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Friday, June 10, 2005

How my wife lost her job at Cabot

I recently wrote about my positive experiences as a Microsoft employee. When I receive letters like the one posted below, I am reminded of the impact one recruiter can make on a company and on an individual's impression of a company as a whole. Please read the following open letter to Jobseeker's Revenge and my comments that follow.

Dear Job Seeker's Revenge:

Cabot Corporation, a 1.9 million dollar multinational manufacturing company operating 36 manufacturing facilities in 21 countries and employing 4,400 people, doesn’t know how to treat their employees even though on their corporate webpage they clearly state their values, including Integrity and Respect.

As Cabot employees...
  • We value Integrity: We demand adherence to the highest ethical standards. We demand personal integrity, compliance with all laws and regulations, unwavering efforts toward the highest quality in all areas, and indisputable respect for safety, health and the environment.
  • We value Respect: We must be open, honest, straightforward and trustworthy. We listen and learn from each other, our customers and the outside world, and share our learnings generously.
  • We value Innovation: We work urgently and intensely to create new ways to bring more value to our customers and to open new markets for our products. We continuously improve by understanding successes and failures—our own and others.
  • We value Competitiveness: To be the best, we strive for excellence in everything we do. We listen to our customers, owners and markets, and we compete aggressively to exceed their expectations using teamwork, leadership and self-confidence. We seize opportunities with urgency, persistence and courage.

SOURCE: http://w1.cabot-corp.com/controller.jsp?N=21+3029

They value integrity, demanding personal integrity, but I am especially fond of the second paragraph where they use words like honest, straightforward and trustworthy to state they value respect. Let me tell you why.

My wife has a Masters degree in Computer Information Systems. Her recent experience with SQL Server prompted a call from a recruiter at Resultz staffing, a Duluth, GA based staffing company. The job opportunity at Cabot sounded intriguing, but like many job openings in the Tech industry today, it was a contact position, yet she agreed to interview for the role.

During her interview she was told that she would be learning JD Edwards, and applying her SQL experience to help administer the JD Edwards system for the entire company. Its was a very compelling position since JD Edwards is a skill in high demand. After learning that JD Edwards experience was not requisite and that thorough training would be provided she accepted the offer and began working at Cabot in Duluth, GA as a CNC Administrator.

During her first two weeks she worked side by side with the Senior Administrator, learning the ropes, understanding the intricacies of the JD Edwards customizations they employed. Her first few weeks were going very well, everything apparently on track. Things were going so well, in fact, that her boss took her to lunch one day and told her they wanted this to be a long term position, and that he wanted her to be there for many years. He said he would do the best he can to set the foundation for open communication.

My wife was feeling very good about the position, and when contacted by other recruiters she was telling them she was happy in her current role, and that this was a long term opportunity. After all, that’s what her boss said. Then she got a call from that recruiter from Resultz Staffing, asking her out to lunch.

During that lunch, on a Thursday, the recruiter proceeded to tell her that Cabot was ending her contract at the end of the week. When asked why this is so abrupt, he responded it was because she lacked JD Edwards experience. This confused my wife because she had been very clear with Cabot that she didn’t have any JD Edwards experience, to which they responded that it was not required. Still confused, she went to talk with her boss to find out what the real story was and he said: Honestly what it comes down to is that you lack the excitement we were looking for.”

The excitement, he said, that he saw in the current Senior Administrator when he trained her initially. He went on to say that my wife had done everything that was required, but things “weren’t working out.” According to him this was not a professional or personal decision, its just they didn’t see the “spark” that the Senior Administrator had on her first days at the job. To close the conversation he said people either love the job or hate it, and she apparently didn’t love the job. Or at least that was his opinion. What does that mean? According to that logic, if she doesn’t love it that must means she hates it. How would he know that? Did he ever talk with her about it? Well, he did, and when asked if she liked the job my wife clearly said she did, and she was excited to be learning all about Cabot’s JD Edwards’s implementation. So then why was she fired because she was “not enthusiastic?”

Now, something you need to understand about my wife is that she doesn’t bubble with phony enthusiasm everywhere she goes. She’s a very quiet and private person who is used to dealing with things modestly. At home after work she would tell me how excited she was about this job and all the things she was learning about JD Edwards. So, when she came home and told me this story, I smelled a rat. As a professional recruiter working with some of the largest HR organizations inside Fortune 500 companies for the last ten years, I’ve never heard of someone being terminated because they lacked enthusiasm. In my opinion, unless the job description is something like that of a circus clown or a sports announcer, enthusiasm is just not a job requirement. And another thing, people have many ways to express their enthusiasm. Personalities vary quite a bit. To some people, enthusiasm can be defined as “yelling and screaming with joy” while to others a quiet fireside chat can still be passionate and exciting.

Personalities being what they may, what bothers me about this whole situation is the way my wife was mistreated and approached with deceit and dishonesty. She was told that JD Edwards was not required yet she was terminated because they felt she didn’t have sufficient JD Edwards experience. Upon further inquiry, she found out that the “real” reason she was let go was that she was being tested. Her boss and the Senior Administrator had apparently lead her to believe everything was going well, only so they could “test her enthusiasm” during her first few weeks to make a value judgment.

The reason I’m so fond of that second paragraph in Cabot Corporation’s declaration about their company values is that these Cabot employees, her boss and the Senior Administrator, believe they were behaving in what they thought was an open, honest straightforward and trustworthy manner when they conspired to deceive my wife into thinking everything was going well so they could test her enthusiasm. I guess that also means they were acting with personal integrity when they told her she was being let go because she didn’t know enough JD Edwards, then changed that to say that it was because she didn’t show enough enthusiasm during a test period which she was never told existed. Or maybe they acted with integrity while they were telling her this was a long term position when indeed it was a “short term test.”

So, in the spirit of Cabot Corporation’s values, I am sharing this with the world so that we may all “learn from each other, our customers and the outside world, and share our learnings generously” – I couldn’t say it better myself.

Signed,

Anonymous

Comments:

Jobseekers:

How many times have you been treated so unfairly by large companies that see you as a number (if that much) rather than a potential employee (at the least) and a potential customer of their services (further more) and as a possible evangelist (most important) for a large company? When treated unfairly by recruiters, remind someone at the company they recruit for of these facts.

Companies:

How often do you monitor your recruiters and how they are interfacing with job seekers? Is there a mechanism in place whereby job seekers can email/call in a complaint about a recruiter who has been less than professional? If not, could the reason be that you do not see the value in treating potential customers well. People I may add, who are networked with other potential customers who are connected to even more potential customers. Ask yourself this, what do people who interview with your company, say about your company? If you do not know the answer, I would encourage you to find out.

Comments:
This is a bad situation because this company is using that recruiting firm to bring in contractors under false pretenses. I'm willing to bet the recruiter from Resultz had no idea they were testing her for enthusiasm. Besides, like the author said, when did enthusiasm become a job requirement?

Some companies have what is called an Ombudsman that would be able to field this kind of complaint from the lady that got fired. But the truth is that if she was a full time employee she would have much better ground to stand on. As a contractor, there's little she can do, no matter how wrong this behaviour is on the part of Cabot. Its companies like this that give the temporary employee industry a bad name. They are using their contract positions for the wrong reasons.

If they were open about people being "tested for enthusiasm" on their first few weeks, then at least it would be honest. The problem is how many people would willingly go into a job knowing that their enthusiasm would be scrutinized?
 
Hmmm...this is a tough situation. You know, as a recruiter myself, I would be upset if this happened to my contractor because I didn't know that the client was going to test for enthusiasm.
What I would like to know is what the recruiter tried to do to save the situation. Did he just roll over and say duh okay? Or did he say, hey wait a minute here...she loves this job. etc., etc., etc..."
If they are looking for a contract employee that is going to be running down the halls with pom-poms every time something goes right, then hey, put it in the job description. Don't was the candidate and contractor's time. Don't take someone you KNOW is coming from a full time position to a contract one and then fire them for something like this.
I have had clients that tell me they don't want people working for them that don't have any enthusiasm. Telling me that saves everyone time.
Hopefully the recruiter at least learned a lesson from this and made sure he prepared his next candidate for this little test.
One other thing...if I were the recruiter, I would do everything I could to network with other recruiers to get this lady another position.
 
This isn't uncommon - and it's not uncommon among small companies too. "Big" companies aren't the only ones who deceive and create undesireable situations like this.

It's unfortunate, but not uncommon.
 
Corporate life is not what it used to be in previous generations. Massive layoffs to appease wall street; outsourcing to foreign countries and Enron.

Reading this; I wonder what the other side of the coin must be. There are always two sides. I am appalled that any manager would conduct such a fraudulent and misleading test and relationship. If the long term comment was documented or witnessed; there may be grounds for legal action. They told her JD wasn't needed and said they wanted her long term. She altered her opportunities based on this positive news.

I have managed people; and I would never do anything this deceitful. We have hired people on contract basis, usually 2-3 months to see if they are really compenent, if our workload is sustained and they mesh well with our culture. BUT these expectations are stated upfront.

I won't say there is sour grapes in this letter; I think however there is a truth somewhere inbetween. Or Cabot is a very very bad place to work.
 
When unpleasant things happen to our loved ones, it is difficult to set aside emotion and indignation. Jim's wife did not lose a job at Cabot. She was a contractor, which should have been the biggest red flag in this scenario. The company chose to bring in a contractor when it looks like they do intend to hire an employee for the position once they identify the right person. They were looking for a "try before we buy" which may be indicative of the department's prior poor hiring decisions, poor management, high turnover, or all of the above. I have often recommended temp-to-perm arrangements to my "problem" departments that have revolving door hiring, firing, and turnover. Certainly it would be better if companies addressed poor management in appropriate ways, but it is an unfortunate fact that this is not always a corporate priority.

By accepting the contract position, Jim's wife shares some responsibility for the consequences of her decision. Contracts end. Employment can end. But contractor status and employee status are not the same.

In the long run, Cabot did her a favor. Who would want to work for people like that anyway? Next time around, best to do as much research as possible by trying to get information from current and former employees before accepting an offer. Find out why the position is open. Ask why they want to bring in a contractor instead of hiring an employee.

Good luck to Jim's wife in her next position.
 
The explanation the manager gave may or may not have been the real basis for the decision to terminate the contract. Having worked in HR for 25 years, I've seen lots of managers that fire employee's who don't slather them with gratitude and adulation. Their justification for termination almost always falls into the "doesn't fit in" category if they can't find enough technicalities to construct a performance based explanation. Indeed the wife should probably consider herself lucky -- often these types of managers often tend to bully and/or behave inappropriately in other respects. She should also be glad that it was a contract situation.
 
This reminds me of an interview I had where the hiring manager told me I wasn't a 'cheerleader' type - I told him that he was correct, and if he was looking for a cheerleader, I was not the person, but if he was looking for someone who was going to get the job done, then I was. He liked that I told him that and offered me the job - which I turned down. I didn't want to work for a company that based their decisions on this aspect.
 
That was a long story from your wife's perspective. You sure blasted Cabot but don't have the story from their perspective.
 
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