My HR Rep sent me a meeting invite for next week.
February 18, 2017 5:53 AM   Subscribe

So, around 2pm today (Friday) the HR manager for the division of the company I work for sent me a meeting invite for Thursday of next week. She included a staff lawyer and HR manager that comes from another division. Neither my manager, nor anyone from the business unit I work for was invited to the meeting. The meeting will be conducted over the phone (all parties work in different locations). I should note that I manage a small team and have 5 direct reports.

The invite was very vague. Here is the text: "I am scheduling this meeting to discuss a confidential matter which will be explained to you on the call."

I've been working here for 8+ years and I've never gotten anything from HR remotely resembling this. I've never had to meet with HR about anything except standard HR stuff like payroll and immigration paperwork. Should I be concerned that HR is taking disciplinary action against me? I have no clue what this could be about. This is shaping up to be a nerve-wracking weekend!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (35 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Could it be something about one of the people you manage? While it would be impossible not to stress I would look at some of the old threads about talking notes and not saying anything definitive at the meeting if they ambush you with something unexpected.
posted by MadMadam at 6:01 AM on February 18, 2017 [13 favorites]

First I would write back to your HR person and make sure that the meeting invitation was really meant for you. Outlook typos happen.

It sounds like this might be about one of the people who report to you. Your HR person may not be able to give you more details over email for legal/privacy reasons.
posted by heatherlogan at 6:02 AM on February 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

No one can know, of course, but from what you said here, one possible explanation could be that one of your team members has reported being harassed by someone in the other division (or vice versa).

Give the HR rep a call on Monday--she may be willing to tell you what is up over the phone.
posted by msbubbaclees at 6:05 AM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

You sound more like a witness here than a defendant. I would not be concerned. (Curious, yes! But not worried for my own job.)
posted by something something at 6:06 AM on February 18, 2017 [14 favorites]

Yeah, best you can probably do is write back, "Thank you for the invite. I will be there. While I know you can't go into details, is it possible to know if the HR matter is directly concerning me or if it is regarding someone I supervise? Thank you, Anonymous"
posted by whitewall at 6:36 AM on February 18, 2017 [16 favorites]

If it turns out to be about you: Lawyers talk to lawyers. If they show you theirs, you show them yours. (But yeah, I agree with others upthread that you shouldn't worry.)
posted by sourcequench at 6:44 AM on February 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

If you have no reason to think this is anything to do with you, my guess is that one of your reportees failed a drug test, made a sexual harassment allegation, or blew a whistle of some nature. It is also possible one of them has an ADA accommodation need you are completely unaware of that will require management agreement and support (that's you.)

All of these are things you would be informed of in the normal course of management events.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:02 AM on February 18, 2017 [12 favorites]

This situation would scare the CRAP out of me... Except that they gave you almost a week of notice. If it was the really scary kind of HR-lawyer meeting I think they would give you a much smaller window to come up with an alibi, find your own attorney, hide the bodies, etc.
posted by potrzebie at 7:14 AM on February 18, 2017 [54 favorites]

If they were going to fire you they would have already done it and not told you the lawyer was going to be there. Reach out Monday and ask them what you are going to have to prepare for here, how long they expect the meeting to go, etc.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:51 AM on February 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

I've done data for a bunch of companies in the past. There are times when a random and obscure piece of data is requested in regards to a legal case in support of the company. This has resulted in my work computer being randomly seized after I provided them the data (temporarily - but still... wtf) and then when I left the company I had to send my computer back to the legal department instead of through regular channels. (and understand... any data that I've pulled has been... able to be pulled by anyone - but the fact that there was email correspondence, specific requests pulled and etc... they wanted to ensure my machine was ... archived I guess...

But, the big thing is - legal gets involved when something very specific in the company's interest needs to be addressed. You are being requested to provide them information on something - and it may be very obscure - because lawsuits and risk and all that are based on very narrow focus. You arbitrarily know a piece of information that they hope to glean from you, and they want to make sure you don't contaminate your environment by mentioning it or acting on a piece of it. You are most likely not being served papers. If one of your reports has not been escorted from the building, then the matter is much more "cover the company's butt" and not "legal action against specific employee".

And a corporate lawyer's time is expensive - they have a host of things they need to take care of, so if you don't handle contract negotiations, they're going to get very specific into what they want from you for information - so just answer and you'll be out of their office pretty quickly.

Or, you'll be collecting data for them, pass it off in a few days and they'll take whatever action they want to without you realistically knowing what they need to do.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:27 AM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would not be concerned until you know what the meeting is about. Given the invite list, my first guess is that there's an issue with one of your directs, but there's really no use in speculating until you know for sure.

Do you have any relationship with your HR manager (not necessarily the one on the call). (I know that in my company for example anyone with directs usually has their go-to HR person). If so, or even if not, I'd probably email them/ call them directly and ask what this was in reference to. Failing that, just hang tight. Scheduling a meeting for a week out means it's not a time sensitive manner.

I can think of all sorts of real-life examples from my workplace where HR, legal and the direct manager were involved, but not the BU as a whole. People have issues, and in the workplace HR and legal is usually how they are handled.
posted by cgg at 8:28 AM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree that this is probably something involving one of your reports, not anything you should worry about personally. I highly doubt they are taking disciplinary action against you. That said, sending such a message with no explanation at 1400 on a Friday speaks badly about the judgement and sensitivity of the HR manager involved. At a minimum, she should have offered you an opportunity to call for more information.

A little CYA never hurts in such situations. On Monday, if I were in your situation I would let my manager know what is going on, and tell them that you are going to follow up with the HR manager. Then call her and ask what you need to know to prepare for the meeting.
posted by rpfields at 8:30 AM on February 18, 2017 [8 favorites]

My guess is an interview about a harassment complaint or another litigation matter. Go to the meeting, listen, and be cautious if questions start to arise about your own conduct. If it were me I'd probably consult with an employment lawyer in advance to get advice. Remember that the company lawyer represents the company, not you.
posted by yarly at 8:32 AM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I read this differently. I think this is about you in some way. For a call with HR and a company attorney, they could have told you that day or the day before, yet they chose to tell you almost a week in advance. If it were me, I would decline the invite. This will force them to tip their hand. They will want to schedule it for a different time. Decline and with the decline send the message to call you. Ask over the phone what this is all about. They are HR and a lawyer. They will NEVER tell you over email. They might tell you more over the phone. If HR says they still can't tell you, note that a company lawyer is to attend and ask if you should have your own lawyer on the call. See what HR says. If it is not about you, HR will say it is a confidential matter, but not about you or not about you directly. Rather than speculate first, try to have a phone conversation with HR and find out what the topic of the meeting will be. Speculate second if they won't tell you.

This may very well be about nothing you have to worry about, but until you know that, worry about it in the sense that you should prepare as much as possible before the meeting Prepare for any realistic possibility about what this meeting may be about.
posted by AugustWest at 9:06 AM on February 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think this is about you in some way. For a call with HR and a company attorney, they could have told you that day or the day before, yet they chose to tell you almost a week in advance.

This seems backwards to me. I think if this was about you, they would give you as little notice as possible - maybe a day, at most. The long notice makes me think it isn't about you.

That said, I would call - not email - HR on Monday. First ask if it was a mistake, then ask if they can give you any more information and/or if it is directly related to you. If you trust your manager, asking him/her for some confidential advice before calling HR is probably a good idea. But again: do this over the phone, or in person if possible.
posted by breakin' the law at 9:19 AM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

If it were about you, wouldn't your supervisor be included?
posted by crankyrogalsky at 9:30 AM on February 18, 2017 [9 favorites]

I don't think you should tell your supervisor, because he or she may be the topic of discussion. However, asking whether you should inform your supervisor is a legitimate question that will give you further insights and may be an opening for them to tell you more when you call or drop by HR on Monday.
posted by carmicha at 9:36 AM on February 18, 2017 [19 favorites]

they will probably ask your consent to be recorded-- so just consider your response to that question.
If at anytime you feel that this call is about you- be prepared to stop the proceedings to seek council.
I would also call for clarification-- but don't be confrontational.
Just call to acknowledge that you accepted or will accept the invite and would like to know the subject matter of the phone call. If the answer is that it is confidential then I would ask "well what is it about generally- how might I prepare for this meeting?"
posted by calgirl at 9:36 AM on February 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

This is very similar to an email that I got a week or so before I was laid off after about six years of employment. My supervisor was also not on the email. If I were you, I might take some time to get any papers or personal items that you might want later in order and out of thr office. Just in case.
posted by stormygrey at 9:37 AM on February 18, 2017 [12 favorites]

I get these once in a while - they're almost always for me to hear employee grievances. They don't put specifics in the calendar invite because they don't know who has shared their calendar with their entire team or whatnot. I do sometimes get a separate phone call from my HR person explaining what's up, sometimes in advance of the invite, sometimes after. On a Friday afternoon I wouldn't be worried and would just expect to get a call on Monday, or call myself.

Other times, infrequently, it's been the lawyer who's handling a dispute with another employee, wanting to know how similar situations have been handled in the past (maybe they know I had one like it), what my understanding of the policy is, and/or what I feel like a 'reasonable person' manager (me) who isn't involved would do in a hypothetical similar situation. Just so they have their homework done when the employee claims they were singled out for unusual treatment.

So I wouldn't worry. But at the same time, I'm in a job with substantial protection from arbitrary firing on the spot - I'm confident if I'm the one in trouble, I'll find out at the meeting and still have plenty of due process and time to tell my side of the story. So I don't have to worry. Can't guarantee your company is like that. But most likely it's one of the first things anyway.
posted by ctmf at 9:54 AM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I had a meeting like this when a former contractor was being tried for insider trading. I sat near her, went out for lunch with her once or twice and met her at a party. They asked me questions about all those things. I did not have to testify at the trial. She was subsequently convicted without any further involvement from me.

Before the meeting, I knew through the grapevine what was coming. That time. It's possible you will be asked about such a situation and you may be asked to testify. If it's someone from another division in a different area, you may not know the scuttlebut in advance.

Also, I sometimes get requests to produce notes or documentation for products subject to patent infringement suits. Usually lawyers but not HR are involved.
posted by rw at 9:55 AM on February 18, 2017

In general, they don't schedule meetings to fire you. They just walk your ass out the door. I'm a worst case scenario kind of guy, but I'd be shocked if this was to fire you. It might be disciplinary, but I'll bet you still have a job on Friday. That said, there's no harm in getting your things in order and updating your resume.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:00 AM on February 18, 2017

Based on my own experience: you may be asked to be an independent reviewer/investigator of an employment or harassment complaint made in the other division. I have been in this situation twice and in both cases it started just like you describe it.
posted by Parsnip at 10:24 AM on February 18, 2017

This sounds exactly like when I was laid off at my company. Not all layoffs are sudden. I was given advanced notice of the meeting, but not the subject. I could see HR was invited. Don't agree to anything on the call.

Start working on your resume and send feelers out to your network.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 11:01 AM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just another anecdote. Something similar happened to me, and when I got to the meeting there were FBI agents! Turns out one of my previous employees was up for some job with high level security clearance, and they had listed me as a reference. So HR and an attorney was there, just to supervise the process. It turned out to be a big nothing. The questions were mostly about any associations my former employee might have with anti-American groups, which I could only say not that I know of.
posted by kimdog at 11:20 AM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'd never assume that it's about me. It's five times more likely it's one of the five people that work for you.
posted by fixedgear at 12:36 PM on February 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Call the HR Rep and ask - you'll almost certainly be able to pick up a bad vibe if it's about you, assuming they don't tell you directly or hint about the subject matter.

I wouldn't decline the meeting or organise my own lawyer before taking this step - that's needlessly confrontational and won't help you regardless of the subject of the meeting.
posted by smoke at 1:26 PM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Right now, I would tell myself that no matter how much I stress about this, it's an unknowable and all the stress in the world won't change that.

Then I would call on Monday and ask if I need to bring representation or a lawyer.

But remember, relax until you talk to them -- whatever die was cast, no amount of stress on your part will change that.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 1:40 PM on February 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

To me, this sounds like a meeting where they're going to inform you that you're being laid off. In my company, this is almost exactly how they would do it. But, I suppose there's a chance it could be about one of your reports. You mentioned immigration papers--are you an immigrant? If so, maybe it's relevant to the recent immigration ban? (Assuming you're in the US too).

I totally get that this is super nerve-wracking. I would recommend a certain amount of fatalism--you can't change whatever decision has been made, so you may as well assume the worst and be pleasantly surprised if it's not that. Update your resume and Linkedin profile, start bringing the stuff in your cube home, get your references and work examples in order...and if it turns out that it's not about your position being eliminated, then hey--you go out for dinner on Friday to celebrate your continuing employment and enjoy your sparkling updated resume.

Make sure you get plenty of exercise, sleep, and fruits and veggies this week. Self-care is important when you're stressed, and it'll help you have a clear mind when it comes to handling whatever this turns out to be.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:51 PM on February 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

courteous but business-like response: i don't usually attend meetings without an agenda. please let me know the general topic i'll be addressing, so i can arrive prepared.
posted by j_curiouser at 2:30 PM on February 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

I'm going to agree that this sounds more like you're a witness than someone in trouble.

Also: I am begging you to update this later, so we know how it turned out and whether you're okay.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:32 PM on February 18, 2017 [15 favorites]

It is hard to imagine a scenario where an HR manager from a different division was required for a meeting to lay you off. What role would they have? Agree with others suggesting they need information from you and probably to do with someone in that other division or their interaction with one of your reports.
Please send the mods a message to post here next Friday so we know. It may also help future Askers to see, "Hey, when anon got that weird call just like the one I got today it was just weird, not bad."

Jinx: DirtyOldTown
posted by Gotanda at 4:37 PM on February 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

I wear the HR hat in my smallish, distributed (mostly remote) company. I wish I could alleviate *all* your anxiety, but I would agree with the others that the chance that they're having a meeting late next week to lay you off or terminate you seems small, as in to the vanishing point. I have to play the "need to get you on a call" card to notify people of termination, and I always do it as closely as possible to the event, within the hour.

Also, most companies with a full-time HR person and lawyers are sophisticated enough to have some events leading up to a termination for cause, so you can usually rule that out assuming you haven't been reprimanded, written up, or put on a Performance Improvement Plan. Layoffs due to lack of work can sometimes be more sudden, but you'd know better than us if business conditions seem ripe for that kind of action.

The HR manager from the other division also seems to not make sense in a scenario where you were to be terminated or laid off. They wouldn't be needed for that. In most cases, the lawyer wouldn't be either. Normally it's the HR manager and the direct supervisor, or the HR manager and one other witness.

I'd agree with the consensus above that it is most likely some disciplinary matter or info gathering involving someone else. I would not lawyer up, ask the HR person more questions, etc., as tempting as that might be. I wouldn't ask ANYONE else about it. It could be your supervisor in some kind of trouble, for all you know. You mentioned immigration paperwork, so I'm assuming you manage non-citizens. One of them may be experiencing difficulties in that arena. There are several scenarios where your asking around could spread rumors or make things more difficult for someone else.

If it WERE to be something negative, you can at that point say nothing other than "I'll need to consult my attorney."

Lastly, I'd agree with the statement above that shooting someone this kind of invite on a Friday afternoon is tactless. I realized when I put on the HR mantle that when I need to ping someone in an unexpected way. I need to signal that it's nothing bad, because people tend to panic. HR pros should know this. "Hey, Fred, can you call me? Got some good news!" or "Need to ask you about Bob's time off." But HR doesn't seem to be the people skills department in a lot of companies...

If it makes you feel more prepared, somehow, you might spruce up your resume and online profiles (always a good policy) and spirit anything out of your desk that is especially valuable, confidential, etc.

p.s. - yes, please let this random internet stranger know that it went okay (but don't tell anything you shouldn't about 3rd parties).
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:28 PM on February 18, 2017 [11 favorites]

A similar thing happened to me and the meeting was about me being fired. I hope that is not the case for you. Please update us if you can!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 3:54 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Dying to know what happened. Please send the mods an update if you can.
posted by Gotanda at 12:56 AM on March 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

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