Most new staffers, especially if they’ve never been in any kind of hiring/recruiting related field, begin their duties harboring only the loftiest assumptions about their fellow man. Since we all know a friend in need is a friend indeed, the new staffer receives calls and visits from ‘friends’ all day, friends in need of what that staffer now possesses, a ‘ticket’ into some place of employment. The world is their oyster, and they’re dancing through daisy fields passing out rays of sunshine to grateful, adoring friends. What could possibly go wrong? That’s why we call the beginning of a staffer’s career their ‘Pollyanna’ phase, or sometimes the ‘Oh Sweetie,’ as in:
New staffer: “Joe had such a great attitude in our interview. He even told me he’d scrub our toilet with a toothbrush if we asked him to!”
Seasoned staffer, shaking head: “Oh Sweetie, do you really believe that?”
Sadly, the Pollyanna phase doesn’t last very long. After Joe inevitably takes the new staffer’s doe-eyed, trusting outlook of humanity and the whole ‘a man’s word is his bond’ thing and rubs it down with fecal matter before tossing it into a landfill crusher by his no call / no show for work the next day, the hits keep on coming like roaches to a truck stop diner.
When the reference is checked, Alice’s two years of superstar employment turns out to be two months and a performance rating of ‘meh.’
When another reference is checked, Dave didn’t really head up his own division at Walmart after all, but apparently he did do an OK job cleaning the ‘head’ when he wasn’t busy sleeping in the stock area.
Upon further investigation, Steve’s grandmother didn’t really die, but Steve was ‘dead-tired’ from working and needed a few days off, so that’s basically the same thing, right?
Need I go on?
Yeah, when you’re in the staffing business it’s hard not to become cynical. Some manage to hold out longer than others, but eventually harsh reality hits us like a sucker punch to the face, transforming us all from wide-eyed Pollyannas into the HR version of Dr. House because, as House constantly says…
People lie often, and people lie about pretty much everything. Not all of them, of course, but more than we ever imagined. Staffers eventually learn the telltale signs of lying, the phrases we commonly hear that, seemingly more often than not, turn out to be untrue. Not every time, of course, but often enough for us to at least raise an eyebrow (or two).
With help from several AtWork branches, here are a few examples, ALL of which we have heard at some point or another, if not last week (and just for fun, I'll also include some random thoughts)!
- “Buddy, I’d shovel sh*t if you asked me to!” (Yeah ‘buddy,’ you probably couldn’t shovel yourself out of a wet paper bag, but thanks.)
- “I’ll work for anything.” (So, can we pay you in Post-It notes and used pizza boxes?)
- “Just give me a chance to prove myself!” (Because you proved yourself so well at the eight jobs you had last year…)
- (When confronted with some alleged misbehavior…) “I’ll even pay for a lie detector test!” (Wouldn’t it be great to purchase a polygraph test just to be able to call people’s bluffs on this one?) or… “I swear on my mother’s life that I didn’t do it!” (Hard to imagine, but yes we’ve heard that and yes, we want to give their mothers a call every single time. I’m still not sure why we don’t.)
- “I’ll walk to work if I had to, uphill, both ways in the snow, barefoot!” (Translation: I’m used to walking places - the grocery store, the methadone clinic, the liquor store, Mickey D's... but I really have no intention of walking to work.)
- (When speaking about their previous job…) “My supervisors loved me!” (So much that you aren’t still there...)
- “Nobody, and I mean nobody, works as hard as I do!” (Or lies as much, but who’s comparing?)
- “I’ll make you and AtWork look great if I get this job!” (Somehow, we doubt that.)
- (When offering them a job…) “Let me talk to my wife and I will call you right back.” (They usually never do.)
- “If you can help me get this job I’ll buy you lunch!” (Our recruiter hears this at least 6 times a year and has never gotten a free lunch yet!)
- “I have a lot of tattoos but I’ll cover them up if they hire me.” (Even the swastika on your forehead?)
- (After the first child support deduction hits…) “This job isn’t for me.” (Apparently, parenting isn’t for you either.)
- (About to take a drug test…) “I don’t smoke pot, but I’m around people that do,” or “I’ve never done drugs in my life!” (If you have to deny it…)
- (After a failed drug test…) – “Dang it, I told Mom to quit smoking pot in the car!” (Mom of the year I tell ya!)
- “I never missed a single day of work at my other job.” (Yeah right, and bunnies fly.)
- (During an interview…) “I’ve never been arrested for anything in my life! I have nothing on my record- felony or misdemeanor.” (But when the topic switched to education he blurted..), “I was working on getting my GED while I was in prison.” (What were you in for – random acts of kindness?)
- “I got laid off.” (Yes, people do get laid off, but when we checked this particular guy’s reference, they said his nickname was ‘Pockets,’ because all he did was stand around with his hands in them!)
- (One guy told us…) “I’ve been looking for a job all week.” (But when we offered him something, he was, and I quote, “too tired to go to work today.”)
- (After asking an applicant to describe a time when she used good judgment and logic to solve a problem, her response was…) “Well one time I had to run the plant myself because the supervisors weren’t doing anything.” (The plant she was referring to, by the way, was Wrigley’s... you know, one of the largest and oldest gum manufacturers in the world. I wonder how many jobs she had to do at once?)
- (Calling to cancel an interview…) “I’m broken down on the side of the interstate and won’t be able to make it to my interview. I’m sitting here waiting on a tow truck. Could I reschedule?” (The staffer could hear people talking in the background, but nary a car or even an occasional horn, supposedly on an interstate in busy Knoxville, TN.)
- (After hearing there was going to be a drug test…) “Oh, I left something in my car. May I go get it? I’ll be right back, I promise.” (Never seen or heard from again, of course.)
- “I’d start work in the morning, but I have to wait by my mailbox for my government check or my girlfriend will get it. Can I start the next day?” (OK, this one is probably the truth…)
- (When told he was being released for sleeping on the job…) “I wasn’t sleeping, I was bending over looking for a part.” (Did Peter Pan help you find it?)
- (Explaining a conviction…) “I was convicted for shop lifting at Walmart. I had a bottle of Ibuprofen in my purse and I threw away the box. I had it before I entered the store but they said I stole it from them anyway. But I really didn’t! They charged me for stealing anyway.” (And convicted you…)
- (Explaining a conviction, part two…) “I was sentenced to jail for a speeding ticket. I thought my friend was going to pay the ticket. She was driving but the cops gave me the speeding ticket. I didn’t pay it thinking my friend was going to pay it since it really was her ticket, so I had to go to jail.” (Er... what!?)
Fortunately, the majority of our folks are on the up and up with us, at least as far as we can tell. They are the ones that keep us from losing all hope not only for our business, but for society as a whole. But, sadly, lying has increasingly become a reality of today’s world, and the sooner we adapt to it the better. After all, we all have jobs to do!
We eventually learn to take almost everything, and I do mean everything, that is told to us with a skeptical grain of salt. ‘Prove it’ becomes our inner slogan. People gain our confidence by their actions, not their words.
Maybe that’s the way it should be.