Hallowe'en – the time to remember all the HR tales that keep you awake at night. Photo: Shutterstock

Friday 30th October 2015

Bogeyman resources

A Hallowe'en round-up of some of HR's scariest stories

The wicked witch of the BBC?

In 2013, then BBC HR Director Lucy Adams was severely criticised over excessive payments she made to departing BBC executives, claiming “the overwhelming focus was to get numbers out of the door as quickly as possible.” What followed was a media backlash which questioned whether her actions had disgraced the face of HR forever.

The scapegoat?

One of the greatest business demises is that of Enron. The fast growing Texan energy company burned with great intensity through 2001-2002. A risk-taking, entrepreneurial culture where ethical practices were far from adhered to, its HR department was faced with a real dilemma: it held responsibility for ethics yet was powerless to enforce them at the highest levels.

The scary selfie?

Naked ambition cost one manager his job when accidentally sending a nude photo of himself to his future HR Manager. The 23-year-old man explained the ‘sexts’ were meant for someone else. However the HR Manager failed to see the funny side and rescinded the employment offer.

The candy man?

Krispy Kreme at Hallowe’en. Photo: CC

Former CHRO of Krispy Kreme Donuts, Scott Livengood, was promoted to CEO then led the company on a too-fast expansion that resulted in charges of accounting fraud.

The devil in disguise?

Following a restructure of senior management at Lloyds Banking Group in February 2012, Group Chief Executive António Horta-Osório reduced his direct reporting lines. One casualty was HR Director, Angie Risley, whose reporting line changed from CEO to the newly created role of ‘Group Corporate Functions Director’, supposedly to “bring better focus on areas such as HR, legal and secretariat and group audit, which are essential to transforming the group.” Six months later Risley (a well-respected professional) announced her intention to leave.

The ghost of employment past?

In September 2015, Claire Shepherd secured her dream job at retail merchandiser, Dee Set, after passing the telephone interview with flying colours. 30 minutes later the company revoked its offer after discovering she had an intricate hand tattoo – saying it may cause distress to customers. After her experience went viral, the company backtracked and offered the job back to Claire. Too little, too late. She accepted a role with retailer B&M instead.

The flying vampire?

After being promoted to CEO from CHRO at Delta Airlines, Ron Allen led the airline to destroy its competitive advantage by slashing payroll and sucking dry a tremendous culture. He was not a career HR person, but had held the role prior to his promotion.

Finally, let’s remember the scariest thing of all – the cost of bad HR.

  • Average recruitment cost of filling a vacancy is £4,000 or £10,000 for a senior manager role (CIPD)
  • Disengaged workers cost approximately $2,246 (£1,464) per employee, per year (ADP)
  • 50% of employees quit because of poor management (Gallup)
  • £3.4m is the highest recorded tribunal payout to date awarded for unfair dismissal. The average payout in 2013 – 2014 across all claims was £12,498 (Morton Fraser)
  • £1.8bn is lost from an estimated one in eight sick days taken for non-genuine reasons (CBI)
  • Only 13% of the working population are engaged (Gallup) meaning the remaining 87% do little more than show up

About the author

Jo Harley

Jo Harley is the Managing Director of Purple Cubed.