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Companies Behaving Badly — Actual Testimonials

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I recently promised a column in which readers could share their personal experiences of companies behaving badly, and the time has come to deliver on that promise. These are all actual tales of terror, torture, truth denied, terrible tactics, etc. I have attempted to leave these in their original forms except where I needed to edit for length or to protect the guilty. Ah, to heck with the guilty — any edits are only to protect the innocent.

  • ''A few years ago, a person I know accepted a position with a 90-day 1099 probationary arrangement as a pre-requisite for hire. The person was given a 90-day deadline to create a new marketing plan for a new product line. With the plan having been completed on about the 85th day with final touches and the start of implementation underway, the person was fired on the 89th day. A company behaving badly, indeed.''

  • ''I think the best I've heard is from a very close friend of mine (57 years old) who is General Manager/VP for an office of a large media company. He told me of a meeting he was at in NYC where he was told directly not to hire anyone over 40 years old because they are too tough to fire!!! He said he was shocked not only to hear it, but also due to the fact that he himself was 57.''

  • ''During the summer of 2006, I interviewed with a publishing company. I went through at least five interviews, including the last one with the president of the company at 7 am. During this process I took a five-hour test with no breaks or lunch, etc. When I asked sort of joking around about lunch, they told me there was a vending machine in the basement. Also, to make the final interview, which was arranged in 48 hours, I had to change my travel plans. The bottom line on all this...I received in the mail a letter stating they did not find the right person for the position. For one thing, the position was never outlined, nor was I told what the position was.''

  • ''For many years I worked for a major distributor of telephone equipment, in particular larger systems selling from several hundred thousand to several million dollars. At one time we hired away a top salesman from one of our competitors who sold the same brand of equipment. So this person was particularly attractive. He also didn’t have a non-compete. After about three weeks, he told us he thought it had been a wrong move on his part and was giving us his resignation. We became a little suspicious. We blindly called the prior employer and found out he was on vacation. Upon further investigation, we also discovered the VP of sales had put him up to this.''
Now here’s one from my own files. I once had a coaching client who was a VP of sales for a $750 million high-tech company. He was out of town on business and suffered a major heart attack. He flat-lined and was one of the small percentage of people that are revived. While in the hospital bed, his employer called to let him know he was going to have to take a pay cut. OUCH!!
  • ''I was once hired by an outsourcing company. I had been there about a week and then went to training. During training I saw some things that concerned me, and so I diplomatically asked a couple of questions. Two days later I received a call from my boss telling me they had decided I was the wrong person for the job and they were terminating me. At least they paid for the airline tickets back home.''

  • ''I once worked for a company where my sales director was, to put it nicely, a lunatic. I was scheduled to go out of town to a sales meeting. About ten days before, he called me and said he had something important he needed to talk with me about. He scheduled with me for him to fly into town the Tuesday before the meeting. He cancelled Tuesday morning. I flew in for the business meeting on Friday that started early in the afternoon and went through that evening. He never said a word to me. The next morning, before the start of the second day’s meetings, he called me early in the morning and asked me to meet him for breakfast. When I got down to the dining room, he was sitting there with a big knife in his hand. He proceeded to stab it into the table, say a couple sentences and fire me. Then he told me I would have to find my own way home as they had cancelled my airline reservations. Also, if I had to stay another day before I could get a flight out I would have to pay for it.''
And finally, here is my winner. The person it happened to recently told this one to me. I have tried to condense it without leaving out the important facts:

''I am a human capital person. In the last year, I sent a blind resume to a firm in an industry I had prior experience in. About six weeks later, I received a call from the HR director who said she needed help. Once I talked with her, I could see she had some ‘personality’ issues. I had a third interview with one of the founding partners. During that interview, he told me that some of the things the HR director had told me were not accurate and they wanted a peer, not a direct report. He told me they wanted someone who would be a ‘better face’ for HR.

''They were not moving quickly, and I received another offer. Though I wanted to work for the firm I was interviewing with, I needed to get back to work and was concerned this was never going to develop into anything, so I took the other offer.

''I very quickly received a call from the HR director, and she offered to buy me lunch. She talked to me, and then I met with the second partner. She really wooed me and gave me the top position in HR, saying they were going to move this lady to another area. I had to do something I had never done and ethically was a bit troubling. I resigned my position with the other firm the morning I was supposed to start.

''I started with the new firm on a Wednesday and immediately walked into a potential lawsuit no one had told me about. I worked through that as best I could.

''On day four, the previous HR director told me there were some concerns, and the partners met with me. They told me something else they had not divulged. They were acquiring a competing firm, and the president of that firm was going to run the merged firm. Under the guise of ‘He had some concerns about certain things lacking in [your] experience,’ they terminated me on the spot. Now, mind you, I have never met this man. They have now had this search out with one of the top retained firms in the country for several months and are not close to hiring anyone.''

There is no further editorializing required.

Here’s Wishing You Terrific Hunting,


About the Author

Bill Gaffney has 17 years of experience as an executive recruiter and career coach. He is compiling a list of names of these companies to be run in USA Today. Bill can be reached at 937-567-5267 or For questions to be considered for this column, please email

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