Error: “Professional Ethics” not found

12 04 2007

I’ve been debating whether I should rant about this particular topic for a while now. While its not an earth-shattering pronouncement that people in IT are so damn self-centered and unprofessional, I just think its so pathetic that people are allowed to get away with this kind of behaviour because they’re in IT. Let me fill you in on the story that inspired this thought.

A few weeks back we’d interviewed and offered a guy a position in one of my client’s projects. Now, for a proper character assassination, this guy is in my opinion the dictionary definition of “obnoxious”. I mean he talked like he was some major IIT or Harvard MBA hostshot about career growth, client interactions, business soft-skills, becoming an entrepreneur, yadda yadda yadda. Thats all fine, but we’re talking about some kid from the boonies in Tamil Nadu, India, who I was interviewing as a developer, not as a marketing poster boy. Still, he seemed to have some development ability, and being as desperate as we were for a reasonably skilled developer [meaning he knew that a keyboard wasn’t a musical instrument, and that a mouse was not a footpedal], we gambled and took him on, figuring that if the bugger didn’t perform we can always chuck him out.

So, he’s supposed to join me the beginning of this month. I call him a couple of days before he’s due to join us and confirm that he’s joining us. He says “Yes I am! My resignation notice was until today. I’m just clearing some paperwork up. I will join you Monday” “Ok!” I thought and left it at that. Come Monday, I’m waiting until 1pm and our hero is a no-show. So, I grab the phone and dial his mobile, and ask him, “Boss! You’re supposed to be joining me today! Where are you?” His response is, “Ummmmm… sir… I regret to inform you that I’m not joining your organization.” “Why?” “Sir, my previous company gave me a better offer, so I took that.” I was taken aback since I’d only talked to the guy 2 days before this and there had been no hint of a counter-offer.

“When did they offer you this?”
“Friday, sir!”
“When did your resignation notice period end?”
“Wednesday, sir.”
“When did my contract with you come into effect?”
“Wednesday, sir.”
“So, as of Wednesday, you’re a contracted employee of mine. And you told me on Thursday that you’re joining me. Why didn’t you tell me?”

And I swear, this bastard’s response was, “Sir, they gave me this offer sir. What could I do sir?” I replied, “You could have said no? You could have said that you’ve signed a contract with me? You could have called me and told me about this at least? We might have revised our offer? Why didn’t you do this?” Here he changes his tack a bit, since he’s been pushed into a corner, “Sir, they refused to let me go sir. They wouldn’t give me the relieving order. How can I join without a relieving order?” I said, “The relieving order is just to say thank you for working with us. What matters is that you tendered your resignation. Once the notice period mentioned in that came into effect, you were released with or without the relieving order. And your contract with us comes into effect. We would have accepted an affidavit signed by you, along with a copy of your resignation letter, stating that your previous employer refused to hand over the relieving order after you tendered your resignation. The fact is you had to have given us notice before joining them. No employer can hold you back against your will if you tender a resignation.”

I know its not an entirely convincing argument, but I was MAD, fuming actually. This bugger had given me the run around for over 3 weeks, and talked out of his ass about dealing with clients, on-site relationship management, being a business liaison, and after all that he didn’t even have the basic courtesy to inform me that he’s taking another job. Don’t get me wrong. I would not have stood in the way of him joining anyone else. I can’t do that nor will I do it. But, I do expect people to have basic decency to be forthright and inform me of such things, especially after they have a written commitment to work for me.

Getting back to the saga, our boy tries another tack, his third for those counting, “Sir! You only gave me an offer sir, not a firm order.” I said, “Look at your damn letter boss. Its an appointment order, not an offer letter. Its a contractually binding document. You are bound by that document.” “No sir! that’s not true.” “LOOK AT THE BLOODY DOCUMENT! STOP ARGUING WITH ME! YOU HAD AN ORDER NOT AN OFFER!” “But…, but… How can I join without a relieving order? What if I go to the US and the client asks me about my previous history and asks “Where’s your previous documentation?“” “Boss! Thats my problem not yours. I have to deal with the clients, not you. I have to make sure your papers are ok with immigration and the clients, not you. Your problem is to deliver on what work I assign you. Don’t give me this bullshit! That’s the weakest bloody excuse you could have come up with!”

My patience wearing thin, I gave him a way out of this mess. I told him he finds me a decent replacement within 30 days, and I won’t create any problems. Otherwise, I’ll take it up with his company. He blurts out, “OH GOD SIR! PLEASE DON’T DO THAT! PLEASE THINK OF MY CAREER!” At this point, my temper, which is already at breaking point, erupts, “LISTEN! YOU GOT YOURSELF INTO THIS MESS! YOU COULD HAVE INFORMED ME OF THIS OFFER! YOU COULD HAVE DECLINED THE OFFER SAYING THAT YOU ALREADY HAVE A PRIOR COMMITMENT! OR YOU COULD HAVE SAID YOU NEED SOME TIME TO DISCUSS THIS WITH ME! DID YOU DO ANY OF THIS????? AND YOU WANT ME TO THINK ABOUT YOUR BLOODY CAREER! YOU OWE ME YOU BASTARD! I HAVE GIVEN YOU A DECENT WAY OUT OF THIS! I COULD CREATE A MAJOR PROBLEM FOR YOU AS IT IS! I’M TRYING TO COME UP WITH A CONSTRUCTIVE SOLUTION TO THIS MESS! BECAUSE OF YOU, I HAVE SOME MAJOR PROBLEMS WITH MY PROJECTS! I MAY LOSE MONEY ON THE DEAL SO DON’T TRY TO APPEAL TO MY PITY! YOU FIND ME A DECENT PERSON I CAN INTERVIEW AS A REPLACEMENT THEN I WILL CONSIDER THIS MATTER SETTLED! DON’T SEND ME SOME IDIOT TRASH!

He tries to protest, “How am I supposed to judge a candidate sir? How can I guarantee a person will be good?” “You claim to have 3 yrs of experience? You claim to be a team leader? You talked big about being a business liaison and all? An entrepreneur? You say all that and tell me you can’t evaluate a person’s technical ability???? What utter bullshit! If that’s the case, you’re an absolute liar and I’m glad you’re not working for me! I don’t care what you do but you’re getting me that replacement? Ok!” “Ok, Sir! I’ll get you a candidate! But if he is not suitable, I don’t know!” “As long as he looks to be a good candidate, I will not hold you responsible for his failure to perform. But, don’t send me some stupid idiot off the street!” And I slam the phone down.

Its now 10 days since the conversation, and tomorrow I plan to find out just how this guy is doing. But, frankly I ask you, was I wrong in reacting like I did? Yes, this happens in this industry in India, but must I accept it lying down? Why should I? Why after putting in so much of time and effort in finding a guy should I take this lying down?

People should understand the responsibilities they assume when they sign a contract, that there are professional courtesies and principles to be observed. Like I said, I can’t stand in anyone’s way if they wish to leave, nor will I. But there is a way of bowing out gracefully. Usually, most employers will not stand in your way, so long as you don’t make it difficult and don’t try to be evasive about it. You ensure that your employers are aware of your intentions, and you transition your workload properly to your replacement. At times, you may be asked to stay on a bit longer to help the company complete some immediate tasks for which you are essential before you leave, but this is always up for negotiation.

But being hostile and burning bridges serves no purpose. It just smacks of immaturity, and at the end of the day has no real substance. Life goes on for all. The real loser is the employee because you never know when in life you might need to go back and rely on an old contact.

Sadly, kids [I’m classifying by both physical and mental ages] today are so focused on money, that they have no concept of professionalism, ethics, and courtesy. Their greed and selfishness is so rabid, that they do not think to consider the fact that sometime down the line they may need the people they’ve trod on. They may talk about all these concepts, but ask them to define them. THEY CANT!!! Its a concept completely alien to them. Which will only hurt them in the long run.

My objective in writing this is not just to vent my anger. It’s to highlight to the people who read this, especially youngsters or those starting out in their careers, that you should strive to not alienate people. Your contacts are your main assets in your professional career. Nurture them! Yes, be selfish! Try and get the best deal for yourself! If a better opportunity comes up, grab it with both hands! But ensure that you conduct yourself in such a way that you don’t burn bridges.

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One response

23 05 2007
Madhav

Dude, spot on…..the problem is ethics can be taught but that depends a lot on the person attitude and the boss he works under….the first job after college is the most important….it tends to set the trend for anyone..

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