remorselessness over lying on the job?

A reader writes:

I was terminated from my former employer after I falsely confirmed to a mortgage company that someone still worked for us who didn’t. I was not telling the truth, but this didn’t present any material damage to the company image as it is perceived in the public eye. Three days later, the employer reviewed the rule regarding this in a meeting. This meeting was after the fact.

I was then terminated from my job after three decades of employment with no regard to the impeccable service that I had provided to the organization and with no offer of corrective action. Additionally the employer has no regard to how I would be able to sustain my lifestyle and care for my family.

Since then, I have been interviewing since July, 2007 with no luck. I would like some advice on how to articulate to future employers the reason why I was terminated so as to mitigate negative responses.

Maybe I am a grump, but… You lied while representing your company and feel injured that they terminated you over it? Look at this objectively: You abused your position at the company (presumably to help a friend, I’m assuming), and you raised serious questions about your integrity. I’m sorry to be harsh here, but the fact that you express no regret for lying (and in fact seem to think the company owes you some sort of support) doesn’t really inspire sympathy. Yes, people make mistakes, but you don’t even seem to think you made one.

The fact that they reviewed the rule at a meeting after the fact has no bearing on this; it doesn’t take special meetings for employees to know they’re not supposed to lie. You say it didn’t do any damage to the company, but I disagree: The company cannot become known for lying about who is and isn’t employed by it.

You’re in a difficult situation with prospective employers because the reason you were terminated wasn’t an issue of your skills being the wrong fit for the job; it was an issue of your character being the wrong fit. In order to put this behind you and be able to move on to a new job, you’re going to need to come to terms with the reality of the situation, rather than insisting it was no big deal — since that’s likely coming across to employers. If you can start being honest with yourself about your accountability in this situation, the fact that you’ve learned from the situation will likely start coming across in interviews. But if you don’t have that change of heart, I think most employers will pick up on it. Would you hire someone who thought lying on the job was no big deal?

{ 6 comments… read them below }

  1. The Engineer*

    ummmm . . . (picking jaw up off floor)

    You don’t understand why lying is bad?? You don’t understand why lying in your employer’s name is bad??

    You can’t get a job in an economy with historically low unemployment. Why? Probably because they see your character flaws in an interview (which are then confirmed when they check with your previous employer). Your explanation for why you left your last job has to start with “I lied. I was wrong.” or you are unlikely to ever get hired.

  2. HR Wench*

    “Additionally the employer has no regard to how I would be able to sustain my lifestyle and care for my family.”

    Apparently, neither do YOU my friend.

    Stop minimizing what you did. It was a fireable offense. Accepting that you were wrong needs to happen before you will be in the correct mental, emotional and professional place to have a successful interview.

    When I interview people who obviously blame their past employer for anything it makes my eye twitch becaue I KNOW I am not hearing the whole story. If people fess up and acknowledge their part I know they have learned from the situation.

  3. Rachel - Employment File*

    I completely agree with HR Wench. When people start into a long story about how they didn’t do wrong I tune out. It’s not about whether or not they did it, it’s about how they present it.

    However, I also agree that this poster needs to realize she IS at fault. I can’t believe she tries to blame her employer. I hope it was worth it to her.

    Also, I imagine that she’s not the great employee that she thinks she is. Although what she did was bad, I’m not sure I would have termed someone for only this offense.

  4. dg*

    It’s easy to criticize what you did, but I’ll bet the reason you’re not finding another job has nothing do with the lie, but the fact that you were in one place 30 years. I’ve seen people fired for much worse and get back on their feet quickly, because they can adapt to new circumstances well, even if they remain ethically challenged. My old company once fired someone for stealing, and six months later he was quoted in the paper representing his new company.

    Also, your future employer, like your past one, will place job performance over your family’s well-being. Maybe Hillary Clinton will shed a tear for you, but your next boss won’t.

    I’ve also seen many people in their 50s lose jobs for all sorts of reasons, and not recover because they have outdated views of the relationship between employee and employee. They often lose focus, and start telling people who want to help them, like me, that they’ll do anything, and are interested in everything. Better to think about what you want to do, and focus on that one thing, and stop thinking about the past.

  5. Wally Bock*

    Good advice, all. If I were the manager who fired you, I would have been thinking, “How often has he done something like this before?” and “I wonder what else he’s done?” If I were a manager hiring you and you explained to me why lying was OK, or OK just this once, I would find the need to explain to you that trust is built slowly and can be destroyed quickly and that without trust there is no society or commerce or any good thing.

  6. Anonymous*

    Thank you all for your candid comments/feedback. I think that some of you looked at that document that I sent in with the wrong type of lense. I definitely don’t condone lying or the misrepresentation to assist another former employee. The argument that I wanted to make was being presented to the unemployment agency and therefore needed to convey certain points so that I could continue to receive benefits until I found another job. What I’m looking for someone on this blog is a good way to articulate to new employers my past situation. I have embraced this but am still having no luck because of my age group.

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