How do I communicate with a person in HR who's been a bit misleading?
August 24, 2011 4:04 PM   Subscribe

How do I deal with H.R.-related courtesy shenanigans? Are these even shenanigans? I'm not very experienced with H.R. departments, so I've come to you, oh hive mind.

Background stuff:
Three months ago, I applied for a position as a part-time CA county employee. (Riverside, if that matters). A month later, I took a physical + drug tests and passed. Finally about a month ago I went to orientation and signed various forms and a contract (I did the live scan fingerprinting and even took an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution as a CA employee.)

///This is an office position but not temporary - as far as I know; I'm labeled a "county employee" and have paid holidays, as opposed to, AFAIK, an office temp. (I'm probably still a noob about office job culture.///

I did not hear from them for a week after that and so I called HR and spoke to the person in charge of assigning the workers to their respective locations. She said she would let me know "in the next two weeks" about where I would be placed. I didn't hear from her. I called her the next Monday after 2 weeks and she was polite and confirmed that she knew who I was (even confirmed my phone number after I asked her if she had it). I have limited experience with H.R. departments. I tried to be polite and asked her when I could expect to know which office I would be assigned to.

She told me that she would let me know before Thursday (tomorrow) where I would be assigned. She did not state what day, but I spoke to her 8 days ago.

My questions are:

Should I call her today - or should I wait until she calls me?

If she does not call me today (which would be kinda shitty), how can I get information out of her politely? Should I leave out saying that she said she would call me but did not? Should I just ask her where I'm being assigned? How can I phrase it in a way that does not sound over-bearing or rude?

What I want to know at this point is IF I'm even getting this job. I'm starting to feel dread and the worst part is I turned a job offer down two weeks ago because I was (maybe naively) sure I had this one in the bag, after the orientation and such.

Can you help me phrase the question, or help me understand how H.R. departments deal with phone calls from applicants and how applicants should approach H.R. with inquiries like this?

Thanks in advance, MetaFilter :)
posted by fantodstic to Human Relations (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"Hi, Janice, this is fantodstic calling again. We spoke last week, about where I would be placed? ... Right, that's me. I was just wondering whether a decision had been reached. ... Not yet? Now, I know you're not the holdup, but is there anyone I can talk to, to clear anything up or maybe emphasize to them that I kinda need to start, you know? ... Right, right. Okay, when will you know? ... Okay, I'll call you the day after that if I don't hear from you, okay? ... Great, hope to talk to you before then. Thanks so much for helping with this, I know you're buried. Bye."

Call her tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon. Don't mention that she missed the call. She already knows, and it will only antagonize her.
posted by Etrigan at 4:12 PM on August 24, 2011 [7 favorites]

This is not a normal situation, so general working-world standards do not apply. This is government work, with its own arcane rituals, and it's "part-time", which appears to mean "when they need someone."

If you're not getting paid right now, you're a temp. Maybe a floater. They probably have a word for it. This woman can't tell you when you'll get an assignment if there are no assignments right now (or if you are at the bottom of the totem pole for assignments). She will probably call you when there is something to call you about. She's not personally hiding work from you. She doesn't have an answer. You can call her as many times as you want and it's still not going to make her have an answer.

California doesn't have any money, which is also something to consider. Don't turn down any future offers.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:13 PM on August 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

What Etrigan said, but follow up with an email or paper letter briefly memorializing the conversation. End the letter or email with, "If I've misunderstood anything, please let me know immediately."


I'd also talk to other prospective employers and continue looking. I'd even call back anyone who made an offer to find out if it's been filled, especially if you need to start earning money.
posted by Hylas at 4:18 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

You really need to clarify your status. You are part-time (which means you work under a specific number of hours per week) but are you also "on-call" or "occasional" or "seasonal" or "fill-in" or "floater" or anything like that.

At this point, if you can, wait until about 3 pm tomorrow, and if you haven't heard from her by then, call her. If she doesn't have an assignment for you, have a conversation with her specifically about what your status is. I think it's clear that there has been a miscommunication somewhere. They should have been much clearer with you about how scheduling worked at the time of your hire/orientation, including a discussion about how many hours you could expect.

Did you get paperwork at the orientation that talked about your schedule? Review that carefully before you call.

BTW: I agree that she's not hiding work from you, or blowing you off. She just doesn't have an assignment for you (and probably is talking to several other employees in a situation like yours). But you need to very specifically clarify your status with her, because I suspect that when she does have an assignment for you, it will be short, and then the wait again.
posted by anastasiav at 5:03 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

Is this who you're dealing with? It would help a lot to know what your classification/agreement actually is. You can MeMail if you like - I work with civil service stuff (in a different state) and can probably help you sort out what they've actually promised you.

Also, next time you talk to them (or anyone, really,) you should get a date by which you should call back if you haven't heard from them. It's much easier to get that information when they're already in the middle of promising a call back. Also find out what time of day is best to call - sometimes offices are flooded with calls first thing in the morning, sometimes right at lunch, etc.
posted by SMPA at 5:23 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you signed a contract, then presumably you got a copy of it? Read it. See what it says about whether or not you're guaranteed hours within a certain timeframe, if you have a start date, or if it stipulates any responsibility on the part of the county. For that matter, see if you've signed an agreement that you would take whatever hours and locations they assign you to.

If you have questions about the process of placement, the contract or anyone's responsibilities, ask HR. If HR can't or won't answer your questions, see if they can refer someone else for you to speak with.

Then, go look for a job in the private sector. Full time or part time, whatever. Cultivating another opportunity on the horizon is both practical and self esteem boosting. The private sector doesn't tend to have this sort of frustrating red tape (it has an entirely different set of frustrations) so if you get a job, they're likely to start you right away.

I wouldn't feel bad about it if you took another job before hearing back from the county, either. You have to put food on the table.
posted by nadise at 7:57 PM on August 24, 2011

California's local governments got slammed by the Governor's budget that passed at the very end of June. Some places have had to rewrite their whole budget. I didn't see anything specific about Riverside County's budget on Google news, but if I were you I'd skim the recent Board of Supervisors agenda looking for any budget issues that might have led them to delay your start date.
posted by slidell at 1:16 AM on August 25, 2011

OK, if the job turns out to be that temporary assignment program, or something like that, where you don't have a regular assignment nor a normal schedule of hours (and so not a steady paycheck) I'd recommend contacting the people who offered you a job two weeks ago. Not going to hurt to see if the position is still open, just explain what happened, that the position you accepted turned out to be temp work of the sort you weren't looking for.
posted by 6550 at 4:21 AM on August 25, 2011

Thank you so much for your replies. You all have been very helpful. I called her and she emailed me back and I start next week. Happy ending!
posted by fantodstic at 4:37 PM on August 26, 2011

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