TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Lying, part 2 (long and moralistic) From:Documania <dcma -at- MAIL1 -dot- NAI -dot- NET> Date:Mon, 24 Feb 1997 09:11:00 -0500
A concerned (and considerate) list member e-mailed me privately after I
posted my bit about why one might lie on a resume. This person said:
"I'd be careful airing that kind of info on a list; these days everybody
and his dog are probably reading it! (That might include your next
This concern had crossed my mind, but I decided to post my opinion anyway.
The original question ("I still haven't figured out why people lie on
resumes and at interviews ... I just don't get it") was a good one and
deserved an answer, especially since the issue concerns both hirers and
hirees -- in other words, ALL OF US. I also figured that few people would
respond to the question, so a good, honest answer about lying (!) seemed
the right thing to do. If it costs me future opportunities, well, this is
not the first time I've shot myself in the foot! I'm hoping that my
description and disclaimer were enough to persuade any potential employers
that I'm strong enough to look temptation in the face and defy it. Also, I
am willing to accept consequences for my actions.
This, I've discovered, is a dying trait. Fear seems to rule the workplace.
More times than I can count, people have failed to speak or act when they
could have, so problems have gotten worse instead of better. The only
reason for nonaction was fear . . . fear for one's position, fear of
another person's opinion, fear of damaged reputation, fear of future
punishment in the form of denied privilege or promotion, fear of <fill in
the blank>. This leads to a lot of lying on a daily basis, which to me is
as bad or worse than falsifying a resume. While I respect the need for
self-preservation, I also know that when something is is seriously afoul
and needs resolution, you have to participate in the process. But ofttimes
these are the situations when people are most afraid!
At the bottom line, you are either part of the problem or part of the
solution. More than once I've taken the kamikazee route because no one else
was willing to instigate, participate in, or close the resolution process.
Sometimes I've had to sacrifice myself in order to leave resolution behind
for others' benefit. But this has never been a true sacrifice. In such
cases I have already decided that it is not in my own self-interest to stay
in that environment, so I can use the melodrama of my departure to catalyze
action. This is perhaps a self-righteous attitude, but I find it necessary
to rationalize and justify extreme actions to myself, and this is how I do it.
You see, I have an old-fashioned, utopian belief: that employment is a
two-way street. Employers NEED people to work for them; employees NEED
jobs. Thus, we all have the same objective, which is to make and keep a
company profitable so that we can all earn good salaries and enjoy
benefits. In any company, there are people of different abilities, for
which they earn different wages. A hierarchy structure is usually required,
because people in general want a sense of organization and status and chain
of command. So I am willing to work in my pay slot as long as I am paid
fair market rate for my experience in that field and have a chance to
upgrade that pay as my skill and knowledge increase, and I gain seniority
in the company. Other people want a path of upward mobility. Etc. I have
observed that the happiest employees are those kept in the picture by
senior management and treated with respect, which includes some slack for
dealing with personal life outside the job. Given these things, most
employees work hard and stay loyal to their companies. When management gets
adversarial, then the employee body gets an attitude and the whole company
starts to fall apart.
Working as a temp has exposed me to an unusually large number of work
environments. And in this region of the U.S., at least, I have seen an 8:1
proportion of unhappy, unhealthy environments to happy and productive ones.
In most cases the problem can be traced directly to senior management.
Always, when a company is unhappy/unhealthy, there is an adversarial
relationship between management and support staff. People are motivated by
the stick, not the carrot. In the companies that work, the carrot is used
instead of the stick. There is also mutual respect, good organization, good
communication. In exchange for flexibility regarding personal time,
employees will go the extra mile in a crunch, with no complaint. In all bad
situations, internal politics create a fear climate. In all good ones,
harmony and humor prevail.
A great thing about cyberspace is that you can air difficult "real world"
issues without having to worry about losing your job. And if you have that
worry, you can always subscribe under a pseudonym. From what I've seen so
far, many others relish this aspect of cyberspace, which is why we have
such interesting, dynamic debates on this and other lists. As long as we
can keep flaming under control, we've got a great forum for discussing
topics which, if tackled head on in the real world, might have more serious
consequences. So keep the difficult issues coming!
dcma -at- ct1 -dot- nai -dot- net