In all my years, personally and professionally, I have never had anything good follow the statement “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this…”. It’s kinda like a 10-year-old boy on his bicycle, in the back of a pickup truck, peddling towards and open tailgate and screaming ” Watch This!!” (personal experience and another story for another day)….
An employee, let’s call him Bob, in a small remote facility called in and made a formal complaint that his supervisor, let’s call him Jim, was illegally altering his time cards and that he was not being paid correctly. I flew out to investigate the situation as it was also time to make the rounds at several remote facilities.
When I got there, I sat down with Bob and started the interview asking for the facts (dates, times, events, witnesses, evidence, etc.). He had a long list of accusations against Jim (time card violations, favoritism, safety violations, work rule violations, etc.), and I was dutifully writing everything down; however Bob seemed to be getting more and more agitated as the meeting went on. Apparently I was not displaying enough emotion as I kept bringing the conversations back to the facts of the situation and as the investigator was remaining neutral; I believe that Bob was getting frustrated because I was not pounding my fist on the table and saying “Yeah, this just sucks, let’s go hang that %#!&@” so he starts to get more desperate to prove his case. He then makes an accusation that his supervisor is using drugs and that he is putting everyone there at risk. I jot that down and ask “how do you know this?’ At this point he leans over to me and says “You know… I probably shouldn’t be telling you this because you’re in HR and all… but I know that he is using drugs… I know because I’m selling them to him…”
Oh come on now!!! How is one supposed to keep a straight face when someone tells you that? Well somehow I maintained my composure and simply continued on with the interview.
Me: “Ok. So how many times has this happened?”
Bob: “Oh it’s been going on for over a year.”
Me: “Were any of your transactions on site?”
Bob: “Yeah. Most of them actually.” Etc. etc.
I then moved on to see if he had other accusations. After we were done, I asked him to wait a moment. I left and found the General Manager, and we returned and sat down. Until that point there were no witnesses, and it would have been my word against Bob’s word. I then read over my notes with Bob and the GM. I asked Bob to confirm if I had his story correct for each accusation, and he did. When we got to the drug accusations, I read back exactly what he said, and at that point he said “Yeah I probably shouldn’t have said anything, but yeah, Jim is using drugs that I sold him.” Shortly thereafter we let Bob leave for the day, and the GM and I decided that we had enough to terminate the Bob that day.
We had enough to send Jim in for a drug test based on other factors in addition to Bob’s ‘confession’, but he passed. Unfortunately, we could not substantiate any of Bob’s other accusations, and while Bob’s confession gave us enough evidence to terminate Bob, it was not enough to fire Jim. Luckily Jim decided to quit shortly thereafter due to problems with his work hours and issues at home.
I guess the moral of the story is if you ever have to start a sentence with “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this…” you may want to take a minute and possibly rethink what you are about to say. Just a suggestion!
Thanks for this story sent in from one of the many great HR professionals out there! If you have one this crazy, please send to me! I have several more for the next few weeks, but I have to say, people never cease to amaze me!