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A fried of mine ran into the following situation in Australia.

She was hired by a consulting firm (I will not mention any names here), and was subsequently sent to a client to work there. From there, according to what I heart, she was set up for failure and humiliated in every single way; it seems to be a cut-throat environment.

I won't go into details about the humiliation and the sabotage she received. Effectively, her employment was terminated as soon as her work was finished (unsuccessfully due to the sabotage) with the client, during her probation period. She was not given any reason (we suspect it might be a combination of a security breach she was forced to "do" for a reason only her manager at the client is responsible for, plus someone covering their arse for the "failure", yet taking credit for the work she has done).

My friend stayed positive about this, and started to send out CVs again. As soon as recruitment agents called in, they told her that the consulting firm have told the recruitment agents what happened. Today she received a phone call from a guy still working at the consulting saying that the day she was let go, everyone (even unrelated) in the company was informed about that decision, possibly to make it impossible for my friend to get a good reference or a reference at all (which is usually very non-helpful not to have here).

My worry is that this could affect her ability to find another job, as it seems that that firm be very aggressive about this whole thing even after the fact (they could just let it go, IMHO); as well as it does affect her emotional stability.

My question is at what point and how can we react to this behaviour in a way that makes it clear that this is not fair, yet is not detrimental to her future career. Or shall we just let them wield their power qua coorporate attorneyship until they cease and finally let it go? I don't understand why a firm would go that far and aggressively try to ruin someone (emotionally as well as career-wise) even after termination.

I know there is the ombudsman and the like, but she is afraid that this would only escalate the entire thing. Yet, it frustrates her to be powerless in this situation.

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    There is not much to contribute here. From our perspective as readers this is a second-hand story mingled with assumptions ('possibly to make it impossible...'). The main fact in the question is the consulting agency giving recruiters negative feedback, but then it becomes a possibly off-topic question about 'what to do'. – user8036 Sep 22 '14 at 11:41
  • Should it be first-hand then? What difference does that make? Yes, I can only speculate about certain aspects (and I won't give definite details here even if I knew them because I do not want inflict more damage, so I have to be vague here; is would be foolish to assume employers don't read this site). The main fact is not the negative feedback as such, but what we can do for the former employer to stop being so unjustly aggressive after the fact. – Winston Sep 22 '14 at 11:55
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    I would suspect that should your friend really need to ask a question, she could do it on her own. It is really patronizing for you to come here to get her help as it makes the assumption she is some pathetic little thing unable to be an adult and help herself. – HLGEM Sep 22 '14 at 13:09
  • It's an unfortunate circumstance and you are rightfully attempting to help a friend. However, let me tell you what part I keyed on in your entire description: "a security breach she was forced to "do" for a reason only her manager at the client is responsible for". So she committed a security breach? Someone forced her to break the law/rules/security guidance? I would think that, right there, would cause her more trouble than most of the rest, depending on her field. Don't bother reading the 'forced to' part. That does not matter to security personnel. She did it. – CGCampbell Sep 22 '14 at 14:33
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    Too late now but no-one is "forced" to do a security breach - whatever that means. If you're told to do something which contravenes policies/laws then decline, explaining why, and saying you'd need the instruction in writing. – TheMathemagician Sep 22 '14 at 15:24
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It's pretty clear she can't use that employer for references. And if her perceptions as you have reported them are correct, there isn't likely to be anything you can do to change that.

Whether she can use individuals at that company for references depends, as always, on her relationship with those individuals and their perception of her -- not on what the company thinks of her, since the company can't dictate what they write on their own time.

But since this all happened during a probation period, my suggestion would be to just leave this whole engagement off the resume (or include it as "separated due to personality conflicts", which is a warning that reports from that source may be questionable), and go back to references from the prior job. Simply avoid the issue, if at all possible.

  • Thanks. Yes, leaving that employment off the record was her initial idea. Until that very same recruitment agent called her after sending out CVs that ctually referred her initially to that job and then was given the feedback from the firm. So we need to assume the worst case that all recruitment agencies know. They most likely have a network (or even a black list). Although that recruitment agent promised confidentiality, we don't know who else that company has called to say "don't send in that woman again". – Winston Sep 22 '14 at 12:18
  • The "separated due to personality conflict" thingy sounds good. The only downside here would be that the firm knows why they have fired my friend, but my friend can only speculate. And this discrepancy could emerge during referencing. – Winston Sep 22 '14 at 12:20
  • Which is why I suggest not using them as references. If the agent can't handle that, change agents NOW... and don't borrow trouble; they may not have broadcast this, and if they did a new agent can send out a corrected document. Remember that references aren't consulted until fairly far into the process. If the issue ever does arise, she can give her point of view -- as calmly and factually as possible, and emphasizing her best efforts rather than demonizing the employer -- and the prospective employer will have to decide who sounds more plausible. – keshlam Sep 22 '14 at 12:27
  • ... That is ASSUMING that the employer will be vindictive about it. They don't really have anything to gain from doing so. They're more likely to simply say that she failed during probation, which raises the questions of why they assigned anything critical to her during probation and didn't support her better... It isn't impossible, but it isn't the assumption I'd work from. – keshlam Sep 22 '14 at 12:29
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    @Winston From one of your comments, it sounds like a recruiter sent her resume to the company in question. She needs to tell recruiters that she MUST approve all resume submittals. – mkennedy Sep 22 '14 at 17:40
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This is more of a problem for a lawyer, than here, but at the highest level this is the approach to take.

  1. Get an employment lawyer. This may cost or depending on the case they may take it on contingency.
  2. Find out exactly what the former employer is saying publicly to the places that are following up with them. This is very important. The internal memo may be good, but what they are telling others is far more important.
  3. Have the lawyer write a cease and desist letter to the former employer indicating they are to stop slandering their client.
  4. If the cease and desist doesn't work, the next step will be to file a slander suit.

In many places the burden of proof for slander is low. They are most likely crossing the line.

  • Thanks for your anwers. Yes, a cease and desist order was on my mind, but we'd like to go to such extreme measures only if really necessary. So we'll see what has been said, and if there is anything where we have proof that it was either unauthorised or confidential, we'll consider this option. – Winston Sep 24 '14 at 15:27
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She could try and get an independent recruiter send her resume to the company, then she would get all the information the company is telling about her. Depending on the response she can take legal actions into account.

There's always the option to found an own consulting company (LLC or similar), most customers will not run around and ask every big company if they have a problem with her.

  • Thanks. She has lots of aspirations, but she has decided to leave the consulting area completely (mostly unrelated to this incident). As for the independent recruiter, that's an excellent idea. I'll let her know. – Winston Sep 24 '14 at 15:33

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