The Condescending HR Lady is Alive and Well

The term “average” is used commonly, but we sometimes forget what it means. The “average” score is made up of the highest and lowest scores. The “average” experience is made up of the best and worst experiences. And the “average” HR person is a mix of the best, most engaged and innovative professionals out there and the laziest, most unhelpful people you’ll meet.

This is a story about the latter. It’s also a reminder of the importance of not only what you are doing, but how you are doing it as well.

I have experience administering health benefits for an employee population, both local and dispersed, so I understand the intricacies of putting that together and taking care of employees. I also am acutely aware of the problems and the need to communicate carefully and kindly with employees who are having trouble with their benefits.

In case you were not aware, the number one reason of bankruptcy in the US is due to medical emergencies–not having the coverage in place or having problems with it could be catastrophic for a family to deal with. That is why I am fanatical about having this taken care of appropriately for the employees in my care.

Please never do this to your employees

A few months back my family transitioned to be covered under my wife’s health insurance when my own ran out from a previous job.

My wife contacted her HR person before our other coverage ran out in order to get a form to apply for coverage.

A week went by. No response.

She made another attempt at contact, this time CC’ing her supervisor on the email.

Miraculously she had the form back within minutes. Weird how that works, eh? 

We submitted everything, received the insurance cards, and started paying for the coverage.

A few weeks before the baby arrived, I went to get a flu shot. Lo and behold I was not listed on my wife’s insurance plan. I emailed her HR person immediately and asked her to fix the issue. She responded and told me that it would be fixed overnight and would be good the following morning.

As I already said, I have managed benefits for employees for years and understand in particular how this specific provider works. They rarely fix anything quickly and certainly never overnight.

The next morning I logged into the customer dashboard for the insurance provider, and it still only listed my wife as covered and neither me nor my children were on the plan, though we were paying full price for family coverage and had visited the doctor several times in recent weeks for our kids’ routine visits and my wife for maternity care. If not for me being turned down for a flu shot I don’t know when we would have uncovered the issue at all.

I emailed the HR lady again to give her a heads up that it still had not been corrected. If she had not been so pointed about it being fixed “overnight” then I would have given it another day to run its course, but I thought she would like to know that it hadn’t yet been resolved.

Her response was abrupt and pretty darn rude:

Is this really an emergency? If so have your wife call me.

I started to write a response, but for the sake of my wife (it’s her HR person, not mine, really) I didn’t send it. My inclination was to send something like this:

When I’m working with employees on coverage issues, I actually want to know when they are not getting the service they need, whether from me or from the provider. Apparently not all HR people care enough about their employees and their families to feel the same way.

I share this story today just as a reminder that each individual interaction you have with employees really matters. My wife has never even met this HR person (remotely located at the main office), but this is the lasting impression she has left on our family.

What impression do your employees have of you and the service you provide?

8 thoughts on “The Condescending HR Lady is Alive and Well

  1. broc edwards

    “Is it an emergency?” No, not until you need health insurance and find out you don’t have it. Grr!

    It makes me wonder what part of her job she thought you were interrupting. Maybe the part where she ensures the administrative paperwork is done correctly, the part where employees are taken care of and are receiving the benefits they are paying for, or maybe the part where she serves HER CUSTOMERS?


    1. Ben Post author

      Uh oh, Broc. I know what the problem is–you used the “S” word. Service? Really? Must be one of those newfangled ideas that some people think will never catch on.

  2. Bobbi

    This is my biggest fear in administering benefits and it is why I have my carriers on speed dial to correct this issue quickly and immediately when it does pop up. What this HR person doesn’t seem to understand is all the extra work she is causing everyone – the medical providers are going to need to refile claims, the insurance carrier is going to have to review claims they have already denied plus all the hours your family will need to spend to clean up this mess! Sorry I am on my soap box but this drives me crazy!

  3. JC

    Ben, about 2 years ago (I’ve only been with my current employer for 3 years), I ran into a situation where a prescription allergy med I needed either kept changing vendors OR it had been discontinued. The only way I found out (similar to your situation) is when I attempted to get a refill. Pharmacy head said they have no heads up as to when meds are being discontinued, etc. I went through the insurance and kept getting a run around, had to get HR involved. I set all of the documentation to the HR contact, even had a sit down meeting with the HR lady.

    Long story short-it took several months and my switching to another allergist to where I finally got something. During that interim period, I had to go to another pharmacy to get a med that wasn’t effective and my insurance didn’t cover. Not only that, my flexible spending plan wouldn’t reimburse me–even though I had documentation that I had no other meds to take.

    In other words, the employee (me) got penalized and was without a needed prescription for at least 6 months.

    1. Ben Post author

      Wow, JC. That’s pretty crazy! I’d imagine these stories are more common than we’ like to believe. Thanks for sharing.

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