I will start with the silly question definition - it's a question or request that has only vague connection to HR, which is NOT in the scope of HR but with which people have no idea where to go to or refuse to go to because they hope HR will solve it quicker.
Here are some silly questions and requests that I have personally received:
- Why does the coffee have chlorine taste?
- Why don't we change the water provider? This one's headquarters is 400 km away. It should be more efficient to get a local one.
- Someone should remove the icicles outside. They are a hazard to the employees.
- Someone should clear the snow for us to be able to park;
- You should build a larger parking space for employees;
- You should buy some benches and umbrellas for outside to create a nice spot for the employees to rest during break;
- There's no more toilet paper;
- Can you do anything about the noise in the open space?
- Someone has stolen my food from the fridge;
- The toilet brush from the ladies bathroom downstairs is missing;
- I want to change my email address to sarah.mitchell...All my clients know me by Sarah (this from an employee NOT called Sarah) - the name I used is not real, but the situation is;
- When will the company buy more fridges for us?
- The dishwasher is broken and the sink is full of dirty dishes. Who should fix this issue?
- There are no more parking spots;
- You should create a database of all cars in the company just to know who owns which car;
- You should install cameras in the kitchen. I am tired of my food being stolen (this I received at least 10 times);
- We should recycle plastic cups; can HR do something about it?
- I noticed some tiles falling off the kitchen wall. Can you do something about it?
and many many more...
Everybody has the silly impression that HR is responsible with everything that is connected with employee happiness - which is NOT true. Most of the items above are in the scope of the administration of the building, maintenance or someone else depending on the company.
So why do employees come to HR or all these? I can see a few reasons:
1. Because we are the people they meet at the beginning when they have Induction training and we tell them a lot of information. That's how they get the idea that we know everything and that we are responsible for everything;
2. Because we let them to. HR are most of the times nice, try to help employees and employees take advantage. If HR would be more firm and send them away, making them feel guilty each time they come with stupid items, they wouldn't do it again.
3. Because we have to put up with all this. HR is instructed to be nice to employees, to take care of their problems. Most of the times our managers don't allow HR to have an office (sometimes HR works in an open space with the employees), don't allow us to have a schedule for employees (we can't say we are available for you between 12 and 2 pm everyday - NO, we must be available anytime and they may interrupt us from important work anytime) and because HR courses brainwash us and tell us that HR must be in the service of the employees since they pay for our salaries.
I think that it depends on every HR professional to make his/her life better and avoid all these situations which may wreck your nerves sometimes. Send the employees nicely but firmly to the correct responsible or to their manager the first time they come with a silly question. Don't be so nice the second time.
But what do you do when a manager comes to you with a silly question? Tough... Send them nicely to the correct responsible and hope it's going to be the last time...