Lies and Deceit

I wanted to write about these issues months ago, but I always felt it was unfair to do so while I was still working for the company in question, and when I quit the issues were still too raw. Now, time has passed, and some of the outrage has cooled.

It’s no secret at all that employers lie when hiring new people. Promises of training are made, salary ranges are quoted, unpleasant-sounding job duties are not spoken about, and positive aspects are blown grossly out of proportion.

I signed on with Benthic Creatures because I believed the lies. Coming in, I knew full well that “50% travel”, which is what they had promised would be the maximum amount of travel done, really means “At least 50% and probably more like 90%”. But I believed the lie about the salary range, the lie about the job duties, and the lie about team composition. “You’ll be doing nothing but administrative training,” I was told, “and you’ll be on a team with your wife, no problem.” These were lies told to us by King Squid way at the beginning.

The truth started to come out when we were taking a totally unnecessary and pointless training in Chicago. “You might be doing some client training as well,” we were told. “And we’ll be mixing up the teams.” By October, it became clear that the management of the company not only wasn’t going out of their way to schedule me and my wife together, their policy was to separate couples wherever possible. This, actually, is a policy that I can understand and appreciate in corporate settings; but when it betrays a lie that was told to me to get me working for the company, then it becomes an issue.

By December, it was clear that Jennifer would rarely be doing administrative training; and by February is was clear that I would be phased out of administrative training as well, in spite of the fact that I did it very well and that our clients obviously liked the way I did it.

The lies became too much. I got to the point where I refused to believe anything management told me. I wouldn’t believe a training schedule until I had a paper copy in my hand, given to me by the training manager (and even then, I refused to accept it as “finalized”, no matter what I was told). I don’t like working for people I can’t trust or respect, no matter how noble the job itself may be. I’ve never been in such a situation before, and I found myself not caring about the job at all. I did the best I could under the circumstances, but my motivation was gone.

And in April, when it was clear that I was never again going to do administrative training — which I was hired to do and which I enjoyed doing — I knew it was time to leave (health issues and the fact that I hate business travel also figured into this decision). I contacted the temporary employment agency and ended up, purely by accident, with this job where I’m overseeing a distance learning center’s on-line class migration from Windows to Solaris. Sure, there’ve been a couple of hiccups along the way, but I love this job and actually look forward to coming in in the mornings.

I don’t like it when the rules change underneath me. If I’m hired for a job, I like to know that I’ll be doing that job. If the job conditions change, I’m fine with that as well; except I need to be told that the job conditions are changing. When management keeps sticking me in assignments that I don’t like, hoping I won’t notice that I’m not an administrative trainer anymore, that strikes me as dishonest and, well, quite cowardly to boot.

Last night, one of our former co-workers from Benthic Creatures, X., came over for dinner. The three of us chatted until late at night, and Jennifer and I learned that things haven’t changed all that much in Benthic Creatures. The lies continue, the little conspiracies among the managers against the trainers continue… in short, I heard nothing at all that made me regret having left the company.

I’m glad to be out of there. I’m glad that I have this job which I enjoy and where I get to go home every night and which pays me more than Benthic Creatures did. For the longest time, I tried to have respect for King Squid, but when it became clear that he either didn’t know what he was talking about or was deliberately lying to entice me to the job, I began to lose that respect. And now if I ever found myself in a position where I’d have to do business with any of the management of Benthic Creatures, I’d definitely have to think twice, since my preference is to work with people who I know can be honest and keep their word.

It’s a pity that there are companies out there that feel they can behave this way to their employees, and I honestly pity anyone who still works for Benthic Creatures. Common decency and honor prevent me from naming Benthic Creatures’ true corporate identity in this public forum, and I almost feel bad about that. But as long as I can keep up this bit of the moral higher ground, I know that company is beneath me, and I can move on.


I left Benthic Creatures with very few regrets (well, I’ll miss my co-workers; no one can quote The Simpsons in casual conversation like N. can), then took a couple of days off and then I rejoined that growing group of former IT workers who have gone to temporary employment as a way to earn some money. I had called them the week prior to leaving Benthic Creatures and arranged a phone interview. The job coordinator I spoke with said to me something which was kind of startling:

“I see you’ve had experience with Unix and something called Apache,” she said.

“Uh,” I wittily replied. “Yeah…”

“Oh, good. There’s a need for someone with those skills in Sacramento. Let me arrange a phone interview for you…”

That was kind of surprising. I’ve never had a temp job that didn’t involve filing papers and writing correspondence and sitting at a phone. Some sort of programming job would be kind of cool.

So on the job coordinator’s instructions, I called up B. the next day and spoke with him.

“Have you had any experience with Solaris?” he asked me.

“Um,” I replied, “no, I haven’t.”

“Well, you’ve had lots of experience with Linux. That’s close enough. They’re both kind of like Unix. How about Apache?”

This was safer water for me. “Sure,” I replied cockily. “I’ve set up two web servers at home, one of them running secure socket layers.”

“Good, good. How are you at shell scripting?”

I thought back to the shell script I’d written two years before at Little Engine to make mass duplicates of websites with customizations… to date, the only shell script I’ve ever written, really. “I guess I’ve written one or two in my time.”

“Hmm. Do you know Cold Fusion?”

I used to know Cold Fusion like the back of my hand. Since then, of course, since Allaire and Macromedia need to keep making money, Cold Fusion has gone through at least a couple of major revisions. So I told B. that I’ve worked with Cold Fusion, but not for a couple of years. “I’m a lot more familiar with PHP and Perl CGI,” I said, “and those are kind of like Cold Fusion.”

“Oh, if you’re familiar with Perl, then you can do shell scripting, no problem. How about Oracle? Have you ever used SQL in Oracle?”

“Yeah,” I said. “A little.”

“Good. Can you start on Monday?”

“Blurk,” I blurked. At that point I hadn’t even told anyone in Benthic Creatures that I was planning on quitting. It was Wednesday. I was in Riverside. The rest of the trainers were scheduled for three weeks’ downtime before heading off to Tulare, Fresno, and San Joaqin. There was a part of me that was really looking forward to three weeks of absolutely nothing to do. “How about Wednesday?” I asked. Two days would be enough to relax and visit with my doctor, who hadn’t seen me since January and who wouldn’t refill my Albuterol prescription until I came in for a checkup.

“Well,” said B. after a moment’s hesitation, “that’s okay, too.”

And so it was agreed. The following Wednesday I would start babysitting Solaris computers and recalcitrant Cold Fusion installations and make the website start working again. Truth to tell I was already feeling a bit over my head, but I know from experience that I’m good at going into that sort of situation and coming out looking pretty good. So I agreed.

And it has been interesting. My first day, I was given a tour of the facility by the network engineer. The department is upgrading their website from a WindowsNT/SQL Server platform to a Solaris/Oracle platform, see, and things have been going very slowly. It quickly became clear that it was because the IT folks were overworked, and still growing out of a Windows mindset.

“So, who’s your Unix guru around here?” I asked the network engineer as he was going over the server setup with me.

Grinning, he pointed at me. “Right there,” he said.

And today, as we were discussing the migration of some of the scripts from one database to another, I asked, “So who’s your Oracle guru around here?” And the network engineer pointed at me again and said, “Right there. And you’re probably going to stick around for awhile because this is going to be a big project.”

The irony made me laugh. All this time I’d been trying for some sort of tech job since being laid off from Little Engine, and now I get thrown into one almost beyond my skill levels by being a temporary employee. It’s just kind of eerie.

And the most ironic aspect of all this: as a temp, I’m now earning more money than I was at Benthic Creatures. Certainly not as much as I was when working at Little Engine, but still more than I have in two years.

Of course, I’ve done other things since leaving Benthic Creatures. I’ve gotten involved with my church choir again. I’ve focused more on my schoolwork. I’ve set up a new Linux server at home. I’ve gotten involved in my local Linux Users’ Group. I haven’t gotten back on my bike for some serious riding yet, but that’s coming. I’ve started going back to Weight Watchers. And soon I’ll be picking up my Dungeons and Dragons game and looking into volunteering for the Solano County Adult Literacy program.

Leaving Benthic Creatures was a good idea. I feel better. Like a computer that has just had its operating system freshly reinstalled.