Thursday, September 18, 2014

In which I am worried that my company's HR department will ruin the new job for me during the background check

I was worried that I would be fired because I ticked off the CEO but then I wasn't fired and I got my revised offer letter from NewCompany, so I was feeling better.

Then I learned that NewCompany would be calling CurrentCompany to verify employment and salary. (Why? are they going to pull the offer if I am not earning what I said I am? I did use my current salary to get a better salary with NewCompany, but it's still not as much as I made with CompanyThatLaidMeOff. If they want to base their offers on what others have paid, why not use CTLMO salary? I did point that out to my hiring manager, who told me that had old CTLAMO job over nine years ago. I replied that my skills had not disappeared - I am not developing microchips, I am a project manager. It's not like the ability to motivate people over whom I have no authority just disappears with time.)

I was worried that CC would tell NC, "You do not want to hire that worthless so and so. Do you know that she is a racist who wondered out loud, after her African American co-workers were saying how awful February was and a discussion of seasonal affective disorder ensued - if seasonal affective disorder affects white people and black people in different ways - that evolutionary biologists theorize that skin color developed as a response to the amount of sun and vitamin D and the more sun someone gets, the darker the skin - and that we had to put her on final warning for that?"

I can barely write about this because 1. I am so ashamed and 2. I am so horrified that I would be called a racist. Who wants to be a racist? This whole thing - there were two other incidents at about that level of awfulness - was such a horrifying blow. My boss asked why I would ever bring up race with my co-workers and I, bewildered, answered that I have had such conversations with African American co-workers and friends for my entire life with people who continued to be my friends and to seek out my company. If I were that offensive, then wouldn't people have avoided me?

Ugh. I don't even want to write about this, but it is part of the story and important to my fear about what HR might say about me to NC.

"And did you know that she ticked off the CEO because she wanted to start and end a meeting on time?"

"Do not hire this woman."

But then the logical question from NC to CC would be, "Then why haven't you fired her if she is so awful?"

To which CC would have to say, "Well um you know. She's really not racist but the CEO made some truly racist comments last year and the other HQ people in a country that is not the US and not Argentina have made some really racist comments so we just jump on anything now because we are scared of getting our asses sued off. The board made the CEO write a formal letter of apology but we are still super skittish about this."

"Oh. Why haven't we fired her? Well, because nobody else will work for the low salaries we offer."

I was worried. I was really worried about what HR might say to NC. I have no such concern about any other place I have ever worked. They could call anyone from my previous employers and ask if I work hard, if I get results, if I am a racist, and would be told yes, yes, and what are you talking about?

OK, the factory I worked at for six months where I was supposed to develop a strategic plan to go into new markets but then ended up not having anything to do because a month after I started, we got a new VP who said, "This is our strategy," that one, I could have done a lot better job. I think now about the projects I should have initiated and the projects the CFO wanted to do that I should have become involved in and I wince. I did not do a good job there. I did what I was asked to do, but there is so much more I could have done and I would really like a do-over.

But really, I don't care if they call anyone from an old job, even someone not on my reference list, because there isn't anything anyone could say that would torpedo my chances at a new job.

With the NC background check, they call the CC. I was worried.

How could I find out what they could say? They won't do only a partial background check. It's all or nothing, so they have to wait until I give notice at CC. But what if CC tells NC something that makes NC withdraw the offer?*

Then I was looking at a co-worker's wedding photos. Idris Elba had gotten married and was sharing his photos. It was a lovely wedding and his bride is lovely and Idris is the nicest guy in the world and needs to get the heck out of there.

(Did I tell you that his boss wanted him to take an hour of PTO the day he left work an hour early? Even though we are often on phone calls late in the evening with HQ and he certainly puts in more than 40 hours a week?)

I turned the page and discovered Susan Sarandon in a photo. (I have to use these star names because I was giving random fake names to people and could never remember what I had called them. I am not sure that I will remember the star names any better, though.)

"Idris, why is Susan in this photo?" I asked.

"She's my wife's aunt," he answered.

Susan also happens to work in HR at CC. She is the nicest lady in the world - she recruited me and we ride the bus together sometimes. She is a sweet, sweet lady and I had wondered if I could trust her, but I wasn't sure.

"Idris," I asked. "Would you do me a huge favor but keep it between us?"

Idris had already shared with me that he had been put on a PIP, that he thought the CEO was a jerk, that he was paid only 60% of what I make even though he has three direct reports, and that his boss had wanted him to take the hour of PTO, so I knew he and I were of like mind. We were both disgruntled.

"Would you ask Susan - without telling her who wants to know - what they tell prospective employers who call to verify employment?"

Idris knew about the racism thing and had thought it was crazy. He's the one who told me about the CEO's race issues.

"Sure," he said. "I'll talk to her this afternoon."

"I want to know what kind of dirt they spill," I explained.

He nodded. "I want to know for myself," he said. "What with this PIP and all."

I waited all day, nervous. I had already asked a friend of mine who used to be an HR director at Kraft. She was pretty sure that CC wouldn't release anything but employment dates and eligible for rehire, but you never know. I have never worked in a place as crazy as CC.

After lunch, Idris came to my office. Closed the door. Sat. Composed himself.

I wanted to yell, "What?! Spit it out!" But I forced patience.

He smiled. "It's cool. They won't say anything other than someone worked here. You are fine."

I wanted to hug him.

I have been using up my vacation - CC does not pay it out- and will give notice soon. I cannot wait. I cannot wait to get out of here and have a fresh start at a place where even if there are crazy egos, there are too may other people around for the crazies to have an impact.

* This is why I have been carrying my prescription of vicodin in my purse. I want to remember to list it when I take my drug test and show the bottle to the person at the drug test. I don't know how long vicodin lasts in the body and I took it with some oral surgery I had.