Episode 414: HR Gone Wrong

You’d be surprised what’s out there when it comes to HR practices, we sure are. From an employer that liked touching the ear lobes of his employees all the way to potentially paying employees with pizza, listen to Paul and CeCe talk about various stories where HR has gone very wrong.

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Voice Over: You’re about to listen to another episode of What The Hell Just Happened?! Join Paul Edwards and his guests as they discuss and sometimes even solve some interesting HR problems. 

Paul: And… I’m gonna go off the rails sometimes and talk about whatever I want. 


Paul: All right, everybody, I want to welcome you to today’s What The Hell Just Happened. CeCe, I want to welcome you too. So I think you have some things that have been going on in HR and you just kind of want to get my feelings about these things?


CeCe: [laughing] Yeah. This is just kind of a fun episode where we’re going to talk about some HR horror stories because, you know, we have way more stories than the average person here and we all get to talking sometimes about our past lives before we came to CEDR.


Paul: And things that come up. 


CeCe: Yeah. [laughing]


Paul: Yeah, we…Yeah. We’ve had an uncommon number of attorneys who worked in practices, to give an example to you who are listening out there, who then actually kind of really learn more about classification of employees and particularly the exempt/nonexempt. And a lot of them are like, “Wow, we weren’t paying our people right.” So, I mean –


CeCe: Oh, everybody who comes here says –


Paul: Past lives.


CeCe: Yeah. “I had this happen, and I had no idea it was wrong,” myself included. [laughing]


Paul: So. Yeah, yeah. So anyway, I was late today to the podcast, everybody. I’m stuck in a subreddit right now CeCe.


CeCe: Which one?


Paul: Well, I’m in the Rivian one. So Rivian is a truck that is really cool. 


CeCe: Oh.


Paul: And I was in the cyber truck. I have one of those reserved, but you know, he’s been promising it. And now after using his StarLink product…


CeCe: You’re speaking a different language. I have no idea what you’re saying. [laughing]


Paul: Okay. So Elon Musk said, “Hey, I’m going to do the cyber trucks thing.” And I was like, “Oh! Oh! Oh!” Because I don’t really like Teslas. 


CeCe: What’s a cyber truck though?


Paul: The cyber truck is this monster truck. It looks like it was built for the game Tron. I don’t know if you remember that game because it’s a little way before your time. It’s like one of the first video games. 


CeCe: I don’t think so.


Paul: But anyway, it looks like it was built for Tron. It’s one of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen in my life, and there’s been a lot of comical errors with it, but they’re finally bringing them online. 


CeCe: Okay.


Paul: Meanwhile, this company Rivian put this truck together, which I rented one just to drive it about two months ago because I sold my Tacoma for a Subaru. 


CeCe: Mm hmm. 


Paul: And I made a mistake.


CeCe: Oh, no!


Paul: Well, I love the Subaru. There’s nothing wrong with it. 


CeCe: Mm hmm. 


Paul: Well, I digress here. 


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: I’m all the way over on trucks, and we’re already talking about Subaru. I just want to say this from this subreddit that I’m on, because you have asked what subreddit I’m on. I’m in the Rivian subreddit, because I’ve ordered my truck and I’m waiting, and they’re building these things, which is really uncommon. You know, you don’t sit and wait for Ford to build your truck.


CeCe: Right.


Paul: You go by and you, you know, do battle with the dealership and you get a truck. 


CeCe: The worst.


Paul: So first…It’s not great. Don’t even get me going on that. But anyway, I got an email from RIvian this morning and we get many emails from them. I’m always excited because I’m hoping it’s the email that says, “Hey, we’re configuring your truck -”


CeCe: Yeah!


Paul: “Get your stuff together,” and I’m just really attached to this whole process.


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: I am. And they sent me an email trying to sell me clothes.


CeCe: [laughing] Rivian clothes?


Paul: Yes! Yes! Very expensive ones, like a hundred –


CeCe: Like you’ll be like Rivian-less, but you’ll sport your cap?


Paul: But you can wear your hat.


CeCe: Or you can be a billboard.


Paul: And, and I made a comment in it and I, and I made a comment being like, “Look what you got…Ya’ll. What are you doing?” 


CeCe: Yeah. [laughing]


Paul: Like what…In what world do you think you should have any attention focused on selling people apparel right now? 


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: You’re producing trucks and you’re getting and by the way, everyone starts with, “Hey, I’m having this problem with my truck.”


CeCe: Uh huh.


Paul: But they preface that with, “I frickin love this truck. So don’t get me wrong here. This is the best vehicle I’ve ever owned in my life. I’m in love with it.” And people are. They’re really in love with it. And after driving one, I see why. 


CeCe: Okay. 


Paul: I guess I just wanted to go take a little left turn because we can talk about these HR things but I also want to just say to everybody out there, one of the things to learn as a big business is to focus.


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: And do whatever you do, even if what you appear to do needs to be focused on, and by the way I’m going to tie this into HR.


CeCe: Okay.


Paul: Whatever you do or whatever you’re focused on really needs to be focused on how it adds to your product. To your customers’ experiences, to the outcomes, to all those things. And all of that has to do with your people. 


CeCe: Absolutely.


Paul: And so when you upset a customer, like you’ve just upset me and I’ll get over it, I mean, I can just ignore it, but I’m not going to ignore the next email. It’s not it’s not okay for me to start getting these extra emails. We take it out on your people.


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: We do. We get upset and they’re already struggling with their service centers. They don’t have enough. They’re trying to put these vehicles out there, meet some goals that they can keep their financing and have cash flow. And so this can be a successful company and we’re all out here rooting for them.  There’s tens of thousands of us who have preordered these vehicles. And I just so far, I really…In comparison to other companies that produce cyber trucks, Tesla’s and poorly operating satellite dishes, but charge $120 a month for them. I’m not real fond of that company right now, so I’m loving what I’m seeing from Rivian and then it’s so weird that just a pair of shorts, an overpriced shorts and a pullover, would upset me so much. I am. I need help. 

CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: That’s what I need. All right. All right, CeCe. Thanks for letting me vent that right now.


CeCe: Yeah. Yeah.


Paul: Okay. All right, let’s get into the meat of this thing. What are some of these horror stories?


CeCe: Okay. So the first one comes from somebody who actually doesn’t work in HR here, but she told us a story about a former supervisor who had a habit of going around and touching the earlobes of all the women at the office.


Paul: Male or female.


CeCe: It was a male – 


Paul: It doesn’t matter.


CeCe: Who touched all the females’ earlobes.


Paul: Doesn’t matter, but what matters to me right now, okay – 


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: So he had an earlobe thing?


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: Okay, and he’s touching all the women.


CeCe: He would just come and just walk up to them and like rub their earlobes.


Paul: And just rub their earlobes.


CeCe: And it was such a pervasive thing. Somebody saw it happen to her for the first time when she started there. And they came up to her privately and said – 


Paul: Don’t worry about it. It’s just this thing?


CeCe: No. Well, the opposite. They said, “You looked uncomfortable, you have to tell him to stop because he does it to everybody. And if you say nothing he thinks it’s okay.”


Paul: Wow.


CeCe: Yeah. [laughing]


Paul: Wow. Okay. Well…I have so many questions. 


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: Okay, first of all, if you’re listening out there, it’s not the employee’s job to tell. First of all, they need to tell the guy or the gal. You know, I’m not comfortable being touched, but what manager gets to be a manager who’s touching the team?


CeCe: You know, certain industries and where this person came from –


Paul: Okay.


CeCe: It’s one of those where there’s a lot of money flowing in and out. 


Paul: Okay.


CeCe: Sometimes you’ve got people who are rainmakers and they just get to wreak all the havoc.


Paul: They get to do whatever they want to.


CeCe: Yeah. And this was that type of scenario where this was somebody who – 


Paul: Oh! So probably part of his belly is hanging out.


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: He’s got food in his mustache because he’s the head sales guy and he’s the earlobe toucher. 


CeCe: Yeah. [laughing]


Paul: Oh, well, that’s fine, right? Yeah. This goes down the line of everybody, and this happens more than you, I want to admit, or maybe that our members want to admit.


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: It’s this question right here, and it’s the same employee. I know we had to fire her because she was stealing, but she was so good at billing and she didn’t steal that much. I’m thinking about hiring her back. 


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: Right? 


CeCe: Yeah. 


Paul: It’s like you’ve got this crazy person inside your business because they’re so important and they’re so good at what they do, but you allow other things to happen.


CeCe: Yeah, or, I mean, even stuff that’s a little more innocent, you see, where maybe they’re late every day, but they really excel at their job. 


Paul: Yeah.


CeCe: But it’s pissing everybody else off.


Paul: That’s an official HR term. 


CeCe: Yeah. [laughing]


Paul: CeCe, pissing everybody else off. Yeah.


CeCe: And it’s really affecting morale, you know, and most of the time, if you set the expectation for, you know, set that bar higher, they don’t want to lose their job either. They’re making their commission or whatever. So, you know, there’s ways to get them to still get the performance that you want.


Paul: Right.


CeCe: But not have it affect the whole team where, you know, all the women are like dodging this guy in the hall.


Paul: They had their earlobes taken off their heads so everybody looks kind of like a reptile.


CeCe: Sticking their hair down and yeah. [laughing]


Paul: Well, this is unfortunate, but okay, so look, the person being late all the time, you creating one kind of like liability there of having inconsistency. But we’ll move on to the next one. But allowing a male or even a female to touch employees and in a way that’s inappropriate and not adding to the job or anything is not okay. And that’s a completely different kind of legal liability and one that you couldn’t escape and – 


CeCe: Yeah, the consequences can be really high there.


Paul: They can be. I, look, I can remember again, this has happened two or three times they’re taking the group photo. Everybodys gathered around, doctor doesn’t really mean anything by it, but trying to get everybody to smile and he kind of runs his hand down the back of the one standing close to him and kind of pops her on the butt. 


CeCe: Mm hmm. 


Paul: And she smiles, but then two weeks later, they have to let her go. Has nothing to do with the picture, the butt touching or anything, but she brought the butt touching back in.


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: So, you know, innocent, no matter how innocent or good natured or well-intended or playful it is, when you’re a manager, you can’t you can’t touch other people. 


CeCe: Right? 


Paul: And if you’re managing other people, you can’t let the other people touch other people.


CeCe: Yeah. Well, and worse, if he escalates that way –


Paul: Wait. Does this mean I have to stop going around for my morning hug when I come in? Because I get 32 hugs every single morning. 


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: And Frankie over here, who’s recording, he seems to like it. 


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: Not a word from Frankie.


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul:  Frankie’s like, “Yeah, I love it, Paul. That’s great.”


CeCe: [laughing] Yeah.


Paul: [laughing] “It’s awesome.” 


CeCe: But even worse, if you ignore that behavior and then that person escalates into, you know, touching other body parts or something even more forward, you’re responsible because you should have known because of what you were letting go on.


Paul: Yeah. No more. No more earlobe touching. Okay.


CeCe: Okay, so this is different, but similar. 


Paul: Okay.


CeCe: This is my own experience.


Paul: Horror stories.


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: Okay.


CeCe: So we had a manager, and again, this is a financial type of industry, he was a rainmaker. He asked a candidate for nude pictures. Still offered her the job.


Paul: Very reasonable request.


CeCe: Yeah, right? [laughing]


Paul: Awesome stuff.


CeCe: It wasn’t at a strip club.


Paul: Bank of America? No, just kidding. Just kidding Bank of America.


CeCe: No! No! I never worked at Bank of America. 


Paul: Oh, I’m just kidding. Yeah.


CeCe: She turned down the job and submitted –


Paul: Ah duh!


CeCe: Yeah. To HR and had the text messages so we had the proof that he had done this and, you know.


Paul: And they fired him, right?


CeCe: You would think, but we did an investigation, and he admitted to it and said he was I mean, he couldn’t not admit to it. It was right there. Said he wouldn’t do it again. My advice to upper management was we need to let this person go. That’s egregious, in my opinion. What, who isn’t telling us what else is going on?


Paul: He’s done it. Yeah. Something else. 


CeCe: Their opinion was that the law prevents you from…So if he had not hired her, that would have been discriminatory.


Paul: Because he offered her the job? [laughing]


CeCe: Because he offered her the job, this was not illegal in their opinion. I’ll disagree with that one. But let’s say that that was correct. I said you can have higher standards for your employees than the law requires. 


Paul: Yeah. 


CeCe: But the money won in this case.


Paul: Well, that’s what he would argue. He has higher standards. He needs to see people who work for him naked before they start working there. 


CeCe: [laughing] Right?


Paul: So the company, the financial company you worked for, didn’t have a lawyer.


CeCe: I don’t know if they consulted legal on this.


Paul: There’s no way. There’s no way legal return that answer. 


CeCe: Yeah. 


Paul: Okay, so the moral of the story is yeah, that’s just awful. Yeah. That’s a bad one.


CeCe: And I wasn’t there very long. Yeah. After that.


Paul: I can say, well, I mean, it’s probably indicative of some other things that are –


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: Kind of going on. 


CeCe: Yeah. 


Paul: And, you know, the financial industry and banks are famous for holding on to people and allowing things to go that may be not be the best thing to do.


CeCe: Uh hmm.


Paul:  It’s not easy. They have their branches in every city and every town, and they have, you know, it’s not easy. I just do –


CeCe: That’s the truth.


Paul: I do want to recognize that. 


CeCe: Absolutely. 


Paul: And rainmakers are very, very valuable, but they have to be rainmakers that don’t ask for people’s naked pictures. But yeah, yeah. I’m just saying, as an owner, you know, I don’t own a financial institution with a bank and all that sort of stuff. But I would fire the, you know what, out of that guy. 


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: Yeah. And we wouldn’t be worrying about him. This is just me personally, everybody who’s listening. This is not HR Paul. I would personally make sure he didn’t get a job any place else. I wouldn’t have to worry about him going to work for my competitor. Because I would make the…That’s just wrong.


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: Now that I’m thinking about it, the more I’m thinking about it, it kind of makes me angry that they would allow him to stay in that position.


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: And that they would allow him to continue to do that and that they would ignore that he’s doing stuff like that to other people that work in the workplace because of all the things that need to be true in this world, I don’t care where your political correctness meter falls or where any of those things are, folks ought to be able to come to work and do their job. That’s it. 


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: It should be free of harassment. They should have the best manager that they can get, you know, and we’re all different degrees of manager and work sucks sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t. But yeah, people should be able to come to work and spend that darn 8 hours, five days a week with you and not be subject to something like that.


CeCe: Yeah, well, and – 


Paul: Did he ask the males for it?


CeCe: No, of course not. But also, I mean, if she had – 


Paul: Are you sure? 


CeCe: [laughing] 


Paul: Because I have a different answer. No, I’m just kidding. [laughing]


CeCe: But, you know, the job offer to me is not, that has no part of the equation because she could not reasonably accept that job.


Paul: She must be mortified.


CeCe: She would have had to expect to be sexually harassed.


Paul: Oh! Can I go –


CeCe: Every day.


Paul: Can I go all male on this one? 


CeCe: Sure. 


Paul: Hey, if she had been my girlfriend, or my wife, he’d have spent some time in the emergency room. 


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: I just want to put that out there for any of you listening, thinking about asking for a naked picture of somebody by text who’s applied for a job for you? Better make sure it ain’t my girlfriend.



Paul: I’m from the South. We settle things a different way.


CeCe: Well, I’ll hope for our sake. 


Paul: Yeah. 


CeCe: So we don’t have to bail you out of jail, that it doesn’t happen. [laughing]


Paul: I don’t have a girlfriend. We’re fine. Words out.


CeCe: [laughing] Oh. All right. This next one we love to talk about. You can’t pay people in chicken here.


Paul: That’s great. It was. It was a good line. It was true.


CeCe: True. We have an employee here who was paid in pizza, and every day when he would come to work, if he knew he would have to stay late if there was a pizza.


Paul: Involved? [laughing]


CeCe: Waiting there for him.


Paul: [laughing] Well, that takes the joy out of pizza.


CeCe: Of course my first question is, so how often were you getting a pizza? And he said, “Every day.”


Paul: Every day.


CeCe: Every day. [laughing] So this was an unpaid internship from the start, but the lateness was paid in pizza.


Paul: Okay. 


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul:vIf he was properly, if he was working an unpaid internship and they weren’t taking – 


CeCe: No.


Paul: They had gotten that part wrong too.


CeCe: [laughing] Yeah, of course.


Paul:  [heavy sigh] Okay. Because I was going to say if it was an unpaid internship and they were giving him a pizza day, that’s a company, a bona fide unpaid internship.


CeCe: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.


Paul: A bona fide, you know, it’s a real thing and you’re really there and you’re getting experience and they’re putting up with your butt. 


CeCe: Sure. 


Paul: And you know that. Yeah, the pizza would have been fantastic. I’d have been like, “Guess what I got ya’ll? I got this internship and like three pizzas a week.”


CeCe: Yeah. No, it was not a bonafide internship, but it’s true, though. People here love to get fed.


Paul: Yeah. And they also like to get paid. 


CeCe: Yeah. 


Paul: And they also like to be paid overtime.


CeCe: Yeah. Exactly. But we’re not paying them in lieu, paying them in food in lieu of actual money.


Paul: Or gift cards or free trips or anything. We pay them their hourly wage and then if we’d like to get them pizza, we get them pizza. 


CeCe: Mmm hmm. Yeah. Oh I left out one detail you’ll love. This was also in California. [laughing]


Paul: Oh? Hey! HR rabbit hole. You have to be very careful in internships. You can’t just call someone an intern. There’s a bunch of rules around it. We’re not going to go into that because we’ve done podcasts and written articles on it.


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: If you’re thinking that you’re paying your people in pizza, who are your interns and maybe you don’t know about these rules about interns, you might want to search our website.


CeCe: Absolutely.


Paul: Or CEDR’s website for more information.


CeCe: Yeah, yeah. It’s not just something you can make up.


Paul: Right?


CeCe: Program in house.


Paul: What’s our next horror story?


CeCe: The next one is…Paul. Do you recall that we gave a bonus for something pretty odd?


Paul: I cannot confirm – 


CeCe: It wasn’t too long ago. [laughing]


Paul: Or deny. The way you asked me that question? I feel like I’m in front of Congress. I cannot. I cannot confirm or deny whether or not I did that.


CeCe: I’m going to preface this with our bathrooms in this building – 


Paul: Oh! Yes!


CeCe: Are like public facing. 


Paul: Yes.


CeCe: We share with tenants. Yeah.


Paul: It’s not really a bonus because I’m dealing with an independent contractor, a bona fide independent contractor. 


CeCe: Yes. 


Paul: Who’s cleaning up our building.


CeCe: Yes. And she came to us…She was not you know, it wasn’t just to complain, to complain. It was more like, “You would not believe what I just had to deal with,” because she had had to clean poop off the walls.


Paul: Yeah. Yeah. We have a big atrium, open space. And about twice a year, homeless folks will figure out how the doors work and stuff, and they’ll block them open. They’ll do things, and they’ll come inside, and there’s a public facing, well, atrium facing open bathrooms. It can’t be locked or anything.


CeCe: Exactly. 


Paul: Inside of the building, and they’ll start using it. You know, so I don’t know that this is an HR horror story, but I remember when we figured out we gave her a few couple hundred extra bucks. 


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: And we went, “We’re really sorry about that.” And then we really got on trying to keep people out. But the thing here is, if the homeless people would just be…Not poop on the walls?


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: The people were un-homed, because everybody was listening, I work with the un-homed every week. I volunteer. I’ve been doing it for five years. I’ve got a pretty healthy conversation, understanding of the community. If they were just sneaking in and using the bathrooms and sneaking back out, they could do it forever. I wouldn’t care. 


CeCe: Yeah. 


Paul: If they had zero impact on the building.


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: But yeah, sometimes you got to go a little extra. I guess the moral of that story is, if you want to keep the people working with you and for you, you got to treat them well. And in this case, we were like she didn’t ask for it. I don’t think she was expecting.


CeCe: No, she wasn’t. And I think you’ve got to be prepared when you’re a manager or you’re working in HR to have some really interesting conversations at any moment. [laughing]


Paul: You can’t always throw money at the problem, but then sometimes you can fling some poop against the wall. I mean, we had chimpanzees in there. What’s going on? Okay, what’s the next one?


CeCe: What’s the weirdest way you ever got a job, Paul?


Paul: Where’s, I got a job?


CeCe: Yeah, yeah. You’ve got your own interesting story.


Paul: I’ve had a lot of jobs. My first, I got my Social Security, you know, so security sends you a thing and tells you, you know, this is how much you’ve earned so far. And I got it the other day.


CeCe: Mmm hmm.


Paul: And I was curious because I gave a log in and I went to log in and my first entry into Social Security, I was nine years old. 


CeCe: Oh.


Paul:  I’m farm family. My grandparents, both of them are farmers. And I remember being taught to drive a tractor, and I was what we call trucking tobacco from the field back to the barn. And the first time I did was at nine years old. And my darn grandfather issued me paychecks.


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: How awesome is that though? He wanted me to understand what a check was and he would write, you know, I was probably being paid, you know, $0.89 an hour, but it showed up. He also made my Social Security contributions and stuff that you’re supposed to do. So –


CeCe: That’s really cool. 


Paul: That’s kind of the first job. But that’s not what you asked me. What’s the weirdest way that I got a job? 


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: One of the weirdest ways that I got a job, this is setting aside the whole hot air balloon crew chief thing, was – 


CeCe: Oh! I don’t think I’ve heard that one before. [laughing]


Paul: That was pretty awesome. That was good. Yeah. I thought I was going to pick up chicks. It didn’t work. 


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: No, actually, it did, though, now that I think about it. Anyway, I was…Okay everybody, again, you may have heard me mention this before, back in my thirties and part of the way into my forties, I owned a couple of live music venues, and I also was a promoter in some other venues, and I also managed bands that would travel around the country. I mean, I made a full fledged business out of this. 


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: You know, it was 60 employees and it grew from, you know, you’ve got this little live music venue, you have this management company, and you’re managing these artists and negotiating contracts with record labels, small record labels, small bands, everybody just, you know, not trying to like blow this out of the water, but, you know, very serious. Lots of folks working for me. As part of that, I was really good friends with the guy who owned the concert venue across the street from me. And in fact, I owe him everything. Joe, Joe, if you’re listening in, I know you’re not, but if Joe Tronto’s listening, you know it, I’ve told you before, I still owe you everything. Joe had a comedy zone and he had a hypnotist that would come through. Mike Mesmerize, if you’re listening, you can kiss my ass.


CeCe: Oh, gosh! [laughing]


Paul: No. He’ll get it. He’ll get it. I’m going to send this to him.


CeCe: Okay.


Paul: I haven’t seen Mike in many years. We connected a couple of years ago, and he immediately insulted me. I don’t think Mike still does the hypnotist thing, but he was the world’s most powerful hypnotist, and he would come through town all the time. And we had the comedy zone. It was a sit down, hold about 250 people, which is a big comedy club, been going for years. Mike had been coming through for a couple of years, and he was just killing it. I mean, he had been coming so long, CeCe, that when he would, there was a moment in time, as you expect on the stage for the hypnotist to go, “Sleep now!” Right?


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: And then everybody on the stage would fall asleep. Not everybody would, some would fake it,  some would…Anyway, that’s a whole nother story. 


CeCe: Uhh hmm.


Paul: But he had been coming for so long, that there were two gentlemen in the audience who we would have to put, they would have to put bouncers next to because they would fall out of their chairs – 


CeCe: Oh! Yeah!


Paul: Because they had been successfully knocked out in years past. And he was like, “I can’t keep bringing him up on stage. People will think I’m planting them,” but we would have to look for them when they’d come in and anyway…


CeCe: Mike, that’s an interesting liability.


Paul: Mike was amazing. Yeah, there were liabilities, and so that’s a good way to put it. He needed an assistant on stage because when he said, “Sleep now” or knock someone out, if they were in it, they would drop like a rock. 


CeCe: Uh hmm.


Paul: And he was so entertaining, a little risque. He really had it figured out. But part of it was he needed an assistant, not just to help with those people falling out, but also he had a bunch of little cues. 

CeCe: Yeah. 


Paul: So when he’d, like, turn someone into a rabbit, he would play Alice in Wonderland in the background. 


CeCe: Aww. Uh huh.


Paul: I mean, he had all these little cues going on. And back then, it wasn’t that easy to do it. You had to have like three of these that play and tape things, and you had to know what was a really intricate thing that he had figured out.


CeCe: It’s like a full show, not just the – 


Paul: Full show. It was like a really, really well-produced show, and he did his best to try to drag it out on the road with him in these little podunk towns with all these comedy zones and stuff. And so anyway, Mike would have his assistants. He’d always bring an assistant with him, and he had an assistant with him on this trip who was a new guy. And I’m friends with Joe, who owns the you know, The Attic was the name of the club. And we’re in, sitting in the comedy zone. I’m on a date. I’m sitting back in the sound booth because, you know, I’m important. I’m special and I promote shows.


CeCe: [laughing] The VIP seats.


Paul: Yeah, I’m in the VIP seats, whatever. And Joe comes out. Joe’s from New York. Been living in North Carolina for 30 years. Never lost the New York accent. 


CeCe: Uh hmm.


Paul: He’s like, “Paulie, I need to see you in the back.” And I’m like, “What’s up, Joe?” He’s like, “Just, just come on, come in to the back.” And so I go in the back and Mike Mesmerizes’ assistant has overdosed himself.


CeCe: Oh, gosh.


Paul: Yeah, yeah. He’s, you know, just passed out in the corner.


CeCe: Yeah. 


Paul: And he’s, I don’t think he’s going to make it to the show. 


CeCe: Yeah. 


Paul: And Joe pats me on the shoulder and says, “Congratulations. Congratulations, Paulie. You’re in show business tonight. You’re Mike Mesmerizes’ new assistant,” and walks out of the back stage and leaves me in there with Mike. Well, I had met Mike before. 


CeCe: Uh huh.


Paul: I, you know, Mike I got you out of jail that night. And anyway, I met Mike before, and he’s a lovely human being, very difficult to work for. 


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: And I’m like, “Mike, I…What?” And he was just like, just ,”You’ve seen the show. Here’s the buttons. We’re going to do the best we can.” 


CeCe: Mm hmm.


Paul: We got through that night, and then because the guy, you know, had overdosed. And so, of course, we got him help and got him out of the club. 


CeCe: Yeah!


Paul: But, yeah, but, you know, he couldn’t take him out on the road. So I ended up being the world’s most powerful hypnotist’s personal assistant for the next two weeks and went on the road with him as we toured colleges up and down the East Coast. Because, you know, I don’t have anything going on. 


CeCe: [laughing] 


Paul: And that’s how I. Yeah, that’s one of my – 


CeCe: Uh huh. 


Paul: For everybody who listened to that, thanks.


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: For listening to that story. Mesmerized, I hope I hear from you. [laughing]


CeCe: Oh, my gosh. That’s funny. I’m guessing he didn’t give you like –


Paul: There was no travel.


CeCe: An I9? [laughing]


Paul: There was no. No, it was all cash under the table, which, you know, everybody…It was fine.


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: I mean, I’m supposed to be like, “Don’t ever break the rules!” But, I mean, every now and then, you just pay in cash. I did make him pay me more.


CeCe: Oh, yeah?


Paul: I did. I did. I do remember that.


CeCe: While he was in a bind.


Paul: He was in a bind and I actually used it –


CeCe: Negotiated it.


Paul: You know, which was not common for me to do back then. But I was like, “Wait a minute, he’s offering this, and I could get that,” so…


CeCe: Well, that is not nearly as interesting as how I got my first job. [laughing]


Paul: How did you get your first job?


CeCe: My friends and I used to hang out at a gas station that had a Taco Bell inside. Do you remember when that existed? Taco Bell Expresses? 


Paul: Yeah. I do.


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: I do.


CeCe: Well, we go after all the school – 


Paul: There’s still a few of them around.


CeCe: Are there? 


Paul: Yeah.


CeCe: I thought that they were all gone.


Paul: Well, I don’t know if they’re yeah, I think they’re still around truck stops and things like that. That’s –


CeCe: Oh, yeah, that makes sense.


Paul: Yeah.


CeCe: So there was one right near my high school, and my friends and I would go hang out there and, you know, they would, they were teenage boys. They would just leave like a big mess. And I’m like the mom of the group and – 


Paul: You’re cleaning up.


CeCe: You need to clean up your stuff. You can’t leave it here for these people to clean up after you and I’d clean up all their stuff and the manager would come out and thank me. And one day he said, “When you turn 16, I’ve got a job for you.” And I did. I went back when I turned 16.


Paul: It was a good job, wasn’t it?


CeCe: It ended up being a yeah. I mean, I was promoted to a shift leader. It didn’t, it paid pretty good for being a high school student. 


Paul: Uh huh.


CeCe: It was, it was terrible, though, because of the location. 


Paul: Yeah.


CeCe: Because it was like college students, high school students, lots of homeless people. It was just like a mixture of a lot of people who didn’t treat you very well, but it gave me really good experience.


Paul: Mm hmm. Yeah.


CeCe: And I didn’t have to go, like, search for a job. So that was a nice thing, as a first time, you know?


Paul: That’s pretty cool to fall into it.


CeCe: Really hard to do it and then you’ve got work experience, so. And then I got a job at the place right next door that was an actual professional job because those people would come in and buy food from me. [laughing] So it really did work out.


Paul: So that’s one of our tactics, right? 


CeCe: Yeah. Yeah.


Paul: That’s one of our tactics when you’re looking for someone to hire. So that’s a great tactic we use over at CEDR and we give to our members over there, which is if you see somebody providing really good service and doing a very good job at whatever it is that they’re doing, it never hurts to go, [whispers] “Are you happy working here?”


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: [whispers] “Because I have a job.” 


CeCe: [laughing] Yeah.


Paul: You give them the thing and they come over and they do the interview and a lot of times what you see in action is what you get. 


CeCe: Mm hmm. 


Paul: Yeah.


CeCe: Yeah.


Paul: Yeah. 


CeCe: Well, that’s all the stories we’ve got for today.


Paul: So this is really a pointless – 


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: This is just an opportunity for me to come in here and talk about a subreddit Rivian, three or four of our things, how I got my first job or how I got a job. It wasn’t my first job, but I did get to talk about my first job. 


CeCe: You did.


Paul: Nepotism! My grandfather gave me that one.


CeCe: [laughing]


Paul: All right, everybody, thanks for listening to What The Hell Just Happened in HR, sort of kind of tangentially today. Thanks, CeCe.


CeCe: Thanks, Paul.


Voice Over: Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode of What The Hell Just Happened? do Paul a favor; share this with your network. If you have an HR issue or a question, and you’d like us to discuss it on this show, send it to podcast@WTHjusthappened.com. For more HR advice and insights from Paul and his team of experts, you can also join the private Facebook group, HR Base Camp, or visit HRbasecamp.com. Make sure you tune in next week. And remember: better workplaces make better lives. 

Aug 11, 2023

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance based on applicable local, state and/or federal U.S. employment law that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.