This question derives from the outcome of my other one and what happened next. For all the details, please read the linked question.

After M joined back the company, they organized a party with myself, other managers, some top managers, HR managers/employees, members of the teams, etc. About 60 people joined and the party was paid with the company credit card of X (a card that the company never revoked, even when X was no more a company employee).
During the party I spoke with some HR managers (including the HR director) and M about this story and they claimed that they never believed X accusations and were pissed off by X not following company rules (an HR manager even wanted to suspend X).
But X somehow threatened the company and the HR department (new harassment accusation against HR), so they decided to fire M but with a very very very favorable agreement (which even contained a clause whereby the company undertook to hire M again, as soon as X left the company).
All details of the story were intentionally leaked by HR and the part of the agreement document was leaked by M following HR advice (who instructed M on which pages M should have shared). All the following actions have been taken to force X to resign (check that other team leaders did not add X, ask my manager to check that I did the same and took as many time as possible, moved X to another building, etc). I was thanked because, deciding not to decide, I played the HR game (without them having to intervene).

I was (and still am) very surprised by all of this.

I know that HR is supposed to protect a company and, in this case, getting rid of X was the correct action to pursue this goal, but: is such a level of Machiavellian machination a standard for HR? Can I do something to prevent them doing this against me in the future?

  • 1
    @Matsemann X returned to their home country because, without this job, X cannot legally stay in my country
    – Jeremy X
    Jul 28, 2020 at 9:35
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    @JeremyX I don't get how you are so caught up in how "X bypassed the rules" when going to HR about the harassment, and in comments seem to imply X deserved to be let go because of that. But at the same time you are completely fine with M, the harasser, getting to keep the job, for what is arguably a much bigger issue?
    – Matsemann
    Jul 28, 2020 at 10:26
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    There are a lot of details left out which makes it difficult. @JeremyX Is there a possibility there was discrimination towards X based on his country of origin? What is X's country of origin? In some cultures people are more likely to be scared of going straight to the accused when it's their boss, or he personally may have felt scared so wanted to bypass his boss and felt it was safer to go to HR.
    – Monstar
    Jul 28, 2020 at 11:32
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    @JeremyX You wrote "...now, I'm sure X accusation were 100% fabricated". That's your call but for almost everyone else it's pretty much the opposite...HR leaked CONFIDENTIAL information. It's illegal and unethical and they now doubled that with this party (using X's cc, which is shady, at best). Given these facts, something tells me that if there was even one single chance to disprove X accusation then M wasn't the one fired. Here HR did a terrible job to protect company interests and they have been incredibly lucky it ended this way (if X won't read this post...honestly...I hope he will) Jul 28, 2020 at 15:43
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    It sounds to me like you are working in a snake pit. My advice is to find another job before you find yourself in the cross hairs.
    – RC_23
    Dec 12, 2021 at 14:52

5 Answers 5


All of this was fairly evident with your other question. All the signs were there clearly.

As to if this is normal, just look at all the many, MANY times that I have posted "HR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND"

There is a reason that Scott Adams made "Catbert" head of HR. He picked a cat because cats like to toy with their prey before killing them. Machiavelli was an amateur compared to your standard HR department. I have seen entire departments outsourced in order to get rid of ONE employee. I could write an entire essay on HR dirty tricks.

To protect yourself from HR, you can do three things.

  • Avoid office politics as much as possible
  • Document EVERYTHING
  • Keep your resume updated
  • Be ready to jump ship if things get bad
  • Protect yourself and your team by not taking on known troublemakers.

Most of all, remember this simple fact: HR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND

  • 5
    "Machiavelli was an amateur compared to your standard HR department." Lol, Machiavelli was righteous compared to most HR departments. He only advocated cruelty when there was a direct and serious benefit to it and even then he said those acts should be kept to the absolute bare minimum needed to accomplish your goals. Jul 28, 2020 at 13:41
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    @LeeAbraham True. I've read him, you have too, obviously. Yeah, he was more pragmatic than anything else, and taken out of context more than anyone else, with the possible exception of Nietzsche Jul 28, 2020 at 13:43
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    "HR is not your friend" is excessively discriminative. No one in your company is your friend. Your manager is not your friend. Your CxO is not your friend. Your Sales or Accounting dept's are not your friends either. Then again, there are cases where your interests align with someone else's in the company. This is how companies happen to exist in the first place.
    – fraxinus
    Dec 12, 2021 at 16:48
  • @fraxinus obviously you did not get the point Dec 13, 2021 at 1:50

I know that HR is supposed to protect a company and, in this case, getting rid of X was the correct action to pursue this goal, but: is such a level of Machiavellian machination a standard for HR? Can I do something to prevent them doing this against me in the future?

But they didn't protect the company. If X finds out HR lied; that HR retaliated by making it impossible to be a part of the team to force X to quit; that HR leaked the agreement to force X to quit; that HR conspired with M; the company could face bigger problems. HR isn't supposed to protect a manger, or a team lead, or even the CEO; they are to protect the company.

On top of all that they are using the credit card assigned to X. Why? When accounting sees the charges were after X left the company they will investigate. They will assume that X committed fraud. When they find who used the card, the people who organized the party if they are lucky will just get fired. They could also be charged with theft.

The use of the card assigned to X should trigger a bigger investigation, which could take down several others.

Run away. Start looking for another job and leave. M is protected by a person in HR. The people who planed the departure of X assume they can't be caught. Assume this isn't their only transgression.

Lets look at the situation from another point of view. M harassed X. No doubt about it, while there isn't 100% rock solid proof this isn't the first time M has been in trouble. The chain of command isn't the way to complain because of the fear that M is protected by his boss or others at his level. So the alternatives are HR, or in some cases an anonymous method of making the complaint. That anonymous method could still be be handled by HR, or it could be an outside group. X went to HR. M has a buddy in HR, so they worked hard to use every trick they had to get M rehired, and X out of the company.

Why did you assume that X was wrong? Because HR told you X was wrong. Because HR leaked information to make you think X was wrong. Because your manager told you that X was wrong. Because all the employees were told by HR that X was wrong. But what if all this was done because M has a buddy in HR?

  • On this I'm not 100% sure, but I think that the fact X company credit card was not revoke upon X dismissal, was intentional (and probably part of the agreement). And the usage of this credit card was public during the party, where HR director, top managers and other managers were. The invitation came from M, but i think the idea came from from someone much above M. I assume X was wrong not only because HR told that, but also because everyone else, independently, told the same
    – Jeremy X
    Jul 28, 2020 at 11:46
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    Unless those bunch of managers own the company then why using a credit card associated with X's cost center? For a party? You see no fault in this, you see no fault in what they (also with your help) have done...a bunch of answers here won't (unfortunately) change your mind but this is an obviously shady and blatantly unethical behaviour (and possibly illegal because they paid for M's party using X's budget, even if they are the ones that will approve those expenses) Jul 28, 2020 at 13:49
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    I'm totally agree with this answer, the whole scenario was handled so toxic and sadistic by the company and HR that I find it very hard to believe that they were on the right side of the story now. Using X card for the victory party, I'm disgusted by this the most. Why? What are you trying to prove? Believe me, if these people knew that M is in right, they would not go through the all these twists and turns.
    – HMD
    Jul 30, 2020 at 10:18

I know that HR is supposed to protect a company ... but: is such a level of Machiavellian machination a standard for HR?

I got lost with M and X and the specifics of what happened; but broadly speaking: yes. HR are there to protect the company, and if they need to indulge in a little (legal) skulduggery to achieve that end, they will normally not hesitate to do so. After all, if whatever the problem is could be resolved to all parties' satisfaction with a simple and direct face to face chat, it would probably never have got as far as HR.

Can I do something to prevent them doing this against me in the future?

  • Keep a paper trail.
  • Cover your ass.
  • Establish relationships with people who are in the know so you can be kept in the know too - forewarned is forearmed.
  • Try to avoid doing anything that might attract HR's attention.
  • Get promoted to a high-enough level that HR will only decide your interests and the company's interests are not aligned if you do anything illegal or that would constitute gross misconduct, then, don't do anything like that.

Some of those things are easier to achieve than others. But if you know HR in your company can get a bit Machiavellian, you can certainly do at least the first two, and the third is never a bad idea.

  • If you want to understand all the story between X and M, you should read my other question. Very shortly: X accused M of harassment to HR, bypassing rules. HR fired M but all details were leaked even agreement between M and the company. People refused to work with X. I was asked to add X one of my teams and I decided to not decide. X was moved away from department. Time passed without a decision from me and my superiors. Until HR announced X left the company and was returning to their country. M was hired back and a party paid by the company took place
    – Jeremy X
    Jul 28, 2020 at 9:40

The classic novel Anna Karenina begins with the famous quote that "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way". I think this applies to your question: it's nearly impossible to answer the question of whether this is "normal", because when these sort of situations go very wrong, they largely do so in unique ways, as illustrated by the degree to which both of your questions are narratives of very specific details unique to your experience.

It sounds like you've got a strong gut feeling that what happened wasn't normal or handled appropriately, though, and I'm personally inclined to agree - it sounds like a mess that I'd want no part in.

You're right in observing that HR exists to protect the company, not the employees, etc. - but if you feel like you fundamentally don't trust or feel good about the way that your company handled this situation, your best - and arguably only - recourse is to consider finding a company with a different sort of culture, where you trust that such unfortunate conflicts will be handled in a more transparent and less "Machiavellian" way.


No. Non-compliant/criminal behaviour is likely:

  • Doing credit card fraud in broad daylight
  • Leaking personal information
  • Paying money as a little gratification to the manager for doing nothing
  • Making up their opinion on behalf of the company, not documenting it
  • Not doing their job as HR because you "don't believe" something. (The job would have been to go after this persistently)
  • discriminating internally against an employee by leaking that information

After all i know I don't even believe the "did not believe part". The people which are proven here to have no moral/ethical/legal/professional boundaries are HR and M.

Make sure you have the documents telling the story as far as possible. Look for a new job. Leave.

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