Integrity

Posted on June 20, 2014

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This week, I narrowly averted a professional, and potentially personal, scandal. {Thank you, thank you, Body Compass. Thank you, intuition.} Lest you think I’m being melodramatic to reel you into reading this post, fear not. The fraudulent happenings I’m about to describe are worthy of a Jackie Collins novel.

Since January, I’ve been interviewing at different companies, trying to find a way to do what I love most, which is coaching people through the change process.  I’ve been coaching individuals and small groups for five years now and I’d like to do this on a larger, more complex scale. But I’ve had a bunch of dead ends over the past few months–sales positions disguised as change management roles, requests of crazy commutes, or regional travel requirements I’m not comfortable with. It’s been a little disheartening to say the least.

Several members of my network have been incredibly generous to me, passing around my resume to recruiters and such, and so when I received a call last week about a coaching position for a technological start-up, I was thrilled.

I went to the website of this “management consulting” company, read the job description and realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do. A dear friend of mine had just told me several weeks ago that a start-up would be the perfect place to expand my coaching business into a change management consulting firm and here it was! It was like a dream landed right into my lap.

But an uncomfortable gut feeling settled in after I agreed to meet up with the recruiter and I couldn’t figure out why. At first, I dismissed it as just nerves. Hadn’t I already been on a bunch of interviews that turned out to lead nowhere? “It’s probably nothing more than doubt,” I decided and pushed the feeling away. I went to my first interview the next day with the recruiter and then had another interview with a member of management.

I could tell the sales manager hated her job. She was disinterested in the answers I gave to her interview questions and, when I asked her for more information on the role I was interviewing for, that of,  “Professional Career Development Coach,” she seemed to almost physically recoil when she had to explain it to me.

“You’ll be coaching people through the interview process to prepare them to land jobs,” she said. “And you’ll be coaching our very talented IT consultants on soft skills. We have very gifted people here who lack people skills and this costs them job opportunities.”

This sounded completely reasonable to me. My husband’s an IT guy. He’s often chosen for projects over his equally -talented colleagues because they lack the communication and interpersonal skills that he has.

The recruiter told me the start-up, called BrighterBrain, had purchased a company called Unbounded Solutions. But something about the way he said this, something about the way he insisted on making eye contact with me during this conversation while smiling a smile that seemed to be trying too hard to look genuine, sent up some big, red flags. And what was up with that sales manager who acted like someone was putting a gun to her head to interview me? When I got home, I put my extraordinary internet sleuthing skills to work, to see what the deal was.

Usually when one company acquires another, there are layoffs and reorganizations and many times, financial problems, too. I noticed that BrighterBrain had a bunch of positions posted all over job sites which seemed somewhat atypical for a small business just getting its feet wet.  I couldn’t figure out why the recruiter and the sales manager had rubbed me the wrong way. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t jumping into a position that was created in a rash visionary moment but would be terminated in a few months due to lack of funds.

What I discovered about this company was so much worse than lack of financial security.

First of all, BrighterBrain didn’t actually buy out Unbounded Solutions, Inc. The CEO of USI applied for an LLC in March called BrighterBrain and so was basically just changing the name of the company. In fact, at the same time, he opened another LLC too, called ExchangeHub.

I found a lot of 1 star glassdoor.com reviews about Unbounded Solutions. I found all of the dirt about how they lure in entry-level IT workers, train them for a few months and then ask them to apply for and interview with resumes that list a bunch of fake experience. I’m not talking about padding skills here or exaggerating competencies (although that’s dishonest in its own right). I’m talking about flat.out. lying. Saying someone who just graduated from college had worked for Coca-Cola for a year and then for Goldman Sachs for two years and then for another smaller IT company on a project on the west coast.

This is what my Body Compass kept trying to tell me. This is why I got that slimy feeling when I walked in the door.

Stay with me for a minute. It actually gets much worse.

I found a Ripoff Report and a lengthy explanation from a former consultant outlying how, in detail, this company conducted business with its consultants and their fake resumes. They hired coaches to quiz them on all of the bullshit to prepare them to outsmart HR. The mock interviews weren’t about teaching soft skills; they were about preparing consultants to become better liars. The coaches were also responsible for training the guys in India who actually interviewed with the technical team on American phrases and accent reduction (since they were, after all, pretending to be American consultants). And sometimes the coaches pretended to be the HR managers, fooling consultants into thinking that they had just nailed an interview.

Professional Career Development Coach, my ass.

My husband didn’t fully believe me when I told him about the level of corruption in this company. “There is NO WAY they could be getting away with this for so many years,” he said. But G. never worked in Atlanta Public Schools. As a former teacher in APS, I’m quite familiar with how a large organization can not only continue its corrupt activities under the radar but also silence whistleblowers. I know for a fact that if enough people are scared, they’ll keep their mouths shut. If people at the top are in on the scandal, forget it. The whole thing’s awash.

The recruiter told me that I had ‘aced’ the interview and had a final interview with a C level executive the following week.  It was basically a formality and we would be discussing salary. There was no way I was taking this job with these unethical people so I thought about canceling it. But then, I decided I had to go in. I had to confront the big shot I was interviewing with and put him on notice. Someone had to speak the fucking truth in that office. And you know, there is also something deeply and inherently satisfying about calling someone out on their shit.

This C level executive, having never met me before, who had yet to interview me, connected with me on LinkedIn at 2:30am Saturday morning. (I will remove him from my contact list soon.  I left him there for now in case you should desire to find out who he is). At the same time, the position was removed from the job boards, a move that I thought was ridiculously arrogant. Obviously these people underestimated me, my internet researching skills and my integrity. They must have thought I’d jump at their offer.

I had the weekend to prepare for my interview so I researched the C level executive with whom I was scheduled to meet. 15 years ago, he was arrested for committing bank fraud. Last year, he foreclosed on his 250K house. So, during the interview, when he assured me that the company was in great financial shape and there was ‘plenty of money,’ I had to keep myself from laughing out loud.

I answered the interview questions sincerely but when it was time for me to ask questions, I stated what I had learned. I talked about how immoral this company had been, that I knew about their levels of corruption, that I would never take a position that would compromise my personal and professional reputation.

The C level didn’t flinch when I talked about the litany of corrupt practices that I had discovered. He said that he had been given a new position and his new role was to “clean up the company.” “But who’s the CEO of BrighterBrain?” I countered. And when he told me it was the same guy who founded Unbounded Solutions, the same guy who created this fraudulent business model (a fact I already knew from my research), I thanked him for his time and left.

Shit by any other name is still shit.

I had made my point. I had spoken my truth. And that interview will go down in my life as one of my top 20 badass moments.

The sales manager, the one I had interviewed with the week prior, didn’t realize I was behind her in the hallway when a colleague approached her. She is actually featured on one of the Unbounded Solutions videos on youtube, talking about how much she loves coming into work everyday. “How’s your day going?” her coworker asked. “Hell,” she said. “Like every day here.”

The coach position was posted again the following day. The recruiter didn’t even have the balls to call me after I walked out of the interview.

I decided to see how many people were involved in this company’s insanely unethical antics. So I googled Unbounded Solutions on LinkedIn. Hundreds, hundreds of IT professionals had worked there as consultants and quite a few people had worked internally. Hundreds of people were part of this corruption, had been using fake resumes and fake experience to land higher paying positions or who knew about this dishonest practice. And now that they were embroiled in the scandal, there was no way they were going to get out of it. If they exposed their former employer, they exposed their part in the deception.

My heart just sank.

Because where the fuck is integrity? Where are the people who are willing to say hell no! We will not put up with this. THIS IS JUST WRONG and I want no part of it.

Where are those people?

Where are the people who are brave enough to say I refuse to associate with this toxic mess? I am courageous enough to speak my truth. I am clear enough to honor my intuition and to heed the warning signals from my gut. I am willing to walk away from unethical practices because no matter the financial cost, I will not sell out my soul.

Please tell me you are one of these people. One of the badass, brave people who lives your life with integrity. Because, quite frankly, there’s just no room in my life for anyone but.

I know, in time, that Unbounded Solutions, and any of the other names it’s trying to hide behind, will be exposed for what they are. The shit will hit the fan eventually. I have no doubt about it. Hundreds of people will be fired and blacklisted from the companies who trusted them. Hundreds of people will have to walk around, shamefaced, because the world will know what they did to get ahead. And will it all have been worth it? Of course not. Selling out your integrity never is.

In the practice of Vipassana meditation, we say-May you peaceful, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering. If I may be so bold, let me add-May you be brave. Because that’s just as important. Because a courageous life lived with integrity will be one that you will always look back on with a sense of unspeakable fulfillment.

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Posted in: authenticity