Man brings 'emotional support clown' to HR meeting

Worker hired clown as he feared 'the worst'

Man brings 'emotional support clown' to HR meeting

Redundancy exercises are all-round stressful events.

Fearing the worst, a copy writer at a New Zealand advertising firm brought in an ‘emotional support’ clown to a meeting where he got laid off. A picture of the ‘unusual’ session has been circulating online.

Employers in New Zealand are legally required to allow staff to bring a support person to such meetings but the HR department had not expected the professional clown to turn up, according to reports.

It all started when the copywriter — who’s also an aspiring comedian — received an unexpected email from his employer to discuss his role, reported ABC News.

He told local radio he thought it’ll either be a promotion “or worse”. He then thought it was “best” to hire a professional to ease any anxieties.

He paid $200 for the clown, who turned out to be perfect for the job, lightening the mood with balloon animals and pretending to cry when the redundancy paperwork was being handed over.

In hindsight, he said the clown was “rather noisy” while making balloon animals and had to be told to be quiet at times. Other than that, it was all “smooth running”.

READ MORE: Can HR ensure a ‘stress-free’ retrenchment exercise?

Not all labour laws mandate that employers allow staff to bring in a “support person”. How can HR help employees overcome workplace anxieties? HRD spoke to an industry expert to get tips.

Workplace fear often pushes employees into “fight, flee, or freeze” mode, said one academic, yet many firms still expect staff to continue ‘business as usual’ even in the face of realistic threats.

“The prevalence and strength of this workplace norm cause employees to be very reluctant to admit that they are afraid,” she said. “Nonetheless, it is essential to address fear at work because this negative emotion packs a wallop.”

The US-based academic has studied negative emotions and their role within the workplace for over 20 years. Her top tip? Deal with employee fear “head-on”.

She acknowledged this may can be a burden due to employees’ reluctance to admit their fears.

Be honest, open to their concerns and if possible, be transparent about potential changes in the workplace as “information will likely leak out anyway”, she added.

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