Actually, I shouldn't put Kelley on the spot by asking about her
firm's practices. I meant it as a comment on employers in
general, and I don't think Kelley is obliged to tell us what she
does, unless she wants to.
But the concept is still of interest to me: It's a two-way
street; and employers who are concerned about disgruntled
ex-employees spreading dirt about them, should probably examine
what they say about the ex-employee.
I asked the original question because it was a way of eliciting answers from others. I knew what answers I would get. I was planning on using those answers in my responses to the other thread.
As for ex-employees, there's the law. We are only allowed to neutrally state that they did what they said they did or neutrally state that they didn't. We can say nothing negative, save for, "No, that person worked here as a janitor, not a techwriter." Still, I think folks should know that there are ways to get around the law and they are discussed in certain circles--in any industry I've been in, at any rate. I don't know why discussing former employees would come up in a formal interview, not in any specific ways at any rate.
As for casual convo, to a wider public, well then you just change names, identifying details such as dates of employment, gender, job, etc. There are times when it might come up such as the stories I used to tell when I was in the hotel biz, "Oh, you think our line cook's bad now! Shoulda seen Etienne. He used to like to keep his wine in the broken down milkshake machine and filler up! Then there was Clarissa, a highly regarded banquet chef with a temper. Clarissa and Etienne actually threw knives at each other once. So things are mild by comparison!"
In this situation--informal--I suspect that it works both ways. If I'm a gossipy manager about ex-employees, this probably puts current employees on edge, especially if they see themselves in the behavior I'm complaining about. Who wants to put people on edge? Not many, but we often don't think about it before we do. Informally, our behavior gets checked by other people's discomfort or more blatant body language registering that they're not interested.
Although, I gotta tell ya, we have a running joke. When discussing whether to roll our own LMS or used tools that are already available, the programmer (who wanted to roll his own) told the story of quitting a job, leaving his manager in the lurch. The manager threw a box at him be/c, as the programmer said, "I had the manager's ***** in a mason jar at that point and he knew it; hence the box at my head the day I quit."
So, I have given him a nice ole mason jar with a label, "Future Home of Kelley's *****." I also write periodic memos with Action Items. Every so often one of them is "Check with Liquor store to obtain nice, sturdy boxes with large staples in them." or "Buy ribbon/crochet lid for Mason jar."
ROTF. As Darren suggested recently, "If you can't laugh at yourself, who's gonna!?
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Re: SeriousQ2.0: From: Michael Oboryshko
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