s usually a basic math question, but a prize given based on skill rather than pure chance is subject to stricter gaming regulations.

        1. fposte*

          I totally agree that formal documentation as part of the procedure will help keep things on the straight and narrow. But I’m afraid 5 minutes at an odd angle on a wobbly cameraphone that people don’t know is filming isn’t going to have the same effect.

  20. Chriama*

    Hi OP, thanks for clarifying further. I think, unfortunately, you’re going to have to let this go. You know how the people at your company operate (the cliquishness, etc), and they aren’t going to change unless they have to. There will be no apology forthcoming, so the best thing you can do is leave it alone.

  21. rlm*

    The thing that really gets me on this one is the *crumpling* of the names. That just seems so over-the-top. Even if they had good reason to set those names aside (too senior-level, non-attendees, whatever) — to crumple and toss them in a pile for the employee to find later? How is this professional behavior on any kind of level?

    Anyway, OP I can understand you and your husband’s outrage. It doesn’t seem like there’s much recourse here, unfortunately. But geez……

  22. OP*

    Update: I just received a text – the president of the company will be coming to my fiancés plant personally tomorrow to give him $100 cash. Apparently he is not a dumb as I once believed. More shocking was that it was a supervisor, that my fiancé has on more then one occasion told me he was sure hated his guts, who fought for them make right to him.
    I came here looking for different perspectives, cause I knew I was to close to this matter. Honestly I had wanted to collect dog poop and smear the head of HRs car before I calmed down. Thankfully the thought to ask for the advise of random strangers on the internet prevailed and I began typing.
    If there are enough of you still lurking, I’d like to ask for some comment suggestions on how to do company picnic/ appreciation days that perhaps could help prevent this kind of thing in the future

    1. Colette*

      Have they asked you for suggestions? That would be an odd thing for them to do, since you don’t work there.

      It really seems like you’re way too involved in this. I suggest you take a step back and restrict your involvement to suggesting your fiance find a new job if he’s not happy there.

    2. hildi*

      Depends on what you are asking:
      (A) if you are in a position of management or aspire to be and are asking for future reference, there are lots of ideas upthread about how other commenter’s workplaces do it (take the mgr’s names out; don’t let them in in the first place, etc).
      (B) but if you’re asking how to prevent it at your fiance’s company, you can’t do that. That’s way outside of your scope. But your fiance might be able to visit with the president when he comes to give him the money tomorrow. Also, the fact that your fiance’s supervisor apparently picked up the torch and carried it all the way to the CEO’s desk means that people with a position of influence are maybe taking care of it.
      (C) Resign yourself to the fact that this will probably not change with this group of people.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      This isn’t your fight.

      You’re spending a LOT of emotional energy on something that isn’t your issue (dog poop???). I’m saying this as kindly as possible – your reaction seems disproportionate and I really think you should find something else to focus on.

      Personally I’d just skip the picnics if they’re going to stress you out this much. I don’t really like those kinds of things anyway.

    4. Adonday Veeah*

      This is excellent news. I’m glad somebody with some clout stepped up and did the right thing. I’m also glad you got a new perspective on the supervisor, who was likely as astonished by how outlandish this situation was as you and your fiancé were.

      It’s now time for you to step away from this. As others have pointed out, you have no input on how they do their company picnic. The only way they are going to prevent this from happening is for somebody with some ethics to oversee things. That is outside of your control. Smile, enjoy the $100, and move on — it’s the healthy thing for you to do.

    5. OP*

      OK wow people are reading in between the lines a little there, I was just asking cause after I heard the recording, we talked about how they could do it better next year. And as I got a lot more feed back then I expected here, I kinda wanted to pick your brains too. But if you think I’m overstepping forget it. I was never going to talk to his work. Just wanted some ideas I could bounce off him to make him feel better, seeing the hurt and anger he had that day, and I had no idea how to make it stop.

      1. hildi*

        Ok, I get where you were going. My husband and I do this all the time. We actually have the same supervisor, but do totally different jobs and work in different buildings so we have that common frame of reference when something happens at work. I know this isn’t exactly what you asked originally, but your part at the end about seeing how hurt and angry he felt and you had no way to make it stop. I get that. Ok, so my MO when I am presented with an issue is to jump into full on action mode. It’s not ok to have something left unresolved in my world, though half the time that impulse screws up more things than it solves. But instead of just listening and agreeing with him that everyone at work is a shithead and the world sucks and he’s right, etc., etc., I play devil’s advocate. DO NOT DO THAT! haha. My brain instinctively tries to find a different perspective to help broaden my understanding, but this tendency is not helpful when someone I love is hurting. It usually just makes it worse because it has the effect of diminishing their feelings. So – I think one thing you can do is to just listen to him, agree with him, offer different perspective if you have it and he’s open to it. Even though I suspect that’s hard for you to do (as it is excruciating for me). So….see what I did there? I didn’t even answer your questions….I just played devil’s advocate. It’s a curse :)

      2. James M*

        I’ve never experienced anything like this, but for the next picnic “game of chance”, how about a dessert potluck where half of each dessert item is reserved as a prize in the raffle? If planned appropriately, ‘prizes’ would range in quality from cheap store-bought cakes to decadent home-made baklava. I’m not sure to deal with food allergies… perhaps allow trades?

        No guarantees that riots won’t break out if execs get all the best goodies.

    6. Liane*

      Good to hear that someone in charge decided to take care of your fiance’. And a good lesson for you and all of us that someone he didn’t care for stepped in, presumably of his own initiative, to help.
      So now you both can let it go. You see, I do agree with others that you are too involved in this. Which, believe me I understand. :D I have a tendency the same way, a strong one.

    7. ella*

      Is it just your fiance getting the $100, or is everyone whose names were drawn but who didn’t get prizes getting something? Because if it’s just him getting money, that’s still sketchy and not entirely aboveboard.

  23. Katie (not the Fed)*

    Let me say this, I never thought I’d learn all sorts of ways to rig a raffle from Ask a Manager’s commentariat :)

    1. Liane*

      Me too. Second one for me. I sure didn’t know the difference between 100 square feet & 100 feet square. I didn’t know there was a difference, so maybe I learned 3 things! And I do adore trivia of all sorts.

  24. Anon*

    I wonder if the rigging had something to do with the pronounce-ability of the names? It sounds like the girl was struggling with names and at least one that she struggled with (the OP’s fiance) was discarded. Maybe she was asking HR for help and if the HR lady couldn’t help, discarding them?

    That’s still misguided and unethical, of course, as well as having a disproportionate impact on people of color or other nationalities. Everyone isn’t going to be able to pronounce every name, but you have to just pronounce it incorrectly or spell it, not keep them out of a raffle! Just a guess as to what may have been going on.

  25. SusieQ*

    I love how many people seam to be attacking OP as though they have already acted and flown off the handle at this HR person. It is easy for us to judge, we are not involved. All I see here is them admitting they do not know what/if anything they can do, and isn’t that ultimately the best course of action. The feelings are plain to see. And can anyone say they have never, in a knee jerk reaction, wanted to punch someone in the face, but then stopped and realized that my not be the best course. It is human nature to go big when you are mad, but after you cool off you find a much better solution, even if it is to just do nothing. I also love the dog poop bit, that made me chuckle. I’m glad that it’s worked out in the end. Best of luck to you in the future.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Hmm, I think I have a different perspective here. I don’t actually see very many people “attacking” the OP, but I do see several disagreeing. And even though knee-jerk reactions are understandable, there is also some value in getting a bit of perspective – other people can help us know what’s worth getting upset about, what seems disproportionate. I couldn’t in good conscience say “go get ’em tiger!” when someone is doing something as potentially career damaging as recording conversations with HR.

      1. Gina*

        I get where you’re coming from, but when so many people “disagree” in a condescending tone and grasp at any straw for anyone other than an OP, it comes off as attack. It happens a lot and then gets called disagreeing or a different point of view when the intent was obviously to feel better than OP.

  26. Steve*

    At my old company we would have a yearly contest consisting of questions like “what was the energy usage in kilowatt hours of building #3 I. July”? With the winner being th person who came closest without goin over. The manager of logistics (th department in charge of paying the invoices) won every single prize. People were livid.

    1. Poe*

      Oh man, I would kill at this game! Accounts payable with a weird memory for details for the win! That said, I would take myself out of it because I am not a jerk. I’d be a smartass and answer everything correctly on the questionnaire though without checking (weird memory…no idea where my keys are, know the volume of wastewater for our building last month) and write at the bottom “I can’t win, it’s not fair”.

  27. HR Anonymous*

    I’m a little late to this party (ha, ha) so I don’t know if people are still reading.

    First, this is why I (as an HR manager) never allow my own name or others’ names in HR to be in raffles that we conduct. My HR employees complain and complain about it, but people would have a fit if one of us draws our own names.

    Second, it is great to remove the names of upper management (or just don’t let them enter). We typically do that, but once we forgot to remove the name of the president’s spouse (also an employee), and, wouldn’t you know it, the spouse won. It was a little cringe-worthy (even for the spouse).

    Third, and I know this might fall on deaf ears, but most HR people really are ethical and honest. I go out of my way to make sure I behave ethically and lead my staff to do the same. I’m aware that all eyes are on me, and therefore I have to be even more conservative than I otherwise would. It comes with the territory.

    Fourth, I know this situation is now over for the OP and her fiance. But if it happens to anyone else in the future, I’d say don’t just let it go and assume HR was rigging things — ask them privately. Please give them an opportunity to explain before you just assume that you should never trust that HR person again. And don’t make it about the prizes AT ALL. It doesn’t help to sound like you’re just whining because you didn’t win the coffee mug or the TV or the gift card or whatever. I’d even turn a prize down if they offer it to you. It should be about the appearance of wrongdoing– tell them you were concerned that if you saw it, others might have seen it, too, and you just want to understand what happened.

  28. Milly*

    I can’t believe people take their jobs so seriously they are willing to just suck it up when their employers act in such unethical ways. I’m Gen Y and everyone loves to criticise us, but we don’t just like to let our employers treat us like such rubbish and be so unethical, but the older ‘suck it up’ generation just take it lying down. I don’t get it.

    1. Poe*

      I think it is a pretty privileged viewpoint to say that someone shouldn’t take something lying down. I am not in the position to die on the hill of a raffle. If I lost my job, it would be a struggle to find something else. I am not particularly in demand for my skills, people like me are a dime (or even a nickel) a dozen. Would I start looking for a job? Maybe, if the issue was reflective of the rest of the company, but I sure as hell wouldn’t rock the boat on this. It’s not big enough for me to risk not being able to pay my rent and buy groceries over. And I am a millenial, so don’t be lumping me in as that older generation you seem to have such scorn for…funny that you are bashing on them the way you claim they bash your generation.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      It’s not a matter of taking it lying down. It’s recognizing that OP’s boyfriend at this point has probably exhausted all of his recourse on this matter, and continuing to pursue it is likely to hurt him. There is little more to be gained by continuing, and a lot to lose. At the end of the day they’re no better or worse than when it started – they don’t have a TV that was never theirs. OK.

      And please – if you’re going to go make the generational argument, understand that you have the luxury of outrage over relatively trivial matters BECAUSE those that came before you pushed for things we take for granted, like equal opportunities regardless of sex, race, etc, workplace safety standards, overtime laws, FMLA, pregnancy discrimination protections, and so on. Yes, losing out on a raffle prize sucks, but this isn’t exactly a Dickensian workhouse.

  29. MR*

    If HR is willing to do this type of thing when everyone is watching…imagine what they are doing when nobody is watching.

  30. Nowhere Ma'am*

    I work in Corporate Live Events where sometimes raffles such as this are done. With one client, the winners are chosen ahead of time, based on what criteria I don’t know but they do win a big prize — a trip to that year’s destination, so perhaps it’s based on their sales targets, I’m not privy to that. But even though it’s predetermined, the drawing still has to look random. There have been a couple of times where I’ve been told to have one name ready, only to be substituted for another shortly before they were to go up and do the announcements.

    And if that was the case with this raffle, that it was based on not being a VP or having a certain level of job performance, well, there’s a easy way to fix it, make the drawings backstage/in a room somewhere and choose all your friends… oh, excuse me, the people you want to win… did it again — the *winners* and announce them in a list.

    “Ladies and Gentlemen, we did the drawing during the dessert course and the winner of X is… A!”

    That way, they can be as nefarious as they want and no one will be the wiser. It won’t stop people from thinking things are rigged thinking that (or having actual proof when all the HR person’s favourites are somehow the lucky “winners”) but you can’t stop people from believing what they want to. The thing that shocks me is that these people rigged it right on stage, in front of everyone and never had half a thought that someone might notice. It would not surprise me at all to learn that the fiancé was not chosen specifically because of their name being hard to pronounce. I can practically see the thought process (not that it’s right) where the Head of HR is thinking: “Oh crap, Doris can’t pronounce that name and looks like a fool. Better draw a name she can pronounce and keep this going, ASAP”

  31. Dm*

    This is wierd. Companies should decide ahead of time if anyone should be excluded (such as executives) and leave them off. My husband runs a large company and at one event he pulled a name to win $500 cash. He put it in his pocket and re-drew. I asked him later and it was the CFO who was the 2nd highest paid person in the company. After that he asked HR to exclude exec leadership from raffles. It is suspect and demotivating if an exec wins a top prize.

  32. JuneB*

    Wow! After Googling “Rigged work raffles” I’m glad to see this here. It’s an old post but I don’t mind putting in my word. My job just had an employee appreciation party a day ago but the raffle was electronic. They put all the names in the computer and when our name popped up we had to spin another electronic wheel to see what prize we would get. I knew before it started that this had to be rigged. Everyone in higher management (general manager included) and their favorites/friends (all corrupt), were getting the bigger white elephant prizes. These were big items like TV’s, game consuls, and Apple products that they could easily afford anytime they wanted.
    The lower workers were getting $50 or $25 cash prizes. I got $25 cash and felt terrible. It made me feel like I was worthless. After all the work I’ve done, coming in when I felt sick, never calling out or coming in late and this is what I get? Oh sure I could still use that $25 dollars but it still just feels so wrong.
    I can do what the OP’s husband did and question what happened but unfortunately it would be the same way. All of HR and management at my job are in bed with each other so it wouldn’t do any good. I seriously want to stuff that $25 cash down one of managements throats but right now I unfortunately still need my job.

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