How Can I Keep My HR Department From Losing My Stuff?

Last Updated Apr 2, 2010 8:00 AM EDT

Dear Evil HR Lady, The HR department of the non-profit I currently work for is ALWAYS losing virtually every paper we fax, place in their mail box or hand to them personally. This has mostly been evaluations, time-sheets, or open job requests. At this time they are asking for another copy of my auto insurance verification, which I have already faxed to them months ago when my car insurance was due. Could the loss of this information be considered loss of "confidential information"? Or should I not be concerned that my auto insurance information is floating around the HR offices? And how on earth do I get them to stop losing my stuff? People frequently ask me why I chose the title "Evil HR Lady." My usual response is, "would you read something written by the kind, friendly, happy, helpful HR Lady?" No, of course not, because you would think that I was lying. People have a negative view of their Human Resources departments precisely because of of behavior like this.

There's no way I would allow someone from this department to help me on strategy, management training issues, succession planning or anything else that really mattered. It doesn't matter that the person who is doing the management training probably isn't the same person gathering the car insurance information; they all have the same little "HR" tag attached to their names and they roll up to the same person.

Let this be a lesson to all of you. It doesn't matter how brilliant you are, if you cannot handle the little things no one will trust you with the important things.

But, what should you do? First, make technology work for you. You can avoid the work involved in faxing or copying things multiple times by scanning it and e-mailing it. You have an electronic record and they can print it out as many times as they need it. However, my guess is that someone who loses paper so readily will probably also delete e-mails.

And this is where I say it's time to get a little, well, snippy. This is especially fun when you are dealing with people who should not be in administrative roles. (And yes, there are many people who should not be in admin roles. These jobs can be very complex and should be recognized as such.) If you've e-mailed a scanned document, then you get to repeatedly forward it to the person when she keeps saying you never sent it. Ha! Such fun. Each time you get to add a little note, "I sent this document at 10:13 a.m. on Friday, April 9, 2010. You opened it at 10:15 a.m. and deleted it at 10:16 a.m. I am resending the attached document."

After the second time you do this, you get to copy this person's boss when you resend. After doing this twice, you get to send an e-mail directly to the boss stating, "As per your department's request I e-mailed my car insurance information on April 10, 12, and 22. I sent my performance review in on April 4, and 13. They keep getting lost. What do I need to do to prevent this from happening?"

If you can't use the scan and e-mail trick (which, in all likelihood will solve the problem), and you still have to fax or hand carry information to the HR department, you just send the e-mail as soon as you've completed the task: "As per your request, I faxed my car insurance to 555-555-5555 at 10:13 a.m." When they ask you for it again, you go into your sent e-mail and bring up the last e-mail. Forward this e-mail to the requester and her boss and add another note. "As you can see, I faxed this information on April 9 at 10:13 a.m. Have you misplaced it? I'll be happy to send it again, but I'm sure you already have it."

Now, should you worry? Yes, and you should also worry that these same people have access to your social security number, your date of birth, your home address and phone number, your spouse and children's info (if you have insurance through them), along with your salary information. If they are sloppy in this area, what's to stop them from misplacing a laptop on the bus or at the coffee shop?

Unfortunately, you have to deal with them. So document your interactions, keep copies of everything and hope that the head of HR pulls her head out of the sand and fixes the problems.

Photo by lejoe, Flickr cc 2.0