Doodling

by Evil HR Lady on January 19, 2010

I am in a bind. I don’t really know what to do. Previously, the HR lady in my fairly small office was nice to me, always smiling at me and saying hi, for about two years. Then, I got written up because we had this super boring mandatory 8 hour staff meeting and I was doodling on some papers that were passed out during it, which I wasn’t doing maliciously so much as I was in an effort to stay awake during the 8 hours of sitting still in a hot room hearing about H1N1 and other mind-numbingly boring subjects.

In addition to this, one of my co-workers, who, during his time at my work, became one of my best friends, was fired for a really flimsy reason (official reason listed was that he fell asleep in a meeting, but i was sitting beside him in said meeting and he absolutely did nothing of the sort) and after his dismissal, I was very upset and distraught, and I shared these feelings with my supervisor, who I am sure shared my concerns with HR. Now, aforementioned HR lady won’t even look at me, no longer greets me, and if I have to interact with her at all she is uncomfortably cold to me and as minimally helpful as she can be. I want to bring this concern about her conduct with me to my supervisor, but then who does it go to? Back to her, so that she can deny it and make me feel even more uncomfortable? I feel trapped. If it was anyone else in my office, I know who I would turn to, but who do I talk to when it is the HR lady that is making my work-life hell? What do I do?

I needed to re-read this question several times to grasp the concept–because I’m still in shock that you were written up for doodling? Honest? I’m a chronic doodler. I attribute my doodling to my success in life. Why?

A study that compared how well people remembered details of a dull monologue found that those who doodled throughout retained more information than those who tried to sit and listen.

But, I need to clarify something first. Your manager would have been the one to decide to write you up, not HR. Honest, we don’t roam the halls looking for infractions. (Now, I will grant that there is probably an HR person or two out there who does this, and in some companies a lot of administrative staff has a hard-line reporting relationship to HR and only dotted-line relationships to the people they support.)

So, here’s my best guess. Your manager is a dork who blames his own stupidity on HR. HR knows this, and the HR woman is now embarrassed to deal with you, because she’s had to help out with the process of writing you up for doodling.

As for your friend being fired for sleeping in a meeting, again, unless HR Lady was running the meeting, it’s most likely your boss who did this.

Which means, by complaining to your boss, you’re complaining to him about problems he caused, but blaming HR. It’s a little problematic.

This puts us to where you are. First, why do you care if the HR person smiles at you in the hallway? It reminds me of my freshman year in college where one of my roommates was absolutely convinced that one of my friends hated her. Why? “I saw Laura on campus today and she didn’t say hi!” she would complain. I’d ask, “Did you say hi?” The answer was always something along the lines of, “I shouldn’t have to. She should say hi to me!”

Now, we were 18 and dumb as rocks, and we’ve all grown up to be productive women who are hopefully not so petty.

So, if she doesn’t smile at you, smile at her. If this really bothers you, make an appointment to talk to her and say, “I feel like there is a problem between us. I’d like to have a good relationship with you and your department. What changes do I need to make?”

Yes, it could be all her fault, but no one likes their faults thrown at them, and you can only change you.

But, I think the real problem is with the 8 hour administrative meetings with a strict you-must-stare-straight-ahead-and-not-blink policy. Take that up with your manager.

“I see we have another all day all hands meeting scheduled. Is there anyway we could split that into two days, 4 hours each day? That way, we don’t get as far behind on our work and we stay on top of things.” Don’t couch it in terms of “I get sooo bored and sleepy in all day meetings.” That will not go over well.

Now, assuming your boss isn’t a complete idiot, it’s likely that your doodling was the concrete thing they could use to describe you not paying attention in a meeting. I’ve done a lot of training/teaching and I can tell when someone is not paying attention. Your boss may be able to do this as well.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

The Gold Digger January 19, 2010 at 2:00 pm

1. Written up? For doodling? What is this, 4th grade? I was "written up" in the form of verbal accusations in our year end group review/slam book session when I was a Peace Corps volunteer because I would knit during our interminable 8 hour meetings where we would try to decide if our mission would be to help Mapuche women or young Mapuche women. It was knit or slit my wrists. We never did decide, btw.

2. The reason I didn't say hi to your roommate in college was because I was too vain to wear my glasses and I couldn't see anyone unless I was only 14" away from her. I'm sorry.

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The Gold Digger January 19, 2010 at 2:01 pm

PS The glasses thing did not help my calculus grade. Or my chemistry grade.

PPS I changed my major to English. I might be Dr Gold digger today if I had just worn my darn glasses.

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Anonymous January 19, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I still can't get my head around an 8 hour staff meeting. I also get the feeling that the writer is not telling us everything that was going on.

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Evil HR Lady January 19, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Gold Digger, you're cracking me up and reminded me of my own vanity in college. I used to wear dress shoes with no socks in the winter. I thought this was stylish.

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williamthecoroner January 19, 2010 at 3:42 pm

I knew someone who wore black patent leather pumps daily in college. In winter. IN MAINE. She wised up a lot after that compound ankle fracture.

ANd, to your poster. Talk to the HR person. Make a nice gesture, or pull a Franklin and ask her for a favour. She'll do the favour and then like you better, using cognitive dissonance to work for you!

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Anonymous January 19, 2010 at 3:53 pm

An 8 hour meeting on H1N1?!! I wouldn't be caught doodling, I would be caught trying to gnaw my arm off.

Seriously, unless you are a medical facility and you are working on a cure, what could anyone possibly say for 8 hours on H1N1 or any other type of flu? Wash your hands regularly, use hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available, cough/sneeze into sleeve, get a flu shot, keep common surfaces clean, avoid large crowds, do not share items that go into mouths and stay home when you have the flu. There, now I saved you 7 hours and 58 minutes.

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Unemployed Gal January 19, 2010 at 4:40 pm

I agree with EHRL’s assessment of the HR situation. HR has the power to be pain in the ass and make everyone’s job difficult, but only a direct supervisor (or the supervisor’s boss) has the power to discipline and terminate. In fact, HR can make it less likely that a supervisor may use official discipline, because the meetings and paperwork and eight signatures in triplicate and improvement plans are so much work. It’s much easier for a boss to say, “Hey, can you knock off the doodling?” Even if this HR rep had a vendetta against doodlers, persecuting them only makes more work for her.

One possibility is that HR or upper management has been blocking this supervisor’s attempts to discipline what was really bothering him, such as incompetence or poor attitude (real or perceived). So he looked for an easy and tangible “gotcha”, like doodling and sleeping. I’ve seen it happen before. Upper management won’t let you fire that lazy incompetent guy no matter how hard you try. So you catch him using the company car for personal business, or surfing the web at work, or whatever. He’s fired for something stupid, but he’s gone. Something that the OP should keep in mind.

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Anonymous January 19, 2010 at 8:11 pm

I tend to agree with Anon 3:33. In my years of dealing with employee relations issues, I find that people tend to fix on one thing that was said during a write up and that becomes the whole thing. It's human nature; my kids do it too. They come home with some tale of injustice because they were disciplined for smiling. What? Turns out that they were smiling and laughing until stuff came out their nose during an exam.

So I imagine that the OP might have been really expressing her dissatisfaction with the eight hour meeting (which, yes, is annoying, but when one is paid to be there, one should look lively even as one gnaws off one arm) with at least body language and maybe even unproductive comments and heavy sighs. And yes, doodling, which I will bet was one thing that was mentioned during the write up.

And now the OP is marching around in high dudgeon over being chastised FOR DOODLING and the HR rep is just trying to hide in anticipation of the lulz that are sure to follow.

EHRL, I realize that you have to address the problem *as stated,* and I think your answer to the problem as stated is perfect. I never wore my glasses in college, either. Who knows what I missed?

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Olivia January 20, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Ok, I hate to be the one to inject a little paranoia into this situation, but it's also possible that the company is taking the "disciplinary" route to trimming staff. If they fired someone for falling asleep during a meeting, and wrote up OP for doodling, perhaps they're just creating papertrail to terminate without paying unemployment, etc.
This would also explain HR indirectness/coldness – it's hard to face someone when you know they are unfairly on the chopping block.
I'd follow EHRL's advice to have sit down with HR, taking it upon yourself to repair the relationship. Hopefully you could find out what's really going on, or if it's as silly as HR being offended by your doodles, you can smooth things over. If there's more to it, you might get some advance intel, which never hurts.

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Anonymous January 20, 2010 at 8:22 pm

HR people are exactly like the HR person described. They're all sweetness and light when you get hired, but are basically heartless and cold-blooded reptiles with no moral compass. Go to HR with a problem, and you become the problem. Never, ever go to HR with a problem unless you've already talked to a lawyer and he says you have a case.

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Kerouac January 20, 2010 at 10:14 pm

I disagree to an extent… I would say, never ever go to HR even if you have already talked to a lawyer, because you're probably a whiney-assed malcontent who will just suck the life out of the HR rep's day.

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Anonymous January 21, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Jennifer, I'd laugh at your comment but I'm too busy searching for my moral compass.

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Anonymous January 27, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Until nine month ago, I would have agreed w/ EHR and other commenters. But I did experience what the poster did, in the last company I worked for. The HR manager there has total control of what's going on in the company under the 'new management'. She was nice and buddy2 with me in the first few months I was hired, but for some reason decided to hate me later on. When I got laid off, she was the one speaking with me and escorted me to the door.
Last month, she demoted an ex-coworker who is still working there. This ex-coworker used to be really good friends with her, but something happened along the way and she decided she didn't want to be friends with him anymore. And then she demoted him.
Sounds really weird, I know, but that stuff really happened and still is happening in that pathetic company with spineless ceo.

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Anonymous February 8, 2010 at 8:54 pm

hi guys,

thanks to EHRL and everyone for commenting. i am the original poster. and on my "write up" it literally said that i was written up for "doodling", due to complaints from people not in my department, and i saw the HR woman staring at me throughout the day, so i have no doubts about it being her. maybe she complained to my boss about it and then he went with the write-up to avoid dealing with it himself, but it was definitely not him that initiated.

in terms of being nice to the nasty HR lady, of course i've tried that! someone mentioned asking her for favours too, which i've also done, thinking it would be a way to show that i am still willing to work with her, and she still not only doesn't say hi but doesn't even return a simple salutation, which to me is incredibly juvenile, especially considering her role! she literally just scowls at me, no matter who is around (other co-workers have commented on it, it's not just in my head, i swear!) and will blatantly not respond when i say hello and ask how she is doing. i'm at a loss, it's so uncomfortable and now i'm just trying to leave the company as soon as possible so that i don't have to deal with this. i don't want to deal with an HR department run by people that can't be professional. ugh.

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