January 13, 2014

Fired for my ethics!

Filed under: Changing jobs, Fearless Job Hunting, Interviewing, Job Search, Q&A

In the January 14, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader gets fired for not cutting corners:

I am about to be “removed” from my present position. The background reason is because I do my work by the book and will not take shortcuts that are unethical. Management says I’m not a team player. In 15 years, I have never been fired or had this kind of problem before. My question is, how do I handle this in interviewing for a job? And can I leave this company off my resume? The situation has me very depressed. I’m not dealing with it well, but need to get on and find a job. How will a prospective employer view this? Thanks for your time and help.

Nick’s Reply

Don’t ever apologize for your integrity. Don’t complain about anyone else’s lack of it when you interview. Those two rules will stand you well.

youre-firedIf you’ve been with the company more than six months, it will be hard to leave it off your resume. When asked why you left your employer, it’s perfectly honest to say, “I want to work for a better company.”

If you’re asked what specifically made you leave your job, tell the truth, but keep it very brief and unemotional. Don’t dwell on it in an interview, but don’t be defensive about it, either. Decide what you’re comfortable saying, and stick to it. The employer’s reaction will depend a lot on how your attitude comes across. (Learn to use one and only one brief, business-like explanation no matter who you’re discussing this with — family, friends, or new people you meet.) The key in the interview is this: Turn your discussion back to the topic that really matters — how you are going to bring added success to the manager you’re meeting with.

This is where your good references come in. You need to provide an employer with compelling proof of your abilities. You’re going to need to be selective about what references you use from your last employer — but you should definitely have references from people there who know you well. This includes co-workers and managers in other departments that know you. (You don’t have any such references? Tell me who your friends are.)

Remember that your old company’s customers, vendors, and professional consultants (lawyers, bankers, accountants) can also be powerful references, if you had such contacts in your last job.

But take this extra step: Ask your references to call a prospective employer before he calls them. (I discuss this and other powerful reference techniques in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 5: Get The Right Employer’s Full Attention, especially in the section titled “How do I deal with an undeserved nasty reference?”, pp. 19-21.) A good reference won’t have a problem doing that for you, as long as you don’t ask too often. An employer will see this as a very powerful recommendation.

Don’t be depressed. Moving on is the right thing. When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, you’ll be looking at someone with integrity. Your previous employer may find an image in his own mirror that isn’t so pleasing. There are lots of companies that want ethical workers. To find them, keep your standards high.

Ever get fired because you didn’t “fit?” How did you handle it? What did you do for references?

: :

31 Comments on “Fired for my ethics!”
By Becky
January 14, 2014 at 8:54 am

I felt pretty sure last year I would be axed because my ethics were better than that of the boss. In fact, I heard it from 4 different people. But alas, I am still working for the same unethical person. One has to ask how it looks if one quits due to the bad ethics of a company.

Hold your head high, reader who was fired. What Nick says is true. When you look in the mirror, you see a decent, honest person with integrity.

By Etta Walsh
January 14, 2014 at 9:43 am

I strongly suspect that the writer, after 15 apparently productive years on the job, is being fired for being too old (or, in corporate speak, too expensive) to keep on.
After 15 years, suddenly the writer is not a team player? Has the team changed that radically?
This person needs to talk to a lawyer NOW. Age discrimination is hard to prove and it’s a lengthy process, but showing some sharp legal teeth might mean a better separation from the company, possibly a settlement, and a hammered-out agreement about what the company can (and cannot) say about this person to potential employers.

By Donna Munday
January 14, 2014 at 10:38 am

Kudos to you for sticking to your ethics. I was in a similar situation after taking a job. I was there for 2 months but couldn’t get past some of the things they were asking me to do. Each time I would question it, they would come up with something but their responses never made me feel that what they were asking me to do was right (illegal or unethical). I am still searching for a job almost a year later. While it’s tough financially, I couldn’t live with myself, or endure the inner turmoil, that this position was causing me. If possible, go above your direct managers head. In my situation, the corruption was from the top dcwn, so I didn’t have this option! Good luck and ask God to guide you in this situation.

By Dave
January 14, 2014 at 10:47 am

@Etta Walsh – I think you are onto something. Even if it may not be discrimination, how does it look for the previous company to fire someone with that much experience. In other words, if you have decade(s) of solid work expierience, and then you get fired by some random boss, I think most reasonable people would overlook that. As Nick says, have several knock up references.

By Nick Corcodilos
January 14, 2014 at 1:25 pm

I think it’s possible the reader’s firing was related to age, but it’s more reasonable to assume that as a seasoned worker this person is being accurate about the reason for the firing. There might have been a change in management that led to this problem after so many years. In any case, point about age well taken.

By marilyn
January 14, 2014 at 1:26 pm

I’m sorry to hear about your experience where ethics is held in low regard. I experienced the same in 2008 during the finance/banking implosion and lost my career of 30 years as I was deemed unemployable because I was over 50 years old.
– However, if you’re in a place to start your own business, do it now. The behavior you and I experienced continues. Demonizing whistleblowers (internal and external) and shooting the messenger is the norm as we all have seen, presuming we want to see.
– Don’t offer details of your experience. Americans are stunningly uninformed and disinterested unless it happens in their own living room. We are a very shallow culture.

Best of luck in resolving this matter.

By Stephen Kahn
January 14, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Perhaps 40 years ago I was fired by a man (as was a co-worker) by a man whom I am fairly convinced was a non-violent sociopath. After I was fired, I plugged ahead without making a big deal about the matter and was able to get other jobs where I could contribute. I had been fired for refusing to fire a competent subordinate I had been ordered to hire. I said to the unethical boss, “She is competent. If you want to fire her, you do it yourself.” As he could not stand ethical behavior, he fired me. Then after ordering me to fire her, he promoted her to my job. Later, I talked to another employee (still working for this unethical boss), who said, “Eventually he fires everyone who works for him. It’s just a matter of when.”

By Becky Siebenthaler
January 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm

@Etta Walsh and @Nick: I think Etta has a good point, because I’ve been thrown under the bus twice. Of course, if I’d been able to bust through the glass ceiling to a department directorship as I’d been promised by my male bosses at three different companies (more lies – no women directors in those days), I might not have learned these life lessons!

The first time I didn’t know any better, so I let myself get talked into resigning instead of being fired. The double lie was that I had lost a city-wide convention rebooking and that I had looked for a new job on company time. I went to the contact for that city-wide, and he wrote a letter to the company describing how I was the best thing about their experience. It made me feel better, at least, although it didn’t keep my finances from being decimated. As for the job hunting lie, my boss (who sandbagged me with the lies in a group meeting) had offered to help me find a job within the next three months, after which I would move on. How naive I was in those days! Turns out it was all because I was the new person / most expensive person / a woman who didn’t bow down to men. But my integrity was intact.

The second time I was fired for not being able to do my job – just weeks after receiving an excellent written review. We were all waiting for me to be able to transfer to one of a short list of properties in the chain. Again, I was the most expensive person in that category; there were no openings at those properties, and my property couldn’t afford to keep me in the position. I took that company for six months of unemployment based on an unjust firing while I looked for something else. (Yes, folks, it does pay to keep your own copies!) Once more I had to rely on both my own paperwork and my clients’ feedback as references. As it turned out, I finally got a job in another industry through an old friend.

Bottom line – a big part of my reputation has always been my integrity. I’m proud of that, but it does make life a bit harder sometimes.

By Zoe
January 14, 2014 at 8:35 pm

I have not been fired (yet),but demoted to get out of my bosses way so he could do as he pleased. I am not a “yes” woman and I questioned his decisions. My boss has since been fired (for the decisions I questioned him on)and I am still there but still suffering the consequences of the demotion. No one in upper management wants to admit the wrongdoing and correct my demotion. Probably because they may be gone soon too. I have been trying to find a new job/career for several years.

By Hank
January 15, 2014 at 10:31 am

In my opinion the company (or its managers) that allow, encourage or demand unethical behavior have no qualms about terminating the ethical employee, regardless of historically glowing reviews or performance track record, particularly in no fault states where you can be let go for absolutely no reason, outside the Title IX protections.

The solution is to DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT. If you are given an unethical order or task verbally, immediately memorialize it in an email to the boss/manager to the effect of “We just had this conversation in which you instructed me to do xxx, with the expectation of yyy, and a potential negative consequence of zzz if not executed in this time frame. If my understanding of this instruction is incorrect, please return email immediately with your corrected instructions.”

They may chew you out for sending it, but simply state that you wanted to ensure that there was no miscommunication as to the instructions given. If they are acting alone, then they may become fearful of getting caught and rescind the request. If they are acting per a company guideline, you now have evidence of their wrongdoing to use as leverage in a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Any written or emailed instructions should be copied, printed and transported offsite for safekeeping.

You may not keep your job in a showdown, but at least the casual or ignorant offender is put on notice, and if you have documentation in hand, and casually let them know this, you may be able to negotiate reference letters in advance, and what the response to a future company’s HR inquiry would be.

Your boss and management may not have any issues with unethical behavior, but the Compliance, Legal, and HR departments will, at least to advise the managers as to what the repercussions will be if they persist.

By Don Harkness
January 15, 2014 at 1:06 pm

writing from Houston, the land of Enron whose former leadership have been given the opportunity to contemplate ethics from behind bars. As well as a very ethical women who blew the whistle. As a recruiter in this area I’ve met a lot of people who were innocent victims of their leaderships crappy ethics and related BS. And they had to deal with the odor Enron left on their bona fides. But over time they did.
Hank’s advise to document is good advise when you find yourself facing ethical questions or even gray areas. Adding to that documentation, keep a log, notes to yourself. It will come in handy.
A sidebar point is that sending a summary email is a great tool per se for any scenario where there’s a chance for misunderstanding…e.g. boss cannot communicate ideas clearly, meetings where opinions, direction, dispute are flying around. An email to participants that starts with ..what I took away from our meeting is …than apply the principle that silence means assent.
If you’re sure you’re going to be canned for ethical disagreement and you want to protect your ethics….quit. The end result is you’ll be on the street, but when you quit you are making a statement about your principles which reason test if asked.
I met one guy as a recruiter who had a responsible role with a small company that turned out to his chagrin to be out and out crooked. He hadn’t a clue (he was on the operation side & the crimes were financial e.g bribery, money laundering etc) and was blindsided when his boss/owner was indicted, convicted and tossed in jail. He was honest about what happened, the role he played, his growing bad vibes. Per Nicks point, one of his references was the Fed investigator in charge of the case who attested to his innocence and integrity. As someone noted, his ultimate solution was to start his own business which is doing fine

By CAT
January 15, 2014 at 10:39 pm

I had been out of work for
a year and given my age (61) and years of experience (28) it is very
difficult to find an attorney position. In mid December I had the first
interview I had had in 10 months and accepted a position as an associate
which started this last week on January 6th. I was very excited and felt so
relieved to be employed etc etc. I started last Monday. The firm had no
office or computer for me and I had to use my laptop. I actually knew they
would not have an office for a bit since they had to build out new space and
I would work remotely. I got an hour of training on their computer systems,
how to find a file etc etc. That was it. No secretary or paralegal and they
assigned me a case load and 3 long to clients, all due by Thursday. On
Tuesday afternoon I was freaking out. It was taking me forever to find
documents I needed for the reports, my laptop was running very slowly, I did
not know all the issues with the area of the law (they knew this when they
hired me), had never even seen a sample report until Monday afternoon. I
knew I would not get three 15 page reports done on time. I went to the HR
woman (who is the wife of one of the partners). I told her my issues blah
blah blah: no training, too much to get done when I am not familiar with
anything and would rather tell you now then wait until Thursday. Obviously
the right thing for me to do. She talked to the other partner. Then they
were both very nice and understood and took everything off my plate except
one report which I got done and learned 90% of what I needed to know in the
process of being able to take the time to do it. On Friday, yesterday they
let me go. Not even a full week. The partner said they thought it would work
out given my litigation experience but it did not and better from me and
them that I leave now. He was not nice at all. The HR woman was there. He
gave me a paycheck for the week. Nothing else. I was and am devastated. Never go to HR, ever

By Kevin Payne
January 16, 2014 at 1:39 am

Great response to a problem that isn’t often addressed. You are dead right to emphasize coming up with a brief, non-emotional explanation. I found that you need to get over the anger or it will come through no matter what you say. Thanks for another great column.

By Workplace 21c
January 16, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Many of the responses are working what I call “overtime” to try to explain something of which they have no direct knowledge: I won’t bother with that path.

The ethics concern presented to Nick suggests a different marketplace (from “back in the day”) that no longer exists, a marketplace or corporate environment where individual sensibilities were acknowledged, tolerated or even encouraged. That was then.

In the post-Dot.com bust world of high outsourcing and marginalized standards, it appears that an employee’s level of agreement with how things are run is not really a consideration. I am talking “real-world” and from experience: employers and managers, especially with the high use of staffers from third world countries are looking for one answer: “Yes sir, boss …” Corporate America is calling it “they take direction well” and are using this character as a justification for upreferring offshores and the newly immigrated instead of american-bred employees who tend to think and question. This is the result of “bottom-line” hiring: ethics and quality went out the window @2002.

IF I WERE RUNNING a company, I would applaud your efforts to maintain standards, because I would set standards and expect everyone to support them. Clearly, this was not the situation that came to be where you were working.

… which means, Friend, I think it is on you to identify the situation and be PROACTIVE in adjusting or exiting, it is reality (not to sound harsh, but for your career survival).

WE have to adapt to the realities put around us in a way that preserves our integrity, if you are in a position that you can afford it, as well as our livelihoods.

I have seen all of this play out too many times … even for myself: my advice is do whatever you have to do, constantly network, and keep your recruiters close.

Cheers,

By Dave
January 17, 2014 at 9:11 am

My wife is amount to be placed in the crossfire of some questionable activity at the non-profit she works at:
1. Staff is paid below average for their industry. The board is OK with this, and she wants/needs to go to them to advocate for the staff – some of them may be picking up extra responsibility in the near future.
2. The board is suggesting she doesn’t need an assistant, but the assistant needs to be there as per state regulations. They do have a grace period, though. I told her she needs to tell the board this, and that she will go to the state authority over this as she doesn’t want this on her head. She doesn’t want to be black listed for “illegal” activity and that since they are a non-profit, they have much more of a moral requirement to follow all reasonable laws. My wife has a good relationship with the people locally who handle liscensing for the state. She probably could use them as a reference, right now, if she were to go to a new job.

By Jan
January 21, 2014 at 9:41 am

I just sent a note to Nick re: the automatic tracking system used to weed resumes from HR offices.

When my resumes were rejected for jobs I was well qualified for I became very curious and, being a corporate business researcher, naturally I began doing research.

It’s a frightening picture for anyone looking for a job. I am restarting a small consulting business I Had. Now my most recent job experience won’t read: 2002-2013

By Mark Gillespie
January 21, 2014 at 11:08 am

These tests cannot accurately predict a person’s aptitude, emotionally and intellectually, just by a test or a profile that they gather through either testing or from ‘spying’ on an employee and who his friends are, his habits, credit history, etc. None of these are germane to whether a person is able to do the job. It is apples to oranges in reasoning. Many people are extroverts who are probably liked (maybe) more than introverts. Introverts internalize much of what they think and do so that it is not available as data on a computer network somewhere, nor is it evident in a test that is tied to an algorithm of supposedly correct results about who a successful employee will be. Many people who are unconventional are actually the smart ones who can get a company much further ahead than people who play by the rules and always answer right on the tests and don’t do anything outlandish on the Internet – holding their true political opinion, for example, in public. This is more like a police state where the truly enlightened are subjugated to the role of non-entities. I think the entire thing is baloney, because God (or evolution) gave man a brain so that they could determine all of this. It isn’t hard – have HR get off of their duffs and away from the computer desk and start actually interviewing and talking to people! They also should not rely on these companies that suck up resumes and disseminate them by the thousands to companies that pay a lot of money to use them because it is impossible to interview everybody, so many good candidates can be left out.

By Misty
January 21, 2014 at 11:29 am

I was “let go” due to integrity reasons. It was sad. At the end of the day, you live with your conscience and even though it isn’t right of corporations to do that, remember that a lot of companies are looking for people full of integrity. If had employees, I would expect nothing less. Three good responses for job interviews:

1) I’m ready for a change to a new (industry, company with growth opportunities, effect on the world…blah blah blah)

2) Corporate realigned our divisions and my position was eliminated.

3) I would love to answer that for you, but the confidentiality agreement I signed with my previous (employer,client) prevents me from doing so.

None of these answers are questioned, nor can they be “proven” and most of them, depending on on your situation was absolutely true.

I learned quickly there are better places to work and better management styles out there to work with. Don’t give up!

By marybeth
January 21, 2014 at 12:42 pm

I been fortunate in that I haven’t been fired because my ethics didn’t align with an ethics-challenged boss or company/agency but I’ve witnessed some of this kind of ugly behavior. 16 years ago I had just started working in the insurance industry, and at my new job my new colleagues told me about an “incident” that occurred a couple of months before I started. One of their colleagues was discovered to be in violation of Rule 10(b)(5) of the SEA (Securities and Exchange Act). Rule 10(b)(5) deals specifically with fraud, and at that time, in the late 1990’s, the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission, the federal government agency that acted as a watchdog over the sales of stock, etc.) still had some teeth. Employees knew about the fraud statute, supervisors and commissioners routinely warned about penalties to you and to your employer if you violated rule 10(b)(5)–jail time in some/many cases, huge fines for you and for your employer. The former employee was caught doing insider trading–using what he learned at work to benefit family, friends, some “special” clients/customers. The point is that it is supposed to be a level playing field, so anyone buying stocks gets the same info and opportunities as the next guy–those who know someone who has special or inside info aren’t supposed to get special (favored) treatment. The rewards and risks are supposed to be same for everyone. The employee was caught; my new colleagues still talked about the police and our company security came, his computer and files were seized, he was immediately fired and taken away in handcuffs. The company was held to be partially liable, and paid a big fine (he lost his job, went to jail, and had a hefty fine to pay–I’m sure that his name was mud in the insurance and financial services industries). Even a couple of years late, this tale was one that was told to new employees, all of whom had had to take and pass tests (insurance has its own tests that must be passed in order to work in it) and the study materials went over rule 10(b)(5) in great detail, so there was no excuse for insider trading other than shady ethics. But the SEC has been de-clawed and de-fanged, and what regulations there are don’t seem to be enforced Martha Stewart withstanding. I remember getting a call from an agent in another state one time. He told me that he had some info and a great “tip” that he wanted to share with his clients (our clients). I told him that it was illegal, a violation of rule 10(b)(5), and then I started singing la la la la la I have my fingers in my ears and I’m singing. Not only is it illegal and it comes with big penalties but I can’t even have that knowledge imputed to me! I went immediately to one of our VPs, told him what happened and the name of the agent. Steve told me what I had told the agent, and Steve then told me that he’d call the agent and have a chat with him as well as send out a reminder about rule 10(b)(5) and what can happen. That agent was a slow learner, and I later learned that he tried it again (not with me but with another colleague), so Steve had him fired. The company paid millions of dollars in fines due to the employee who got taken out in handcuffs; shareholders don’t like to see their profits go down because of employee and agent stupidity, so back then, there were incentives to following the law and conducting your business in an ethical manner. Today, I fear that most of those checks and balances are gone. Don Harkness mentioned Enron, which was the next company that came to mind when I read Nick’s piece. Skilling and others went to jail. None of the banking, finance, or Wall Street executives responsible for crashing the economy in 2008 were held accountable, much less spent any time in jail. No indictments came. It seems to me that today, ethics for some means screw you, to hell with you, and the more fool you for playing by rules of fairness and honesty. I’m sorry to be so cynical. Too often business complains about any government regulations. But if the regulations keep the wolves at bay and ensure a level playing field so that investment is open to anyone who wants to invest, that the system isn’t rigged, then I think that not only are they a good thing, but they are necessary.

@CAT: your story reminded me of me! Before I went to work in insurance, I got a job in a small (3 person) law firm. Like you, I was honest about my abilities, about my lack of experience, but I was willing to work hard and to learn. And like you, I was given no training, nothing and was let go at the end of the week. When I reminded one of the lawyers that I had told them during the interview that I “green” and knew nothing but could learn with some training and that they said that was fine, none of that mattered. Like you, I first thought that there were stereotypical lawyers–sleazy, unethical, etc. but as time went on and I found another job (this time with a small law firm that didn’t expect me to know everything and be able to do everything from day one and didn’t mind training me) and eventually in insurance, I realized that it isn’t necessarily unethical. Not very nice, not honest, not fair (but life isn’t fair), but certainly within their ethical rights. Employment in my state (MA) is at-will, which means an employer can fire an employee for any reason or no reason. If the employer is dumb enough to state that he fired an employee because he’s black, then he’s got a big problem because African-Americans are a protected class with the highest level of protected afforded. Women too are a protected class, but we only get mid-level protection–no where near as good as African-Americans but better than non-protected classes (assuming that a judge doesn’t decide that you don’t even deserve that). Unfortunately, if you’re in an at-will employment state, your employers weren’t unethical and they were acting within their legal rights, just as my old employer was with me. It sucks, and it isn’t fair, but it isn’t illegal or unethical. I hope that you will find someone who is willing to give you a chance to get up to speed. This isn’t unique to the legal profession either–there have been other comments on Nick’s previous newsletters about how employers don’t want to take the time to invest in new employees, whether they’re recent college grads or someone who is changing fields. Maximum profit with no/minimum investment seems to be the maxim. I wonder how much worse it will get before it gets better, but there are employers out there who don’t behave this way. The challenge is finding them, particularly when you need a job. Or, worse, your employer might be fine now, but then the new boss comes in and she hasn’t got an ethical bone in her body–she steals your ideas, takes company/agency property home and keeps them for her personal use, tells you to do things that are not only unethical but illegal, and when you refuse, you’re the one with the bullseye on your forehead when there are budget cuts. And if you get caught, which you will (eventually), you’ll be the one on the hook, not your boss–she’ll claim that she never told you to do that, or that you must have mental problems and misunderstood. If you can walk away, leave. If you can’t, get things in writing (cya emails can help), if you have a good union, see if they will help you. And start looking for another job asap.

By marilyn
January 21, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Re hiring:

What are the parameters built into the software/algorithm? I believe it would reveal illegal discrimination of all flavors, including age. Ironic, as “old” corporate white men drive this behavior. Do we have an Edward Snowden who can help reveal this??

By LA Larry
January 22, 2014 at 5:18 pm

I read many of the above and at 71 glad I am not in the business any longer. Workplace 21c & several others has the right approach. From my personal experience as number 2 person in a start-up grown to medium sized company years ago I can see both sides; I too have been downsized/fired probably for age or too high salary and back then you did not sue your employer BUT NOW? I would not hesitate to go to a lawyer, it is the only way to protect your reputation and income. As to the testing issue it is a way to limit legal exposure for discrimination and takes the “judgement” out of the human factor in the hiring process thereby eliminating many qualified people.

By Citizen X
January 22, 2014 at 10:44 pm

The state of Michigan contracted people to “improve” their jobsite. Before this “improvement”, not only was I getting hits and “reviews”, I was getting actual job interviews. For the first three years, as the economy slowly “improved”, I gradually gained more interviews each year. Now, my resume seems to have dropped into a black hole of big data. No interviews.

Five years ago, I fell into clinical depression because after I lost my job, I sensed that because of the cybertrends in hiring, that I would be forever excluded from the labor pool. I didn’t explain the details of these fears to my shrink, because I was afraid that she really would think that I was crazy, and proscribe more intensive treatment, such as hospitalization and drugs.

As it turns out, I was just suffering five years ahead of the times: now, the cybertrauma is affecting millions, not just little ol’ me. And it’s becoming well documented.

Mark Twain once mentioned that there were lies, damned lies, and statistics.

My statistics tell me that there are approximately 25 million very angry Americans in the job market. I wish I could determine the actual percentage of these people who would truly fall within the parameters of capability that big data is searching for, but missing by a county mile.

I suspect it to be quite high.

Unfortunately, this talent is being excluded from the very organizations that need it the most, all because big data fails to ask the correct questions.

As Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”

By Frustrated American
January 23, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Dear Nick – Shortly after the 2001 recession is when I began to experience all of the problems, frustrations and setbacks related to unemployment that it seems the rest of America is now enduring. I’m happy to see everyone has, finally, caught up since I had thought, for years, that there was, seriously, something wrong with me.

The Dot.com bubble is when everything changed for employees in this country, as far as I am concerned. I have a terminal degree in an area of the Humanities that is broad and lends itself to many types of positions. However, I’ve been relegated to low-level administrative and service positions for more than a decade.

There are so many areas of our employment economy that are broken and dated (Think: 1950s and 60s). It is beyond logic to think that a computer can choose a candidate based on metrics because human beings and the jobs they do are complicated. No one is perfect and everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Computer metrics are just a convenient, new 21st Century means to discriminate against American workers. …It’s just like the trite, old line by Bush and The Republicans about “jobs Americans won’t do.”

Until I see every member of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, get off their lazy ASSES and try working at McDonald’s for a month, or in retail, or picking fruit or doing any of the other low-wage crappy jobs that many middle class Americans, who are college-educated, and former white-collar workers, are now being pushed into to do, actually step into these shoes, then they need to shut the F-up.

All American employers want is the cheapest labor they can find. And we’ve now crossed the threshold to where it truly is survival of the fittest. … Lower-income workers with only a high school education will soon be pushed out of their jobs by better educated, experienced white collar workers who are desperate for any work and are unable to regain a foothold in their fields, and college grads that, also, cannot find work in their fields.

Areas such as salaries for white collar workers — NOT WAGES — have been stagnate for decades, Healthcare, childcare, recruitment, just everything related to how we deal with the workforce in this country is behind the times.

Employers complain they can’t find workers with skills, but don’t communicate with colleges regarding their needs. Employers also don’t want to invest in people anymore (READ: Train people for jobs) and expect them to come in knowing everything. …Newsflash: NO ONE KNOWS EVERYTHING GOING INTO A NEW JOB. EVEN OUR STUPID CONGRESS RECEIVES TRAINING AND MENTORING upon their arrival to the hill when they’re newly elected.

Our country is so broken and it’s galling, and sad, that the people we elect to represent us don’t give a damn because they’re millionaires who only have their own interests in mind.

This problem could be solved, if Congress and multi-national corporations actually wanted to solve it. Robert Reich the former Labor Secretary in the Clinton Administration lays out a sound plan in “Aftershock.”

By Workplace 21c
January 24, 2014 at 1:10 pm

@Frustrated American

Your comments have solid grounds, yet … I could take it further on a different dimension: do we still need representative government, for instance? Do we still need politial parties telling us who we are and what we need? Even though the 21c economy is largely the result of low ethics and legacy thinking, the signularity in technology is the greatest real reason for it all: we have a majority of individuals trying to hold on to former paradigms.

First, greed is everywhere and we have seen at the peak 2005/2006 (especially from leadship government and large corporates), a near 80/20 split impact to ecnomy and society.

Second, there needs to be a future-focused movement toward apolitical, nonpartisan assessment of what the world and the country needs: the majority of congressionals are really up to the task, especially the ivy leaguers who work mostly from a status quo playbook. The same is true in large corporates.

I appreciated your post and I have hope for your long-term prosperity.

By Workplace 21c
January 24, 2014 at 3:58 pm

By the way, no – I am not against government or an anarchist. I am saying that “we the people” have the capability to operationalize an effective, efficient government in the 21century without the bureaucracy and political grand-standing that existed in the past.
Bottomline: the political system and government are wasteful on energy and time and we have neither to waste.

By Dave
January 26, 2014 at 10:20 am

@marybeth

“None of the banking, finance, or Wall Street executives responsible for crashing the economy in 2008 were held accountable, much less spent any time in jail. No indictments came.”

Not to get overly political here, and not to say there wasn’t/isn’t any funny business going on (and I’m not defending them), I think it is hard to prove that any crimes may have actually happened. From my limited understanding, there was a confluence of several things.

I am currently political cynical, and think both of the major parties have failed us big time.

I do have libertarian leanings, but many of the libertarians I know what some strategic protections of consumers. A market is not truly free, unless it is free of coersion.

By marybeth
January 27, 2014 at 1:04 pm

@Dave: I’m a political cynic too, and I’m with you–both of the major parties have failed us big time. There was a “Frontline” episode last year on this topic, and there was plenty of evidence but a lots of foot-dragging and reluctance (putting it mildly) not only to prosecute but to even indict those responsible. I’ll see if I can find the episode/link for you. I found it eye-opening, to say the least. I was comparing it to Enron, where, as Don noted, executives and whistleblowers went to jail.

I, too, have some libertarian leanings, but there are times when I think that having SOME regulations (including regulators who aren’t afraid to do their jobs) is a good thing–for everyone. My grandparents lived through the Great Depression of the 1930’s. They were poor to begin with, and didn’t speculate on the stock market, but what pittance they did have in banks they lost. The result was that they didn’t trust banks and put their money in sock and buried it in the yard or put it in the chicken coop or under a loose floorboard or in the matress. A completely free wild wild West kind of market isn’t good either. Excessive, redundant regulations aren’t good, but neither are no regulations.

By marybeth
February 3, 2014 at 11:33 pm

@Dave: The Frontline episode is titled “The Untouchables” and it first aired on PBS last January (2013). If you haven’t seen it, it is worth watching–plenty of evidence of wrongdoing, plenty of witnesses with that evidence, just an unwillingness to go after the folks who caused the economy to collapse. It was only after it was aired and generated some negative publicity did the at least one of the government attorneys resign.

By David Hunt
September 29, 2014 at 11:06 am

@Frustrated:

I would opine that it was the 80’s MBA craze that “started it”. When people realized that they could squeeze and outsource and offshore in pursuit of yet another fraction-of-a-percent stock price hike. And when the idea of people as assets became replaced with people as costs.

By Bona
October 29, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Hi Nick and others,

I am so glad that I am not alone anymore. I stumbled across this website and feel so much better. I am older and female whose resume doesn’t matter as I feel that I am outdated but did graduate with an associate degree Aug 2013 and with honors. I was so proud of taking the courage to move forward and do something I love. I have been sent to employment agencies only to be treated as a lessor being and “not qualified”. I have heard that employers were looking for people with degrees but I am finding out that I am older and have no real recent experience. Now I am facing student loan debt. I am scared because I have been fired, let go with being humiliated and degraded, and I have left the last job frustrated as the job was well below my job skills and had to find work to fill out an 8 hour day. It is so hard for me to find good solid work and do not like employment agencies as they “favor” the younger demographics in my own opinion. I do have a solid work history and now I do not want to work for employers who have employees who are unethical and bad behaviors because I don’t have real recent and solid skills to work with. It’s all I can think of what has happened and now I feel hopeless. Employers need to give someone who is older who are willing to learn and to grow their experience in the field of work. You just don’t find real good employers anymore and it is very typical that hiring manager whether at the employers location or agencies need to think outside the “box” so to speak and help people like me to find work. All I have gotten was insurance sales call which many are simply 100% commission and have read their reviews which are terrible. Nick and others, what should I now? I really am worried about my student loan debts which is shortly coming. Help!

By Don
November 3, 2014 at 7:25 pm

@ Bona looks like you got 3 different areas of angst.
1) Age. I can speak to that…I’m 75 pushing 76 and got my last job at 69, after several along the way after age 55. So hang in there, but make an adjustment to your attitude & approach. You’re driving the job hunter’s bus. Recruiters and employers aren’t seeking to help people to find work. They’re trying to meet a need…your job is to sell them on the idea that you meet it. The approach is to ignore age, & if you work it, you’ll find employers who don’t care about age. Your age will only get in the way…if you let it
2) Transitioning. You noted you got an Associate Degree leaning toward something you love. so you are retooling yourself. Been there, done that too. Transitions come with overhead, dues to pay and a path you lay out with a gameplan to give focus and strategy to the change. the dues you pay is usually in the form of lower compensation.
Looking for a job is a full time job, and the foundation and lubricant is networking. You need to find and connect to people who live/work/love your new field, find companies (don’t look for jobs, look for companies) where you think will use your skills and passion, and work toward meeting hiring managers, via the network.
3) Fired. Be honest to yourself, then to others about why. Think of job hunting and career development as sales. you’re in sales now, and one company (client) rejected you. rejection is part of the sales terrain. Have a honest and succinct reason and if asked use it. The good news is we don’t always asked for the nitty gritty details. And if you’re aiming in another direction…it may not be that relevant.
So again, develop a plan, focus on working the plan, and hang in there. Don

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