The HR Hangover: A Contest For You


February 15, 2010

Here’s the scene:

You walk into work and open your office door.  You see two employees yelling at each other, a young woman in a suit with a resume, a man at a table with his pay stubs spread out on a table with stacks and stacks of receipts, a woman who appears to be having contractions and may give birth any moment, a man who’s arm is bleeding and bandaged and he’s missing two teeth, a 30 year old woman wearing a miniskirt and half-shirt, and a woman speaking heatedly into her cell phone in a foreign language.  You also notice a really foul smell coming from someone in the room.

What do you do?  What do you think happened?  Who do you talk to first to figure it all out?


Have you seen the movie ‘The Hangover‘?  The scenerio above is similar to a scene early in the movie where a group of men who are in Vegas to attend a bachelor party awaken in their hotel suite to find many odd, scary, and unusual things in the room.  They don’t remember anything about the night before so they have to try to piece together were they have been, who they met, and what happened.  Oh, that and where the groom is since they lose him in the course of the night’s events.

It’s a great movie!

So, what does this have to do with HR?  Oddly enough, everything.

If you’ve worked in HR for very long, you know that you can walk into any one of those situations on any given day. Likely, they won’t all be in your office at the same time, which is a good thing.  I certainly have had my share of “issues” crop up in a day, several that I mentioned above really happened to me. And, much like in the hangover, a good HR pro will need the ability to look at the situation before him or her and work backward to piece together what happened so they can make a recommendation of what to do.

Here’s the contest:  Tell me what issues you see in my little scenerio (*hint* employee relations, FMLA, etc.) in the comments. For everyone that makes a real attempt, your name will go into a drawing I’ll do next Monday.  The winner receives the book ‘Hundred Percenters: Challenge Your Employees to Give It Their All, and They’ll Give You Even More’ by Mark Murphy.


  • Great idea, Trish! This is a great follow-on to some of those incredible horror stories, of which you seem to have a deep reservoir to select from ;-). That was the great thing about the movie – adding that bit of CSI-like clue-finding to help solve the case of the missing bachelor. Steve Boese and I had been kicking around the idea of having a related theme for an upcoming HR Happy Hour in March, in honor of St. Patrick’s day. What do you think?

  • Is closing the door and walking away and acceptable response? No? Well ok, here’s what I’ve got.

    Yelling employees are potentially workplace violence, corrective action and dispute resolution at minimum, possibly something as simple as a communication issue.

    The woman in the suit with the resume can come to my real office, I’m doing recruiting.

    The dude with the pay statements probably has wage and hour questions, not sure about the receipts thought unless he’s looking for a tax accountant.

    The woman about to give birth needs to get her butt to the hospital, along with some FMLA paperwork for her to complete after a nice long, drug induced nap.

    The man with the bleeding arm and missing teeth is probably an OSHA issue, bloodborne pathogens and such. We’ll need an incident report and OSHA form 300-A (I think).

    The chick in the mini skirt needs to back on out of the room, go home and change into something more appropriate for the office and try again.

    Cell phone lady needs to go outside with her heated conversation on her cell phone then we can address what ever her issues are. Calm down first, then I’ll talk to you.

    The foul smelling issues? Trish, you know HR people hate that conversation. I’m going to blame this one on the tiger in the restroom.

  • Wow, that would be quite a day!

    Walking in the door, first I would say something on the lines of “Good morning, everyone. Looks like a busy day! I’ll get to you as soon as I can.” Then, first I would separate the brawlers because otherwise they continue to add stress and disruption to the chaos. After telling them we’ll resolve this later and firming sending them on their way, I would check in with the woman in labor, ask her how many months she is and how far apart the contractions are, and whether she’s called anyone yet. Let’s say she says “8 months, 5 minutes, and I left a message for my husband.” Then I would assign someone to look out for the pregnant woman while taking 15 seconds to check on the guy with the missing teeth and bandaged arm. Let’s say he says he missed the top step and cart wheeled down the office stairs, hitting his head, jaw and arm. Then I call 911 and tell the dispatcher about both people.

    Then I take a deep breath and check with the woman with the resume. She’s here for an interview and she’s half an hour early. I send her to the coffee shop downstairs to get some coffee for herself and some Diet Sprite for the woman in labor. I don’t really care about the Diet Sprite, I just want to get her out of the way for the moment.

    I check back with the pregnant woman. In between contractions, she’s concerned about her FMLA, maternity/parental leave, and short term disability. In addition, she wants to know how her insurance is handled while she’s out. I assure her my associate will be right with her and we will help her with everything. I distract her by asking the usual “Boy or girl?” type questions. Then, immediate crises under control, I look for backup. I intercom the receptionist and ask her to find Stacey, the HR Coordinator. When Stacey arrives, we tackle the remaining situations. She gives the laboring woman quick answers to her questions and tells her the paperwork will follow. She asks the injured man about his accident and gives him a worker’s comp form, which he completes with his uninjured hand.

    The guy with the receipts is getting irritable and paystubs says “hey, I need to ask you about my FSA! They keep rejecting my claims.” I ask if we could set an appointment at a time when I could give him my full attention and we agree he’ll come back at 3 p.m.

    I greet the woman who was talking on the phone. She answers in accented English and says she is here to check on the status of her resume. I thank her for her interest, ask her to write down her name and number tell her I’ll call her back as soon as I can. She complies and says goodbye.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been checking out the woman in the miniskirt. The splatter of brownish orange stains down her front make it obvious where the stench is coming from! She’s obviously massively hung over, dozing off in a corner, snoring. Stacey informs me that before the woman passed out, she was waving a crumpled receipt and in a slurred voice demanding EAP reimbursement for her cab ride to work. She’d been out drinking all night, but since she’s a dedicated employee, she made sure the taxi took her to the office rather than home. We leave her passed out in the corner for the moment.

    The paramedics arrive and examine their two patients. Meanwhile, the pregnant woman’s husband calls frantically, demanding updates. Stacey talks to him, then hands the phone to his wife, and they make hurried arrangements to meet at the ER. The paramedics determine the injured man may have a concussion, so they leave with two people rather than one.
    No sooner have the emergency personnel left then the woman in the suit returns. I hand her off to Stacey, along with the Diet Sprite.

    Then I put my FSA guy into my calendar, jot down the FMLA and Workers Comp situations so I don’t forget them, make an EAP referral on my passed out employee, look for the resume in question, go follow-up with my fighters, and then email or call the managers of all the involved employees as appropriate according to the situation.

    Then I go for a walk around the block to catch my own breath and wind down from the adrenaline before logging into twitter to send a heck of an update about my day!

  • After reading all the comments, I don’t know what I can add, Trish. Let me just say that I loved this post. You are what makes HR both interesting and fun.

    Your twitter pal,

    @HRMargo Margo Rose

Comments are closed.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.





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