Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bonus Blog: Weird Work Situations: Credibility

This week's bonus blog was spawned by a memory of a former boss that ruined his reputation in our industry and (hopefully) is still recovering from it. In my previous blog, I almost referenced him, but figured that putting in his story would divert from the actual point of the blog post.

Diversion is what Bonus Blogs are all about.

We'll call this person X. X was a rich personality, funny, vivacious, non-stop movement and action. He was a project manager and a team lead running multiple projects and managing a few groups of developers, testers, etc. His project were never in the red (or yellow); he always reported his statuses as "green."

X came to work one day and quietly spoke to some of his close friends at the office and to HR. He told them about a health condition, but didn't go too much further into it. A few weeks later, with confirmation of his diagnosis, X informed those who worked with him/for him that he had a brain tumor.

The tumor, he said, was operable. While he was having severe headaches and occasionally needed to take time at home, or work from home, he was going to be ok; he had multiple doctor appointments, and eventually scheduled surgery. He was positive that he'd be right back to work, two weeks after surgery, despite me telling him that my other friend--also having needed brain surgery to remove a tumor--took six months to get back on her feet. He repeated that his doctor said he was otherwise in excellent shape, and that he should be back two weeks after the surgery.

The day of the surgery, we got a nice email from him before he went under. Then nothing for several hours. Many of us were worried. My current boss (I had worked for X, but now worked for another person) was especially concerned because he and X were just about best friends, having eaten at each other's houses and gone to church together.

Finally, my boss's boss started gathering all of us to come to the center meeting space at the organization. He had news, he said, about X. All of us were terrified--had he died? My boss's boss shook his head sadly and said, "No, he hasn't died, but we have news about him and we need to share it."

So we all gathered. And that's when the world spun a bit.

Apparently, X had not been taking bed rest. X had been attending other job events. In fact, X apparently had a job with a major competitor. Someone's Significant Other in HR had seen X at a trade show event representing the competitor, and looking FINE. Upon further investigation, X had made the entire thing up about the brain tumor. Apparently he intended, all along, to switch companies, but job hunting and then actually working there before he switched out had been orchestrated through his many doctor appointments. Additionally, he had intended to claim disability (and in fact, had already started to do so) during his "Brain Tumor Trauma." So, in addition to lying to everyone who trusted him, he had planned to also defraud the local government of their disability payments.

He was effectively fired that day and all access to the system was revoked; during the meeting, he emailed he teams that he came out from surgery ok and wanted to know what was up with their projects. Because someone who has been in surgery for several hours, blurry out of anesthesia totally can process project management duties.

Everyone was informed not to contact him, and his team was inconsolable. Figuring they needed some help, I invited the teams to lunch. A few people took me up on it. As a side note, if you are a manager or want to be in a aposition of management, standing up when other people really want to run screaming or sit down quietly and hope not to be noticed are opportunities. Although I must say I didn't offer to talk to them for the opportunity of it, as much as the fact that these were my friends and they were hurting. Employees who feel hurt and betrayed do not make the best employees, but friends who are hurt and betrayed--well, I drop everything to sort that out.

That lunch was when I learned his projects were in the yellow and, almost, in the red (and had been in the red a good bit before). The lead dev had been left to manage the projects--X was apparently not doing any work at all, and reporting that everything was FINE as well as taking on additional projects when new ones came in.

It is my opinion X was gathering intelligence about our company to take with him to a new company where he felt he could be paid better and better valued. An inhibitor to learning about all new projects would be any appearance of his own projects not being under control. Likewise, he befriended people "in the know" about the status of all projects and effectively betrayed the people whose table at which he'd supped and church where he'd gone to worship with them.

So. When I think about burning yourself in an industry, I think about X, or, as I like to call him: "Fake Brain Tumor Man." I imagine if his resume floated near my desk or another manager asked me about him, the first thing I'd think of to say would be "He faked a brain tumor. Don't hire him. Seriously." Then I might have to show that person this post.

Don't be like FBTM. For that matter, don't be like me. Be like yourself, but you know, the best version you can be. Don't trade in your credibility for anything; there are very, very few things worth the price you'd pay for it.

1 comment:

  1. Ahh, yes. Fake Brain Tumor Man. It was about double-billing two salaries at once, but not simply better pay - he never once asked for a raise. e.g. why ask for a piddly raise if you can just bill two entire salaries at once. He was also let go by both our company and the other company he was working for, so I don't know about the intelligence gathering bit. That's the first I heard about the tradeshow - the HR person I knew saw him at a client (a large local company) just walking by in the hallway.

    So weird. So stupid. Sigh.