our horrible HR manager tells lies, is rude and petty, and won’t do her job

A reader writes:

I’m in upper management at a growing company. Until two years ago, each executive had the HR responsibilities for their own department. But we became large enough to merit a full-time HR manager. We found someone with decades of experience, but she had moved jobs every two years. At first, we were all thrilled with her. But it quickly became clear why she never lasted very long!

She is a compulsive liar and retaliates viciously against anyone who challenges her. She talks to the staff like they are children and can be incredibly insulting. While the entire management staff is frustrated by these problems, our CEO doesn’t see it, or refuses to acknowledge it.

Let me give you some examples. She saw two employees leaving for lunch and called after them, “Don’t make it a liquid lunch!” One of those employees was a recovering alcoholic and, assuming she knew that from the FMLA paperwork in his file, was deeply humiliated by the suggestion. When the employee’s manager went to speak to her about it, she first claimed it never happened (there were multiple witnesses), then said she didn’t remember but would apologize. Instead, she refused to speak to the employee for over a month and repeatedly made snide comments about him to others.

She has refused to speak to several other employees for affronts such as asking her not to speak baby talk to them, requesting an explanation of why they didn’t qualify for an internal posting, and having the nerve to question why it has taken six months to fill a vacant position. She posted a job that wasn’t vacant when the employee who held the job expressed disappointment at not qualifying for a promotion. (She then lied and said it wasn’t for that job when the employee asked, but told the management that “a friend” had secretly called her to let her know that this employee had applied at their company and was plotting to leave without notice. No one believes either story.)

In staff meetings, she is fond of telling people that we need to “act like adults” (our staff skews to the over-40 demographic) but then talking to us like we are children, explaining and repeating her instructions over and again. She has even placed these horribly condescending signs in the bathroom to tell us how to clean up after ourselves, which end with the statement that if we don’t, “sometime a coworker will catch your disgusting behavior, and HR won’t be responsible for the consequences.” (Does that sound like a threat to turn a blind eye to violence? That’s how we read it. The worst part is, there has never been a problem with our bathroom!)

Most troubling of all, she lies. When she wasn’t bothering to review resumes for a posted position for several months, she told us when questioned that the senior manager believed the position could be phased out. The senior manager was livid when asked, because he never said that. She frequently attributes her actions to made-up discussions with me, and I get angry staff members in my office, questioning why I would say things that I’ve never said. But when I’ve tried to confront her, she just lies to me too.

Our CEO turns a blind eye, only acting on those things we can prove in writing. (For example, when she says she wasn’t informed about something but she was.) I don’t really understand why but we have tried approaching him about it to no avail. He will address the procedural issues by creating policies, but never addresses her inappropriate behavior or dishonesty. He wants us to just focus on creating resolutions with her, but ignore the behavior. He doesn’t acknowledge how seriously this is affecting morale throughout the company.

We figure there isn’t much we can do about her except give her enough rope to hang herself. But in the meantime, how do we professionally handle the complaints from our staff members? How do we encourage them and keep up morale? How do we make them feel they aren’t at risk from her horrid behavior?

What the hell? This is all outrageous behavior that would warrant firing her. The lying on its own would warrant that, but then throw in the condescension, the retaliation and pettiness, the not doing her work, and the general inability to conduct herself like a reasonably functional adult, and you’ve got dozens of different reasons to fire her, all valid on their own.

So what on earth is going on with your CEO? Did they know each other before she came to work there and there’s some pre-existing relationship that’s making him willfully blind to her horribleness? Is he generally wimpy and one to avoid difficult conversations? Is he as out of his gourd as she is? Because really, as awful as she is, the fact that your CEO — the person with the power to stop this — isn’t doing anything means that he’s actually more of the problem than she is.

If you and your coworkers really want to get him to act, it’s possible that you could get results by making it more painful for him not to act. If his inaction stems from wimpiness, then right now he’s taking the path of least resistance. You could probably stir him into action by making that path harder — meaning that you and other senior managers band together and insist that he address the problem. That means not requesting, but saying as a group “we will no longer work in these conditions and we need a solution this week because it’s intolerable” — and continuing to press him until there’s a resolution. (Of course, if she’s, say, his wife, he may choose her over all of you. But assuming there’s no relationship like that, it’s likely that you can get somewhere by making inaction more painful for him than action.)

As for how to handle complaints from your staff members: In most cases, I tell managers that part of their job is to support the management decisions of the company when talking to their staff. That’s part of what being in management means; the job expectations include not undermining the management team you’re a part of. In a case like this, though, the situation is so over-the-top outrageous that you’ll lose credibility (and integrity) if you did that. So this is a case where all you can really do is acknowledge that there are serious problems with the HR manager, explain that you’ve voiced your concerns to the CEO and will continue to advocate for your department in that regard, and that you unfortunately don’t know when the problem will be resolved but that meanwhile people should come talk to you if they run into an issue with HR and you’ll help them navigate it however you can.

But you know, your CEO is showing you something pretty valuable about how you can expect a business he runs to operate. Pay attention to it.

{ 181 comments… read them below }

  1. Phyllis*

    But you know, your CEO is showing you something pretty valuable about how you can expect a business he runs to operate. Pay attention to it.

    This. Back to lurking.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      ++++1000%

      So what on earth is going on with your CEO? Did they know each other before she came to work there and there’s some pre-existing relationship that’s making him willfully blind to her horribleness? Is he generally wimpy and one to avoid difficult conversations? Is he as out of his gourd as she is?

      No, if he knows she’s performing with that demeanor and attitude, and lets it go on, that’s what he wants.

      I once worked for a manager who was a TERROR — and the only times his management would not back him up, is if he were to make a move that would cost the company a lot of money and/or get them sued.

      Even when this company was sued – and LOST – they would issue a blurb to the employees about their “victory”.

      What I’m saying is, some companies want that attitude, abuse, etc. – as part of their culture. Does it make sense? HELL NO. If you work in any field for any length of time, you’ll see nonsense moves made. Just go home and laugh about them, if you can. They make interesting dinner table stories.

      1. Amber T*

        I don’t understand the mentality of management for keeping someone like this around. Can you (you management people who allow this to happen and obviously don’t read this site because you wouldn’t let it happen) honestly say the hassle of keeping this employee while losing other great employees and watching your morale drop is more than the hassle of firing a single employee?

        I’m guessing the CEO has never been personally victimized by Regina George and is 1) scared to be, and/or 2) is scared of the amount of work there would be by not having an HR Manager (though honestly, it doesn’t sound like she’s doing a heck of a lot anyway).

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          Amber,

          You are assuming that a) executives want their people to be treated fairly b) they will correct any action that they think might be hurting the company and c) they want to avoid high turnover because it’s costly.

          You are assuming that a CEO would want all of these things, and harmony, too. But it’s not always the case. Sometimes, managements want what we used to call a “zoo” – back in the 70s/80s in IS/IT.

          And they probably “grew up” in an environment like that and truly believe that’s the way you run a company. Some execs have never known anything different.

          1. CaitB*

            This is a good point. I too have worked under scary people. One who made employees cry and quit the same day. They were not handled by management. There was no damage control.

            Management instead simply kept obtaining employee fodder and feeding it to the fire. When the new employee would break down and leave, they’d find new fodder. Why? This person was a rainmaker, they brought in tons of money and higher level clients. So they were never addressed.

            It was both financially easier and interpersonally easier to simply manage the edges of the chaos than actually do anything about it. Even HR was scared of this person.

            So no, management certainly does not always care about employee morale and fair treatment, or actions that damage the company, or the cost of high turnover.

            I can’t imagine the depth of dysfunction that must obtain in the OP’s company culture. Like Allison said, if the CEO is turning a blind eye to the situation, where else is he failing to lead?

            This isn’t an HR lady problem, this is a failure of leadership problem.

      2. Kriss*

        the only thing I can figure is that she has something on the CEO that would make his life more hellish than the misery she’s doling out to the employees

        1. babblemouth aka One Of The Greatest Minds Of The 2st Century*

          My mind jumped to blackmail at first, but I think someties, the simpler explanation (“CEO is lazy and ridiculously conflict-adverse”) is the right one.

          OP, the minute you can pin something illegal on her, go to the CEO with the cost of the impeeding lawsuit. That might change his mind.

          Also, start looking for another job. your CEO is clearly no interested in protecting his company or his people. That’s not a place where you should stay.

        2. Turtle Candle*

          Weirdly, I once had a situation like this where I’m fairly sure the executive who protected the terrible and abusive coworker actually did it because he had a strange kind of savior complex. He had fully bought into the idea that bullies only bully because they have low self-esteem, feel insecure, etc. Combibe that with Terrible Coworker’s ability to produce crocodile tears when cornered, and, well, yeah. Lots of extolling the rest of us that we just had to be nice and supportive and bolster Coworker’s self-esteem and the problem would ~fix itself~. (Yeah, turns out, not so much.)

          My understanding is that in recent years the idea that bullies bully because they’re insecure has been challenged–some bullies are themselves victims, but some simply do it because they enjoy the power it gives them, or simply because they find it fun. But even if it were always the case, that’s really too much to expect from your other employees!

          1. nofelix*

            I tend to think a lot of bullies do it out of habit. The cause of that habit may have long gone. At some point they were either encouraged to bully and it worked. It got them what they wanted, or made them feel better about something. Changing the habit is very difficult, as seen with this employee who has changed jobs every two years rather than face their bullying. There can also be underlying beliefs that support the habit (e.g. “if I feel bad someone is to blame”, “it’s a dog-eat-dog world”) which make change even harder.

          2. Candi*

            Bullies bullying because being insecure is only a very tiny percentage of the whole.

            The five bullies who, when my son was in sixth grade, landed him in the ER twice, had far more problems then low self-esteem or insecurity. Three other kids landed in ER because of them -one in hospital for nearly a year after they knifed him. The leader definitely expressed the opinion that hurting others was amusing.

            (The new principal had issued rules and whatnot which enabled this behavior. If a principal has been through four schools in four years in two districts, maybe it’s worth a second look at her history. The district board was not happy. No, they weren’t in charge of hiring her.)

            Sidenote: Bullying is not illegal -but many of the component behaviors are.

            1. Julia*

              Holy c***!! I thought being poked with needles was bad. That’s not even bullying anymore, that’s assault. Those Kids must have been sociopaths.

        3. DJ*

          My guess is that it’s a perception thing. Doesn’t make much sense to me personally, but in the right sort of organization, its all about perception management if you’re a senior executive. Who signed off on the hiring? The CEO. So if he/she cans her …its acknowledging that the CEO made a bad hire. Can’t have that now can ya?

          1. Christopher Tracy*

            That’s a good point – some people don’t want to admit when they’ve made a mistake and will continue on that path because it’s easier than admitting it. This could be CEO’s problem, or he just doesn’t care what happens because he doesn’t have to deal with her.

          2. OPofThisQuestion*

            This, and a general dread of the process of replacing her, seem likely to me. Because honestly, our CEO is really a decent guy. Not that I don’t get the point that he is the bigger problem here, but he isn’t villainous.

            1. nofelix*

              I guess he proposed the idea of the position as well as approved hiring her? So he’s failed twice if he fires her.

              Can you find an out that would allow him to keep his pride? Maybe check her CV. Find something he couldn’t have known and can point to as the reason to fire her, rather than something that reflects on his judgement. It may be difficult now all these other complaints have already been aired. You can’t present it as “we told you she was awful, and now look at this!”. But rather “I admit I’ve had problems with her style, and it has been good to have dedicated HR staff, unfortunately we’ve discovered X” and then focus on a smooth succession so the role doesn’t sink along with her.

              1. OPofThisPost*

                Great advice. Thanks. I’ll look at ways to make it more palatable, because I think this has to be at least some of the issue.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I might add -we did curtail the rogue manager. The 50%+ annual turnover was not a concern to upper management. They laughed that off. The occasional harassment cases at employment security, they guffawed at that.

      They did one thing. They employed a “stool pigeon” system and we would feed the stoolies incorrect info.
      Then we threatened to unionize. And we were gonna go all in (Teamsters).

      That changed attitudes. QUICKLY.

    3. AnonBonBon*

      +67000034882

      I have spent over a year trying EVERYTHING in a similar position. In this case it’s an executive who has driven away two of our most talented employees, sent three people to therapy with her persistently abusive management tactics, lied about the only woman of color at the company being pregnant when she was not, accused me in writing of putting her in the emergency room by reporting something she did to her boss which caused a panic attack when she was confronted, accused me in writing of violating her privacy by mentioning in an instant message only visible to coworkers that she lives in (City) – which is public information in our employee directory & on all her social media profiles. She consistently lies about people and tries to get them fired and even hired an entire employee to “take (me) out” then punished that person with work far below her level and persistently abusive comments when they failed to get me fired.

      Guess how the CEO has responded?

      If you had “a tearful intervention where he hugs her and tells her not to do this to herself, but no actual consequences,” you win the Kewpie doll.

      It is not unrelated that literally every other senior person at the company has said to me in the last 2 months that they will never work for this CEO again.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Wow, the tearful intervention brings back memories! I had a boss once who treated every employee issue like the last five minutes of Full House, all hugging and learning and now we’re just so much closer! Upshot was that he eventually lost all of his hardworking low-drama employees, because the way to be rewarded in that job was to act out like a sitcom eight year old, not to be a competent adult.

        1. InsomniacMuffin*

          When I was much younger I was continuously bullied by a much older male coworker (I’m female) and the boss’ response was that we needed to “hug it out” while he watched. I was far below in seniority and pay scale, and was unable to assert myself out of that situation.
          To this day I genuinely still have disturbed feelings about being forced into that.

    4. Shelix*

      Dear gods. Did you inherit our former HR rep? I could spend an hour telling stories about her that are similar to yours, but i’ll sum it up with one massive incident she did to a very close friend of mine:

      This friend (an actual friend, not me) needed to take a 2-3 month leave to deal with depression and anxiety. At one point his doctor cleared him to work again, and he lasted maybe a week before everybody realized he needed more time. Optimism is great, but it was the wrong call in this situation.

      At any rate, during his brief return he was scrambling to get all the FMLA and other medical related paperwork into HR in a timely manner. Because his leave was depression related, he obviously missed a deadline or two and wasn’t the most organized with his paperwork. The Biter (our nickname for her; long story) pulled him into her office and basically screamed at him for an hour, belittling him, calling him weak, and demanding that he explain to her why he didn’t just “man up and get over it”. He sobbed the entire time, went home, and didn’t come back to work for another 6 weeks.

      It was horrifying :(

  2. Snarkus Aurelius*

    OP, is this woman’s name Sandra by any chance?

    http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com/2008/05/28/it-takes-a-genius-to-come-up-with-a-potluck-theme-like-this-one/

    http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com/2008/10/20/thx-sandra-returns/

    (I know that you’re going to get a lot of good feedback about this, and I can’t add anything different.  I had to let you know what was running through my head when you mentioned the strange notes in the bathroom.  I can assure you that not only do I believe this person exists but I also believe every detail in your story is true.)

    1. Lemon Zinger*

      I LOVE that site, and I think a lot of AAM readers will too! You picked the perfect ones… Sandra is the worst!

    2. Hornswoggler*

      Can I also add that Mongolian Barbecue is delicious, if what’s she’s talking about is what I’m thinking of. I had it at a friend’s house in Germany. You have a thing like a metal helmet (I mean, they actually used to use their helmets, back in the day of pillaging ‘n’ conquering) and heat it up over a burner in the middle of the table. You have lots of marinated meat and cook it to your liking on the hot metal. You eat it with loads of salad and stuff. Mmmmmm.

    1. starsaphire*

      Is it possible to do a cost analysis of the potential lawsuits stemming from her behavior? That might get the CEO’s attention, if nothing else will.

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        Oooh, this is a great idea. It would have to be handled perfectly… but it might just work, especially in the case of the terrible comment about “liquid lunch.”

        1. Anna the Accounting Grad*

          If the butt of that line is up for it, presenting that as a concrete example — complete with all the references properly footnoted– of how the HR nut could very easily create legal trouble.

          1. Volunteer Enforcer*

            Oh, the sick irony. HR folks are meant to help the organisation avoid legal trouble, rather than create it themselves. This makes me so angry as a HR fledgling with two years experience.

            1. Jadelyn*

              I’m right there with you – almost at 3 years of experience, but yes, I am furious on behalf of my new(ish) profession.

          2. Jadelyn*

            Seriously, that is a very special level of wtf for HR…like, that would be in poor taste to say to anyone at work, but to say it to a recovering alcoholic??? Who has FMLA paperwork on file regarding his condition??? What was she thinking?!?! That is a perfect setup for a lawsuit under, oh, idk, FMLA retaliation, ADA harassment, HIPAA violation? Anything else I’m forgetting?

            This is someone who shouldn’t be around other human beings at all, much less in any kind of position of authority over them.

              1. Jadelyn*

                I believe there’s limited applicability to HR personnel who have medical information like that – I seem to recall hearing that in some webinar at one point, but I could be wrong.

              2. Former LW*

                Actually, that’s not correct. A HR person having access to protected health information and insurance would be covered. under HIPAA.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  That explains why I’m thinking we do – my employer *does* self-insure, so that’s my context for thinking about it. Thanks for the clarification!

      2. Whats In A Name*

        This is a great idea. I wonder if OP can search to see if this woman has, in fact, been cited in law suits in the past. I am hoping they did a background check…but just in case.

  3. Tiny_Tiger*

    Holy crow! I’m not sure which aspect of this is boggling my mind more, how horrible this woman is or how passive your CEO is being about all of it. I would definitely take Allison’s advice to professionally “gang-up” on the CEO with your other coworkers until he takes action. No guarantee that it’ll work but it will at least create a thorn in his side that he’ll have to take notice of rather than dismiss. It might help matters if you can get complaints about her and her responses to them via inter-company e-mail so that way you can push the “written complaint” part a little bit more. But my word! Passively threatening employees via a note in the bathroom?

    1. Staying Anon*

      We have a similar issue in our office, except our CEO is a very sweet, nice, mild-mannered people pleaser who doesn’t want anyone to be unhappy, office bully included.

  4. ZSD*

    I’m amazed this woman has a history of being able to stay at jobs for two years. Unless she’s habitually on really good behavior for the first few months, I’d expect her to generally be fired in the first six months of working somewhere.

    1. Tiny_Tiger*

      She might be two-faced as well, acting like a little angel with the big boss but truly being a shrew when it comes to people who don’t have the ability to fire her.

        1. OldAdmin*

          “Someone else here on AAM said that sort of behavior is called having a “bicycle personality” in German – bowing above and kicking below. I found this delightful. “Kiss up, kick down” is also good.”

          That was me. :-)
          That’s a very common description in Germany – and a common trait in the workplace. *sigh*
          I remember an office bully there who got away with calling his female reports hookers (to their faces, in a full meeting), and the male reports “faggots” (or rather the respective German word for it).
          He was such a brown noser that even getting reported didn’t change anything.
          For all I know he’s still there.

      1. OPofThisQuestion*

        Exactly! For awhile, we all really were blind to it. She is pretty good at putting on a friendly face… Until she doesn’t.

    2. Mike C.*

      I have to wonder if she finds jobs that are just starting to need HR, then uses her position to protect herself as much as possible or otherwise scare/intimidate people into thinking they need a lot more than a “GTFO” to be fired.

      This is just speculation, but there are lots of weird beliefs about what is and isn’t the law, and if you’re a company getting to the size where you need additional help, I can see getting screwed over by someone pretending to be an expert but instead just taking advantage.

      /Heck, it could explain any good references she received as well…

      1. animaniactoo*

        Yup, I posted below about asking him why he believes he needs more documentation before he acts on this. And a possible route to getting him some if he won’t budge on it.

        I think it’s highly likely that she’ll threaten or attempt to sue, but this is the kind of situation where you’re going to end up with damage no matter what you do and the only think you can do is figure out how to limit that damage as best as possible. Getting rid of her now and potentially paying more severance than you’d like is going to cost a lot less than losing key employees who are unwilling to put up with the situation. Think of her additional severance packet as their retention bonus if you gotta.

        1. NJ Anon*

          Not sure why she would even get a severance package. Not legally required and she doesn’t deserve one.

            1. Christopher Tracy*

              And the HR manager seems like she’d be the litigious type. I’d pay her to go away – it would be worth it. She’s a total loon.

      2. Natalie*

        Yes, this seems really plausible. My company is a little too small to have a dedicated HR person so my department (accounting) covers it, and there are a lot of bits of misinformation flying around, even from my boss. Best practices or potential liabilities get mis-remembered as strict laws and some people will take advantage.

      3. Jadelyn*

        That’s a really good point. The transition from unofficially handling everything via an office manager or within each department, to having formal HR support, is a really vulnerable point for someone like this to take advantage of, and I could totally see that working for her.

    3. OhBehave*

      I’m wondering if the OP was part of the hiring team for this nightmare. If OP or the other managers were a part of the team…
      Who checked her references? Would it be possible to go back to those references and have a chat?

      1. OPofThisQuestion*

        I am not really sure on this point, but I think the manager who was involved in her hiring said the references were indifferent but the CEO was very impressed with this woman.

  5. Mike C.*

    Can you put into writing how much this person is costing your company, in terms of lost employees, positions that haven’t been filled and so on? I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that this person will single-handedly sink your small company through talent leaving and never being able to hire any more? How much are those open positions costing?

    Have you tried having all of the senior management come to the CEO at once, sitting her down and going through, department by department, laying out all of the thing she’s done? I just wonder if insisting that if everyone is having problems with the same source that you don’t need to have written evidence for every last thing, or maybe in the face of overwhelming unity that might change things.

    Also, why does your CEO believe that these made up conversations happen when she has no written evidence of them either? There seems to be a huge double standard here.

    1. Mike C.*

      To clarify, this differs from AaM’s advice only in the tone – overwhelming evidence vs. a direct force of action, but I like that as well.

    2. Anon Accountant*

      Yeah word is getting out there for sure and talented candidates are going elsewhere to work.

      What is wrong with this CEO?!

  6. Jubilance*

    Wow. Not only does that HR manager suck, but so does your CEO. How can someone be CEO yet be unwilling to manage the organization? I don’t get it.

    I like Allison’s advice about everyone banding together, hopefully you and your colleagues can stand together in solidarity. Beyond that, I doubt there’s much you can do, as your CEO is unwilling to lead and giving the HR manager free rein to do what they want.

  7. Sarah*

    Is your CEO the one that hired his woman? Is he the one that would have checked her references? As a former hiring manager, I am having trouble even understanding how this person was hired; if your boss contacted references from more than one of her past positions, someone surely would’ve indicated that there had been problems.

    I’m almost as concerned about your boss’ inaction as I am about the problematic HR woman. It sounds like there are very clear, documented issues, but he’s choosing to see it as just a personality thing. I would suggest making it very clear to him how her actions are impeding the work of the company. If he still does not act, then I would examine your boss’ behavior in the big picture: does he avoid conflict? Does he think employee complaints are silly? Is he a hands off manager? His reluctance to take action is something that I would look into.

    1. Biff*

      You’d be surprised how many people ‘cook’ references, or how many companies will provide only the vaguest details. Or, it’s possible that she was considered ‘great’ because she sucked up to the people who mattered and got away with it. A really toxic employee usually has an incredible game to keep themselves in a position where they can play out their power trip. Even the best people can get had. It stinks, but it is what it is.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        Yes. This. Woman at my old work I’ve referenced on other threads caused a lot of turmoil in the office but was the “golden child” to upper management. She kept the sham up for about 2-3 years and left just as it was all unraveling. My guess would be her references are glowing, though I do know we were not interested to rehire her when she asked about coming back.

      2. KG, Ph.D.*

        “…how many companies will provide only the vaguest details.”

        I think this is the biggest issue. The myth that you are legally only allowed to confirm dates of employment is widely believed by many people (5/6 of the managers I’ve had so far in my career!), so they won’t ever give a bad reference, and crappy ex-employees get off easy.

        1. Liane*

          And, whether they believe It’s The Law or not, lots of companies have policies that they will give out only give out dates of employment. OldJob is like that. One of my supervisors there told me that even if someone were, say, fired on the spot for “cold-clocking” a coworker, Personnel would only give dates.

          1. neverjaunty*

            The “lawyer reason” for that is actually the opposite – to make sure that the company doesn’t give a glowing reference to somebody who later sues them. It’s a little tricky to explain “of course we didn’t fire Wakeen for any reason other than his poor performance” if the company is telling reference checkers how great an employee he was. It’s the same reason some big corporations only list negatives and areas of improvement in written evaluations.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Assuming they even called. As some folks here have posted, a lot of companies don’t bother with references under the (misguided) theory of “well they’ll just say nice things anyway”.

    2. Djuna*

      That was a big question for me too, mostly because I once had a manager who was *incapable* of admitting he had made a hiring mistake. We ended up with a bloated team, where a fraction was actually working (damned hard) and the rest were doing a bad job of even pretending to. He didn’t care because having a higher headcount made him feel more important.

      Morale tanked. We would approach him with problems only to be told *we* were wrong, and every time one of the slackers acted out (think being added to a team to glaze chocolate teapots, then deciding they didn’t want to do that anymore and instead would create new teapot molds from now on despite knowing nothing about that process) the responsible ones would be carpeted and interrogated about how we (their peers) could have let this happen.

      It took us a long time to wrap our heads around the actual problem – he couldn’t admit to making a mistake because it would make him “look weak” whereas to all of us, his refusal to do so and to handle the fallout was a massive sign of weakness and insecurity. There could be something similar happening here, and that makes Alison’s last point even more important.

  8. animaniactoo*

    “We could create a resolution with someone who is at least semi-reasonable. She’s not. You’re asking us to do something that is flat out impossible. The only possible resolution is that we continue to be harassed, lied to and about, and denigrated. Or she goes. She is not going to change because we said “pretty please”. This is a fundamental personality issue. We can’t make it change.

    I understand you want “proof” – but please let’s look at this logically. What’s more likely? That several employees – including your high level staff – are lying about their interactions with her, or that she’s lying about what she’s doing to and with them? Why do you think you need more “proof” before you act on this?”

    And actually – I would really really ask that last question. Because it’s very possible that he’s got a hold of some wrong idea here that means he thinks he needs more documentation than he does to let go of her. If that’s true and he won’t budge on it, written formal complaints might help create the buffer he feels he needs.

    1. Jadelyn*

      The question someone needs to ask that CEO is, at what point will he consider there to be enough evidence to say that the person who’s involved in every single one of these awful interactions is the common thread and therefore probably the source of the issue?

      My team had that fight last year with a toxic employee who’s finally gone for good as of a few months ago. Upper management, who works remotely to us, kept insisting that we all needed to work on things and refused to lay blame on any individual on the team, even though it wasn’t like “Person A has issues with Person C and D, Person C has issues with A and B, Person B has issues with Person D but is fine with A and B”, it was like “Persons A, B, C, D, and E all have issues with Person F, but A-E get along just fine with each other.” Person F finally pushed too far and got fired – and lo and behold, the rest of us have been doing beautifully as a team since she left. Literally ALL of the interpersonal BS vanished overnight when she got fired.

      I understand the desire to be “fair” and “hold everyone responsible for their part in the situation”, but sometimes the problem really is just one person being terrible.

    2. OPofThisQuestion*

      Very good point about written formal complaints. I don’t know if anyone on our management team has tried that.

  9. AMG*

    If you are willing to go nuclear, you could also outline a plan of how you propose to deal with her workload and assign new owners to tasks. If the CEO is passive and wimpy, and you and your peers are unwilling to accept her involvement, I think having a plan in place to say, ‘this is what we are doing from now on’ might just be the way to go. It is extreme, but so is the situation. If you are all truly banded together, it may work to simply cut her out.

    1. Anna the Accounting Grad*

      If going nuclear doesn’t work on its own, would adding a full thermonuclear option (“either she goes or we all go en masse”) be an idea? Granted, you’d absolutely need a good percentage to sign on for it to work, but still. You’d be presenting an option to take on the workload from one person, or leaving the company with many empty seats and no plan to pick up the slack.

      1. Greg*

        This reminded me of the episode of “Veep” where all of Selena’s top employees come up with a “suicide pact” where they insist that if she fires one of them, she has to fire all of them. Of course, they immediately start backtracking when they’re in the room alone with her.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      That’s what I was thinking! Those signs scream “if you get beat up at work HR wipes it hands of you”. She is the HR MANAGER for goodness sake!

      1. OPofThisQuestion*

        I’m glad to know people think we aren’t overreacting to that statement. It really did sound threatening!

  10. Engineer Girl*

    I think the only thing that will work is for all the managers to get together, go into the CEO office together, and together say “it’s her or us – choose now”.
    Make sure you have more than one spokesman lest one person is targeted as the ring leader.
    Rehearse ahead of time what each of you will say.

  11. Michelle*

    Wow, she really, really needs to go. The CEO needs to grow a spine and get rid of her before she causes the company to lose valuable employees. I agree with AAM and the previous comments- band together and speak to the CEO as a group.

    Sorry you & your coworkers are having to deal with this person. Please update us.

  12. Tomato Frog*

    My default is to assume that people just really really don’t want to fire people, and will contort themselves into weird positions to avoid having that conversation (or, honestly, any hard conversation).

    Agreed with Alison that you should make not firing the HR person more work for your CEO than firing her. Hell, it probably already is more work for him, only he’s too much of a dope to see it.

    1. Agree*

      This. Absolutely. It’s also a sign that your boss sucks. Part of being the boss is dealing with hard situations. When toxic employees linger without repercussions, good employees leave.

  13. Jules*

    This situation is outrageous. Having said that, short term employment =/= terrible worker.

    Some of us move on when we realize that the organization can’t take us to where we need to go career wise. What I realize is, I can’t change people but I can change me. So I move on fairly quickly.

    1. neverjaunty*

      This isn’t “short term employment” – this is someone who has decades of switching jobs frequently. That is a red flag.

      1. mazzy*

        Not really, and I’m not even playing devils advocate here. I’ve had many “turn-around” type roles and there is a definite point where you feel like you’re past your peak because you’ve made the most significant changes and it’s time to go while you’re on top and not milk a few more years out at half the productivity. It hasn’t been a problem for me. Not every type of role is naturally a long term thing. I mean, I’ve had roles that were “expand into vanilla teapots in arizona.”. And once orders have been received and no customer issues six months out…im kind of like, I either need a new goal or its time to go.

        That being said, her history isn’t that relevant given her conduct here.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Decades of employment, with no job lasting past two years, is a red flag. That doesn’t mean anyone with that history is an automatic reject, especially in certain industries like tech – but it warrants a look to find out why.

      2. Jules*

        Interesting. I typically get asked that by older co-workers about that.

        My knowledge, skill and abilities are my marketable and income generating assets. In order to be on top, I learn and grow as quickly as I can. I guess people think rolling stone gathers no moss and all. But I perform and produce results. I am very focused on my end game. If my current position doesn’t line up to set me up where I need to go, why linger? Our productive years are limited and I don’t want to retire after 60 if possible. When in a room with people who bellyaches about not getting the next position, level, promotion, job etc, when asked if they have considered changing jobs, most says outright no. Can’t complain if you want to get promoted but don’t have all the necessary support to get there, but instead of acting, you sit and wait. Not that it’s wrong, but we all have priorities and we need to decide what is important to our life.

  14. Machiamellie*

    We have a similar HR manager. She’s besties with the owner so there’s no way in hell she’d ever be fired. She posts the passive-aggressive kitchen signs, and leaves early all the time, but if you do, she rats on you to the owner (even if your manager preapproved it), etc. She wants to be involved in all “fun” activity planning so that she can take over the execution of the plans (going to pick up supplies, etc.) and then cry martyr. The employees dislike her quite a lot.

  15. OG OM*

    Is it possible that the CEO isn’t turning a blind eye and is in fact the person behind her behavior? I have a boss who uses me as an agent of his whims and as a human shield for the inevitable blow-back from his irrational behavior. Not to say that her tactics seem to be very successful, but it could be that he is giving her directives and then she is just going about them the wrong way. A lot of what was described in the letter can fall under “awkward sense of humor” and the flailing that comes with having an irrational boss who puts you in a position where you have to constantly lie to try to make everything seem normal.

    1. OPofThisQuestion*

      I don’t think so… But I guess in a few instances, it is possible. Certainly not in the issues where she was retaliating against people.

  16. RVA Cat*

    IANAL, but couldn’t harassing the recovering alcoholic be illegal? It sure sounds like a potential ADA complaint to me.

      1. RVA Cat*

        I wonder if the CEO would finally wake up if that employee lawyered up? Maybe after they’ve moved on, since I can imagine working with HR Hellion is a real threat to their sobriety….

  17. hbc*

    I think your CEO needs to be told bluntly that either the HR manager goes or he can plan on having to replace other managers over the course of the next year, never mind the lower level employees. Bonus points if you feel confidant enough to say something like, “If she’s still here in 3 months, I promise you that I personally will be actively searching for a new job.”

    That might be risky in a lot of situations, but I’ve done it to make a point in a different situation, and I’ve had something similar said to me as well. We’re both still here after making our point clear about how important this was to us. It’s probably not terribly risky in your situation because it sounds like it’s true and that your CEO is a complete wimp.

  18. Marisol*

    “Our CEO turns a blind eye, only acting on those things we can prove in writing. (For example, when she says she wasn’t informed about something but she was.)”

    Can the managers agree to communicate by email with her as much as possible, and tell the direct reports to do the same to get the needed “written proof”? Or that too obvious a suggestion?

    1. Jadelyn*

      Take it a step farther – actively refuse to communicate with her in any way except via email. Actively refuse to communicate with her one-on-one at all if you can – if you get cornered somewhere, excuse yourself quickly and go back to somewhere that other people are around.

    2. LQ*

      If my boss told me to communicate with HR as much as possible in email (and in this case cc him (/her/op) on it) I’d be like YUP! I don’t know what is going on but I know that my boss would not ask me to do that unless it was serious and doing it that way would be a big help.

      I think that is a good way to get “proof” if the CEO is acting on “written” things. But I think that asking the question of what proof do you need to the CEO is a good one. Is there any level of this that will be enough? Or will everything just be a one off without considering the pattern of interactions.

      1. Marisol*

        “I’d be like YUP! I don’t know what is going on but I know that my boss would not ask me to do that unless it was serious and doing it that way would be a big help.”

        And the manager could probably frame it like, “we are going to help the CEO understand the nature of the problem, and this will be the most effective way” rather than make it sound like insubordination on the part of the manager/staff.

  19. Ann Furthermore*

    Document, document, document, and let her hang herself. You can’t truly rip on her to your employees, but you can acknowledge that everyone knows there’s a serious problem, and you’re all doing whatever you can to get the situation resolved.

    1. Lady Blerd*

      Yup. Take lots of notes: Inciden, time, date, interactions and witnesses. Such procedures are long tedious and is usually the reason why bad employees stay long after people figured they were glorified seat warmers but having d0cumented accounts should sway your CEO out of his complacency.

  20. I'm Not Phyllis*

    Whoa – crazy! And the fact that it’s the HR manager makes it that much more difficult to deal with. It shouldn’t come to this because your CEO should be taking your concerns seriously – but is there someone who has his ear and may have more pull? If not, I’m with Alison – band together and tell the CEO you need this resolved. It’s his job, for heaven’s sake!

  21. Muriel Heslop*

    Is this whole letter code for an assistant principal at a school? I have obviously spent too long in education because this HR person sounds like multiple people with whom I have worked (usually an Assistant Principal.) No one can ever figure out why the principals won’t fire these people (okay, in one case they were having an affair) until a parent or parents makes a stink. They usually get “eligible for transfer” and go to another school – usually after two years.

    I wish I had some good advice other than “look for a new job.” Your CEO is telling you a lot about how he manages and makes decisions. Good luck!

    1. LCL*

      After reading the OPs post, my first thought was CEO and HR are having an affair. HRs kind of crazy drama can be very attractive, for a while.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Or it may just be that the CEO hired this person, and doesn’t want to admit that they were wrong and missed all the red flags.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Or cowardice, or some kind of misplaced sympathy, or toxicity of their own–lots of reasons it could be. One of the things I appreciate about Alison’s advice is that it isn’t actually necessary to figure out the why, which is good because the why is sometimes obvious and sometimes unguessably nuts.

    2. Nanani*

      Depends where you live but education is often government run, and the administration may or may not be unionized (teachers almost always are, whether administrators can stay in the teachers union or have one of their own varies).
      Also many schools are EXTREMELY RELUCTANT to let someone go during the school year, because that job still needs doing and shuffling staff is hard to at any time other than over breaks, so if the bureaucracy of government and/or union takes longer than, say, the summer break, and assuming egregious behaviour starts right away upon hiring, then getting rid of the problem person after year 2 is actually about as fast as it can go.

      source: 90% of my family are teachers, administrators, or otherwise working in schools

  22. NW Mossy*

    Does your CEO have a “right hand” – a direct report that has his trust and can have a candid conversation with him? If so, enlist that person’s help right now on this. Said right hand (or any trusted adviser) can say the following:

    “Fergus, multiple managers are raising serious, termination-level concerns about Lucinda’s behavior here and we can’t let this continue if we want to keep moving forward. You’ve tried to handle this by changing policies in response to her and asking for written proof of her behavior, but that’s not working. You seem reluctant to consider firing her – why? If you let me know what your concerns are, we can come up with a plan to address them. If we don’t act on this soon, there’s a very real risk that our best employees will leave and that we end up in hot water legally.”

    The goal here is to get the CEO to acknowledge that there’s a problem here and to figure out why on earth he thinks he can’t act to remove Lucinda. Knowing why he’s hesitating can help point the way to a plan of attack for you and your compatriots.

  23. seejay*

    Our HR manager isn’t quite as bad as this but has done some pretty god-awful things in the past so we’ve learned to just either deal with it ourselves or work around it.

    Two issues that have occurred:
    * previous employee went to her about being sexually harassed by a contractor. HR didn’t deal with it, instead the whole issue was ignore and the employee was just labeled as a troublemaker. Contractor was eventually let go for other issues, but it’s gotten around that HR doesn’t know how to handle sexual harassment issues. Fortunately, we’ve only had one other “problem child” and it couldn’t be swept under the rug when the complaints were coming from women *from other floors in other companies* because he was harassing them in the elevator. Those of us in the company just banded together and made sure we were never alone with him instead of going to HR.

    * Immigration stuff, apparently HR keeps saying they have no idea how to get my H1B or green card, despite that being in their job description. every time I ask about it, it turns into this “I don’t know what to do”. I’ve resorted to making it my manager’s problem who’s just taken it upon himself to stay in touch with the lawyers and communicate with them and then we tell the HR what she needs to do next.

    In short, while it’s annoying, cover your own asses, make sure everyone knows you’re doing what you can, and while it sucks, eventually there’ll be enough ammunition to fire her out of a cannon. Our HR is competent enough that chances are she’ll always stay. :/

    1. Lance*

      Wow. The whole ‘I don’t know what to do, so I won’t do anything’ attitude is seriously pitiful. I hope you can find some way to get rid of her soon, because while I wouldn’t expect any HR to know what to do about every little thing, I’d at least expect some effort put in to at least do something about it.

  24. BBBizAnalyst*

    Your CEO deserves to lose all of his employees. Maybe then he’ll see that keeping a toxic employee on board isn’t worth it.

  25. neverjaunty*

    OP, who hired this woman and who has the authority to fire her? If only the CEO has hiring and firing authority you have a problem. (Well, you already have a problem, and it’s your CEO, as other people have pointed out above.)

  26. voyager1*

    Serious question, could the signs in the bathroom rise to level of sex harassment/hostile work place?

    I ask because there is this untrue idea you can catch STDs from toliets/sinks and that was my first reading on that point not the violence reading

    Thoughts?

  27. Nico m*

    How much would it cost for a P.I. to
    a) check if theres any secret personal relationship with the ceo
    b) get the real history

    I bet theres a firable lie in the resume

    1. Jadelyn*

      If that CEO won’t fire her over being a horrible human being and creating bucketfuls of legal liability for the company, I doubt finding a lie on her resume would be the straw that convinced the camel to s*** or get off the pot.

      1. Nico m*

        Ah but it can be His Idea to fire them.

        He can be The Good Decisive Leader instead of the spineless jerk forced into action by Mutiny.

    2. Anon today*

      That’s funny. We used to say about people like this that they must have photos (of somebody influential doing something very embarrassing) because otherwise how has she not been fired?

  28. RVA Cat*

    I hate to say this, but OP and the other managers may want to pull their credit reports to see if there is any funny business. Just think, HR Horror has access to everyone’s SSNs and direct deposit information.

    1. Tiny_Tiger*

      That might honestly be the most horrifying aspect of this. She’s already proven she can’t keep her mouth shut about an employee’s medical reasons for FMLA!

  29. AnotherHRPro*

    As an HR person, these types of posts really frustrate me. I find it unacceptable that this person is behaving this way and isn’t being held accountable.

    OP, I strongly encourage you to take Alison’s advice and band together with your colleagues. The CEO should listen to his entire senior team when they explain (calmly) that they are not getting the support they need from the HR Manager and that she is actually causing problems. Explain what your expectations are for this position and verify with your boss if this is reasonable. Then explain where the current manager is falling short on those expectations. If your CEO will not have a performance conversation with the HR Manager, ask them to then allow the leadership as a whole to have a conversation with the HR Manager to review this information. This will ensure that she understands what exactly her responsibilities entail and what she needs to change.

    Good luck.

    1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      Is there a professional association of HR people? There must be, probably more than one. Surely at least one of them has some kind of “best practices” or professional standards. What if you found those, printed them off and documented how she’s not living up to any of them? If you can prove that there are in fact standards across the board that she doesn’t meet, maybe that will help. Frame it in terms of preventing the whole company from being as great it could be if you didn’t have a documentedly sub-par HR person.

      1. Jadelyn*

        There’s SHRM, and if she’s credentialed, HRCI. If she’s got either SHRM-CP and/or PHR credentials (or their variants), she technically agreed to abide by their codes of professional ethics. Which she’s patently NOT doing.

  30. HR Minion*

    I worked with a similar HR manager many years ago. So many red flags/OMG moments, I don’t even know where to start. She showed up on her first day of work wearing stiletto heels (we hade a gravel parking lot!) and a very short, very tight dress with an overwhelming amount of surgically-enhanced cleavage showing. Said she “forgot” her cardigan and borrowed the CEO’s suit jacket which she wore the rest of the day. (She looked like a child playing dress up!) Within 5 minutes of meeting her, she had told me about her being molested as child, being the repeated victim of domestic violence, and that she had major financial problems because her ex-husband stole her identity after his gender reassignment surgery. I was aghast that these topics were voluntarily addressed during our very first conversation!

    I realized later that she was laying the ground work for a huge con game. She took great pains to make it look like she was the one being victimized by anyone who she perceived as a threat. She told so many lies it was impossible to keep track. She did the bare minimum to keep from getting fired. The greatest amount of her effort was spent undermining the decisions of other managers “who didn’t know sh*t about HR” and stirring up trouble. She failed to submit our benefits invoices for payment for 90+ days, resulting in many employees being denied treatment and having to pay out of pocket. (She blamed that one on an “accounting” error.) I could go on and on……

    After she was fired (only took 2 years!), we found out that she falsified her application. She put on her application that she was laid off from a huge telecommunications company as a HR manager when in actuality she was fired for misconduct as a low-level HR representative. Come to find out, our CEO had met her a bar and offered her the job on the spot when she claimed to have HR management experience. He made his exit shortly after hers. Good riddance!

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I can top that story – but I don’t have the time to do it here. After 45 years in the computer field – probably ANY field – you’ll see several stories like this.

  31. OlympiasEpiriot*

    OK!

    Absolutely waiting on an update for this one!

    No advice here, OP; just Jedi mind-hugs. Damn.

  32. Mee Too*

    If this HR person is lying so much it is highly probable that she is feeding the CEO a pack of lies. You might ask some pointed questions about some of the things that have happened to see if the CEO has a completely different story based on what HR manager reported before you reported the truth.

    I will say it again. Document everything, requests, follow up, complaints, bathroom signs…. You could even have employees write summaries of incidents that happened a while ago to add to the pile.

  33. IT_Guy*

    I worked at one place where the HR manager was hired because the owners father made him promise on his deathbed that he would ‘take care of her’. She was totally unfit for an HR manager and not only broke several laws, but picked them up and whacked them with a hammer till they were turned into legal dust and then swept it under the carpet.

    You may have a similar situation where the CEO has some type of ‘history’ with this person and won’t do anything. If this is case, then run fast and run far….

  34. Sherry*

    Baby talk isn’t a fireable offense, of course, but it can sure be the icing on the cake with an unbearable person!

  35. Mental Health Day*

    Early in my career, one of my biggest job-related fears was hiring on somewhere that did a lot of firing/laying off. Now that I am older, one my biggest job-related fears is hiring on somewhere that won’t fire anybody.

  36. Ernest*

    This is why motions of confidence are a thing. Leadership that does nothing lose confidence of the people.

  37. LeRainDrop*

    What a crappy situation! I agree with all of Alison’s advice and also the recommendations to document every incident that you experience with the HR lady — time-stamped email. I really hope that your group of managers/co-workers can get the CEO to understand how bad this is so that he’ll approve firing her.

  38. scrumdillyuptious*

    “I tell managers that part of their job is to support the management decisions of the company when talking to their staff. That’s part of what being in management means; the job expectations include not undermining the management team you’re a part of. ”

    What if the boss or owner of the company isn’t outrageously wrong, or breaking the law, but his wants/rules/policies for running his company are micro-managing, distrusting of his employees, petty nit picking and generally just impossible to understand? What does a manager do then?

      1. scrumdillyuptious*

        This is helpful. It will help me cope for now, anyway. I find myself saying a lot of “the boss wants you to….” or “the boss would rather you…..” or “the boss wants to try this and see how it works…..”

        I don’t have a manager of my own, I report directly to the owner of the company. I want to fling myself out a window probably 70% of the time, the other 30% I enjoy my job and the people I am working with. I am actively looking to move on though.

        Love the site, thanks again.

  39. Bank Marketing Maven*

    Sounds like an HR person I once worked with at a bank. Very manipulative and controlling to the point that she lied, denied and fired people for very little reason. Even hired her husband when he lost his job. Sadly, I know of only one other employee who admitted we were dealing with a psychopath.

    Run! Fast.

  40. Narise*

    I think I would have the recovering alcoholic speak to a lawyer. If there’s even a small chance he could sue the company over her publically referencing his drinking and private FMLA information this might force the CEO to fire her. A strongly worded letter from the attorney sent directly to the CEO- make sure HR doesn’t intercept- stating that his clients rights were violated could be enough. The witnesses need to be clear that the they will testify to what was heard.

  41. Ruffingit*

    This is one of those situations where everyone needs to band together and threaten to quit if she isn’t fired OR where everyone needs to job hunt hard and leave, letting the CEO know exactly why. As Alison said, the fact that the CEO won’t fire this psycho says a lot about his total lack of leadership and ethics/morals in my view. GET OUT as soon as you can. This is so horrible, staying just isn’t an option for anyone.

  42. Milton Waddams*

    Welcome to my world. :-) I went so far as to study HR in college, and can still count the number of HR folks I’ve met who aren’t like this on a single hand.

    The field has some serious serious struggles right now — HR doesn’t have a basic research branch, and hasn’t since sociology radicalized in the 70s. The connection with colleges today is tenuous, to be honest, despite the fact that HR was the crown jewel of the Harvard Business School back in the 30s. Education as it exists is jointly controlled by SHRM and HRCI, at least in the U.S., and to be frank neither is up for the job. During their very public split, they confirmed what a lot of folks have suspected for a long time: SHRM despite being a non-profit in name is not run like one (HRCI’s complaint) and the certification itself is mostly about jargon memorization (SHRM’s complaint), which of course SHRM didn’t find to be a problem when they were making good money selling study guides. (HRCI’s rebuttal — the drama goes on and on).

    The normal career path for entering HR isn’t going to school for applied sociology and then getting tracked into a business (whose C-staff received HR training as part of their top-tier MBAs) while they keep in touch with their old professors and the new research; it’s admin assistants making lateral moves into HR by buying a SHRM study guide and HRCI cert, after realizing that whatever their original career path was isn’t happening and if they remain as an admin they’ll be pigeon-holed. Not exactly a firm foundation for a role that has such a big impact in a company, sadly.

    1. JOTeepe*

      Unfortunately not inaccurate, though this has been changing (slowly). Actually, a lot of people “end up” in HR who have advanced degrees (I am one of them), because their career path had them end up there. I also know quite a few people who went to school for HR (as you described above).

      Part of the issue, too, is that up until recently a lot of (lower level) HR work is very paper based and clerical in nature. I managed to find roles that were more analytical, but when I was in entry level generalist roles I HATED it. (Now that I am at a higher level I actually enjoy generalist work quite a lot). I want to preface, it wasn’t that I thought I was too good for it or that I was above it … no, I was just flat out bored to tears by the monotony. However, in many offices it is necessary to fulfill roles like that before you’ll be considered for mid-level HR positions, which turns a lot of people off and into career changes early on. As I said, I am seeing this start to shift some, but it’s glacially slow.

      The SHRM/HRCI nonsense isn’t helping. I did the pathway so I currently have both through 2018, and I honestly have no idea what I am going to do when my certification renewals are due. Not off the table: scrapping both entirely and going with an IPMA-CP (the public sector version), though I’m not sure that’s the best solution either. :(

    2. Jadelyn*

      Wow, that’s…really rudely dismissive of people who make a lateral move into HR from other areas of business. Like it’s just as easy as “buy a cert” (this has changed somewhat with the SHRM-CP and the new aPHR, but I’m sure you know you can’t get a PHR without at least a few years of “professional level” HR experience, so nobody is going from being an admin to being An HR Professional via “buying a cert”) and is some kind of “less worse” alternative to staying in admin work. Speaking as someone who was an admin, got hired as a temp admin support for an HR department and discovered I really loved it and who is now working hard on learning and developing within the field – including keeping track of research developments, such as they are – I feel like you’re being kind of a jerk about the unwashed masses daring to profane your hallowed halls of HR by having the gall to enter the profession without coming from a research-based academic perspective.

      HR has its problems, for sure – and yeah, the SHRM/HRCI thing is definitely not helping – but those problems don’t boil down to “admins with study guides” vs “Real HR Professionals”, which is what you seem to be presenting it as.

  43. OPofThisQuestion*

    Wow. So much helpful advice!

    Thank you, Alison. I really see what you are saying about the CEO being the bigger problem. He is reasonable and firm person most of the time, and I don’t think there are any hidden secrets here about their relationship or anything she might have on him, as quite a few people wondered. My suspicion was a sexism factor (assuming the female managers just have it out for her in a catty way), but now I am considering other things that might be in play. Foremost among those is an inability to admit to making mistakes. That might be the heart of it.

    I’m going to speak to the other managers and see if we can implement this advice and counsel.

    1. babblemouth aka One Of The Greatest Minds Of The 21st Century*

      Good luck! I hope you follow up with Alison and let us know how it works out.

  44. Faster*

    The HR lady has to be related/friends with the CEO somehow. I would start looking for another job. It’s sad that people lie but people do cheat and lie. I would never tolerate it.

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