Tales from the Front

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Had lunch yesterday with a group of current and former employees of my old workplace. The people who were still working were running late because they were deep in discussion of how to finish a certain report. One of them is leaving on vacation but, of course, the report is due and work don’t care about vacations.

Got some stories of how things are going. I didn’t really expect things to change but I hoped things would start to be better for the survivors. But this is the not so dirty little secret of layoffs. You create chaos and a vacuum and it takes time for things to settle back down. Many times it is actually harder to survive a layoff than to be one of the people shown to the door.

Change is still happening. Heard some stories about a borderline abusive boss. Not physical because that type of stuff is easy to see but emotionally abusive which my old company never really dealt with. They accepted a certain amount of it if the person produced results. Emotional intelligence is kind of a buzzword and it is one of those things places talk about but it seems that very few actually value. Well I could be wrong about that since my experience is a sample size of 1.

Funny thing is that my old workplace is full of posters with wonderful words about leadership culture and commitments and values. Problem is that when people don’t live up to those wonderful words, nothing is done. The words then become meaningless as most big corporate proclamations are.

Ran into another guy I knew from there. Just by chance, he was having lunch at the same place. Probably a very good chance since we picked a spot very close to the old workplace. Anyway, he made this little joke that I’m the most relaxed he’s seen in 20 years. But maybe it does show on my face. You could feel the stress coming from the people at our table who still worked there.

There’s a line in the movie Office Space that talks about certain conditions that will only make people work hard enough to not get fired. And you work for a big company with nice benefits and you’ve worked there long enough to build up good vacation and maybe some nice retirement benefits and it becomes a trap. So even when the exterior environment is toxic and even when you are more stressed then you know, you stay because you see the value of what you’d be giving up. I’m not saying that people don’t work hard – because they do. But are you really and truly engaged? Does the place speak to your soul or are you just tolerating it because of the perceived need for all the associated benefits.

And it is also the fear of being let go. That’s a big driver because its a scary world out there and who wants to go back and start interviewing again. Problem is that making that sacrifice takes a bigger toll than people realize. I really don’t think it has to be this way. I wonder if there are companies where they actually live by the words they plaster on the walls.

Our group also included a few who were part of the last purge and in the depressing stage of trying to land a new position. The economy isn’t bad but it isn’t booming so places are being overly cautious. As a hiring manager, it was drummed into me by HR about the cost of making a hiring mistake. As a result, companies put people through hell trying to figure out if your the “right fit”. I mean does it really take multiple interview sessions to figure that out? I don’t think so but it gives the illusion of making a careful choice.

Then it seems like every day I read these posts on LinkedIN from people who talk about how they selected the less than perfect candidate and it was great. Encouraging others to look outside the lines. But color me skeptical about whether these are actual situations or people just trying to virtue signal. I mean it is the easier side to be on. Taking the chance on someone who seems less than perfect because some little gut feeling told you to.

The funny thing is that in the responses, nobody defends the “rigorous” hiring practices that seem to be typical. Probably something where everyone knows it isn’t right but doesn’t want to be the one going out on a limb to push back against company hiring strategies.

One of the people at my table (who is currently employed) had applied for a position in another division where there are actually signs of life. Someone on my team had also applied for that position but was rejected out of hand due to lack of experience. Well, she’s now actually being interviewed for the position because they rejected the first person – who actually has the experience they were supposedly looking for.

But they told her it wasn’t the “right kind of experience”. And since they couldn’t find anyone in the company with the “right kind of experience”, they started looking outside. Which meant someone sifted through the resumes of people they originally rejected to find potential candidate. The stupid thing about this is that the only way to have the right kind of experience would be to be doing the job that is currently vacant. They were never going to find an internal candidate with that kind of experience.

The dirty little secret though is that you can make up anything you want to as a reason for rejecting someone. My suspicion is that this first person was maybe lacking in some kind of soft skill. Or they felt she was. Maybe she just didn’t fit the mold of what they were looking for. So they can come up with the excuse that she lacked relevant experience. And then stretch the definition of relevant experience so that it now fits the second person who they originally rejected.

Does that sound twisted enough? Makes me super glad to be out and super glad that I don’t have to start looking again. Again, my experience is limited to one place but why do they have to be so freaking phony. At this point, I’m not even sure I want this second person to get the job. I know she wants to work but this group just feels kind of toxic based on the stories of the interview process.

Well enough about this. I just had to vent a little bit. I’m going to get ready to drive up and see my Dad later today. I’m usually a little light on weekends and that will likely be the case again. But you never know.

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