Monday, September 19

We must protect each other from bad employees


I regret to say this but I have seen considerably more incidences of potentially criminal behaviour by managers in international companies and their agencies in this country than I saw in the U.K. Corrupt behaviour is the most usual problem but sometimes it involves that close cousin of corruption, fraud.

Yesterday I was shocked to discover that a candidate whom both I and the client were convinced was the right person for the job, a senior account director role, had in fact a record of deceit, and in one case criminally fraudulent behaviour, in previous employment. We had a narrow escape because two CEOs of previous employers were kind enough to tell me the truth. But it was fortunate that both CEOs are people I have a good relationship with, and who are both generous - they care, not just about their own company, but the industry as a whole.

I have long been thankful that I know many such people, who will give me a frank, honest reference on a candidate as a favour to me, rather than as a favour to the candidate. But I do not always have this assistance, and many companies do not have it at all when hiring. If a company recruits directly, without using a search consultant, it is less likely that they have a connection to a previous employer who will be helpful and frank.

This helps to explain why we see people known to be guilty of wrongdoing, ending up in another comparable job - and often re-offending. Companies hardly ever take legal action against such employees, they just release them, and in some cases even disguise the reason for their sudden departure. What should be done to protect future employers from such people? It is not really feasible to make a public announcement of the truth nor to create 'register' of offenders. But we need to cleanse our industry of this kind of behaviour. This means that impressionable young people must see that such behaviour does not pay off, and that if somebody is apprehended, their marketing career really is finished. So if an employer has been the victim of such an employee, and is then asked for a reference, they should do what these two people did yesterday. Tell the truth, give the facts. Do everything possible to ensure another good employer does not suffer the same fate. One day, another company will return the favour to you, and gradually we will root out the bad people.

To all those, including the two people involved yesterday, who have warned me about bad people in the past, I thank you. You helped me, you helped our clients, you helped the industry; and ultimately you help society.

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