7 HR Horror Stories that Will Make You Run and Hide

Spooky season is finally here! It’s time to get those pumpkins carved, candy corn stocked, and Halloween flicks picked out for scary-movie marathon nights. 👻

But who needs horror flicks when you have HR entertainment at the ready? In our latest annual edition of spooky HR stories, these experts recall chilling workplace scenarios you definitely don’t want to experience yourself.

Whether it’s the frightening experience of accidentally seeing an interviewee’s girlfriend in the nude, or dealing with a possible sorceress in the workplace (yes, really), there’s nothing these fearless talent pros haven’t faced. 

Make sure to read these with the lights on!

HR Horror Story #1 — The Moonlighting Employee

Throughout the pandemic, the increase in remote working has led to some pretty awesome opportunities for both employers and employees. But where there is opportunity, there is usually someone trying a little too hard to take advantage.

Joey Price, Founder and CEO of Jumpstart:HR recalls the spookiest HR situation they’ve experienced so far. 

“As you know, the opportunity to work from home is a treat but it’s also an opportunity for colleagues to trick their employer,” Joey says.

Apparently, an employee took major advantage of their remote working setup, and was moonlighting multiple jobs on top of the role he was hired to do for Jumpstart:HR. 

Joey says, “We had to navigate a circumstance where a colleague decided to not only be a consultant at our organization, they also accepted two full time jobs and had a consulting business on the side!” 

As you can imagine, one person trying to do four jobs can quickly become a nightmare. 

Joey says, “We parted ways since that bandwidth was spooky, but I wish them the best!”

HR Horror Story #2 — The Rocky Hire Picture Show

Get prepared to cover your eyes, cause this one’s a doozy! 

Steve Browne, Vice President of HR at LaRosa's, Inc., remembers the weirdest beginning to an interview from back when he worked at a former company. 

At the time, Steve’s job was to interview university students for engineering and architecture co-op positions. 

“As I entered the conference room, the young man who had come for the interview was already seated at the table, and he was looking at the screen of his phone. This was when smartphones had just started to be more common.”

Could he be looking at quick interview tips? Reading up on the company? Supportive texts from his mom? 

Nope. According to Steve, the phone screen showed a nude picture of a young woman.  

Awkward! 

“I was surprised to see this, because I was getting ready to interview,” says Steve. “It bothered me, and I said, ‘Interesting picture. Hi, my name is Steve.’” 

The interviewee stood up and said, “Yeah, that’s my girl. Isn’t she hot?”

Um. So, how does Steve — or anyone — respond to that? 

“I didn’t respond. Instead, I said, “Let’s get started…” 

Needless to say, the interviewee didn’t get the position. Hopefully, he’ll think twice before nonchalantly looking at nude photos on his phone while waiting to be interviewed. 😨

HR Horror Story #3 — Caught Red-Handed  

Sasha Wojcik, HR Specialist at HR for Health, shared in a webinar how she helped a client navigate a case of company theft.

Here’s the story: 

“A client’s bookkeeper was responsible for making deposits to the bank. The client performed an audit on one occasion and noticed the documentation of the deposits did not match the transactions noted on the online statement/transactions. The client found that the employee may be depositing the checks only, not the cash.” 

Sasha explained that in a situation where theft is a possibility, you want to talk to the employee in a non-accusatory way to discuss if it was an accident or intentional. 

Ideally, the employee should be given the opportunity to defend or explain themselves. 

But, the embezzling bookkeeper was caught red-handed.

The client terminated the employee due to the fact that they were the only person handling the money. 

Company theft is definitely an HR nightmare to deal with, and we’d never wish this behavior on anyone! 

HR Horror Story #4 — A Spooky Disappearing Act

Depending on the role, candidates may have multiple options when it comes to their next career move. In the process of applying and interviewing to many companies, a candidate most likely will choose the best salary. 

Fatma Hussain, Human Resources Manager at HB WEBSOL, posted on her LinkedIn with the hashtag #HRStories to speak of a disappearing candidate who, get this: had already accepted the position

“We believe all fellow HR would agree that in current days employees are taking multiple offers...From the employee’s perspective, they have the right to evaluate the offers and negotiate for better,” says Fatma. “And we respect it.” 

Bravo, Fatma. Talk about a class act.

But this raises the serious question of what happens if the candidate accepts the position, HR completes the hiring procedures, and then the candidate just backs out? 

Honestly, nothing good. 

“The employee unhonoured the offer at the last moment, wasting companies’ resources and HR’s efforts,” says Fatma. Now that’s a situation that can give anyone the hiring heebie jeebies!

HR Horror Story #5 — Dangers of a Viral TikTok 

When you think of Starbucks in October, you may feel the urge to go ahead and buy that pumpkin spice latte. And honestly, why not treat yourself? 

But for one unfortunate Starbucks employee in Indiana, his decision to film and post TikToks inspired by customer requests eventually cost him his job.

In the videos, the employee is shown humorously responding to “demanding” customers (played by co-workers) who return a cold drink because they wanted it hot, and make other requests, like wanting extra whipped cream.

Once the employee's TikTok went viral (400,000 views and 60,000 likes), Starbucks leadership made the decision to let the employee go. 

According to Business Insider, “Employees are often bound by social-media policies that prohibit speaking on behalf of the company and using the brand without permission. Starbucks declined to share any further details about this specific case with Insider.”

Employees who post to social media in reference to their work are not thinking of the possible consequences that can arise — especially if they work for a larger brand. 

In the article, the employee said he and his co-workers thought it would be “fun” to make these TikToks. 

But much like fun, social media is fleeting. The time spent making and posting the viral TikTok caused the employee to lose his job, and he deleted the video after being spoken to by management. 

Lose-lose, if you ask us! 

Does your company have a social media policy in place? If not, perhaps you should. You never know when a dark and viral TikTok idea will pop into someone’s head. 😅 

HR Horror Story #6 — Beware the Dog 💩

In an advice column on WeWork, an office employee expresses frustrations with repeatedly discovering dog poop on the floor of their dog-friendly office. She says: 

“We have a dog-friendly office, which is great (love dogs!) but every so often one of them makes a total mess, and the owner isn’t around to clean it up. I guess what I’m asking is… if a dog that’s not mine poops in the office, do I have an obligation to pick it up if the owner is in a meeting? Or do I just… let it sit there and wait? (Neither of these options is very appealing.) Thank you!”

According to the article, office cleanliness is a common complaint HR pros deal with. And this example is definitely one that stinks! 

The columnist, Jen Doll, gives the employee sage advice on how to deal with this poop-offender — one being that if the dog continues having accidents inside it can remain home. 

Jen writes, “Just like people, some dogs aren’t meant to work in cubicles.” 

Ain’t that the truth! 

HR Horror Story #7 — She’ll Put a Hex on You

HR analyst, author, and podcaster, Ben Eubanks currently works as Chief Research Officer at Lighthouse Research & Advisory. But about 10 years ago he witnessed his first termination meeting as an HR professional — and it was a creepy one! 

“The witnesses reported that the woman came into work acting very strangely (during a night shift) and began to follow a female co-worker around the work site, loudly calling her a ‘fornicator’, and eventually laying a voodoo curse on her.”

Talk about scary! But it gets worse. 

The unsuspecting female co-worker was pregnant, and this whole experience frightened her.

The hexer’s response was nothing short of confident.  

“When we brought this woman in to tell her she was going to be leaving the company, she acted like nothing was wrong,” Ben says. “And she could not understand why dropping a voodoo curse on an employee and her unborn child would be seen as anything out of the ordinary.” 

We know it can be a scary world for HR pros (especially during spooky season ☠️), but at least you know whatever horrors come your way — you’re not alone! If these HR experts can survive to tell their stories of horror, so can you. 

Good luck with your hiring, and beware those bumps in the night!

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