Candidates with Hickeys – Getting Over Transgressions at Work

Kris Dunn, our own HR Capitalist, recently had a blog post “How To Destroy a Lifetime of Trust as an HR Pro in a Single Day…” where he explained how a direct report broke the cardinal rule in HR and shared confidential information, or more specifically tried to use confidential information for personal gain. It wasn’t something illegal, it had nothing to do with their individual functional performance as a Director of HR, but what this person did was destroy the trust they had with their leader (although I could argue that if a HR Pro can’t keep confidential information confidential – you probably do have a performance issue). Good post – go over and read it, if you haven’t.

The post got me thinking though about how a person recovers from this type of transgression. (Also take a look at this WSJ article “How a Black Mark Can Derail a Job Search“.  As a leader, Kris was pained for sure, because this person had “High-Potential” and was an “A” player.  But when certain things happen, professionally, you have to cut ties and move on.  So now, this Hi-Po has a huge Hickey.  Interestingly though, this Hickey can’t be seen when you look at their resume or interview them in person, but it’s a Hickey they can’t get rid of.  So, barring a life-turtleneck how does one cover this puppy up?

It’s interesting because I think that probably the best of us have a hickey or two that we would rather not have our current or future employer know about.  Sometimes they’re big-giant-in-the-back-of-a-Chevy-17-year-old-I-will-love-you-forever hickeys and sometimes they’re just oops-I-lingered-a-little-too-long type of hickeys. Either way, I would rather not expose my hickeys and have to worry about how this will impact the rest of my professional life. And here’s where most people drive themselves crazy.

As HR Pros I think it’s important for us to be able to help our organizations determine the relative value of individuals.  This person was a rock star at ABC company – did something wrong, couldn’t maintain that position any longer with ABC because of said incident, and lost their job – now we have a chance to pick up a Rock Star (and probably for a discount).  The question you have to ask is not could we live with this person if they did the same thing here?  Because that really isn’t the question – you already have that answer – No.  The question is: do we feel this person learned from said wrong doing and is there any risk of them doing it again?  You might come to the conclusion – yes, they’ve learned, and yes, there is potential they might do it again (let’s face it, if they did it once, they’ve shown they can do it, so there’s always a risk) – but it’s a risk we are willing to take.

So how does someone come back from a transgression at work? The answer is that they have some help.  Eventually, someone is going to ask the question – why aren’t you with ABC Company anymore?  They’ll give you the canned answer they’ve been developing since the moment they lost their job. If you’re a good interviewer, you won’t buy the first answer (I mean really – so you decided it was better off not to have a job – is what you’re telling me?!) and you will dig to see the hickey.  Hickeys are funny in that you really can’t take your eyes off of them – but for those who can get by the hickeys, you might just find a great talent who is grateful for the second chance.

But – you also might find someone who just likes being in the back of that Chevy and getting Hickeys. You’re the HR Pro though and that’s really why your company pays your salary – to mitigate risk vs. the quality of talent your organization needs to succeed. So, you have to ask yourself – can you live with a Hickey?

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Tim Sackett
Tim Sackett SPHR, is the ultimate Mama’s Boy!  After 15+ years of successfully leading HR and Talent Acquisition departments for Fortune 500s and smaller technical firms, Tim took over running the contingent staffing firm HRU Technical Resources in Lansing, MI. Serving as the Executive Vice President, Tim runs the company his mother started over 30 years ago, and don’t tell Mom, but he thinks he does a better job at it than she did!  Check out his blog at www.timsackett.com. Because he's got A LOT to say, and FOT just isn't enough for him.

5 Comments

  1. I think sometimes we forget the context of the behaviors, too. Behavior is generally a function of the person (traits, values, KSAs, etc.) and the situation the person is in.
    I have seen time and again the scenario where someone who was a Rock Star in one company gets transplanted to another company, and is no longer behaves like a Rock Star. The person hasn’t really changed, but the situation has. The situation contributes to different, or at least misaligned, behaviors.
    I’ve also seen the opposite scenario countless times: a solid performer in one organization is a rock star in another.
    So, in asking if we can live with a Hickey in our organization, it is important to at least know the context in which the Hickey occurred, so as to understand how the combination of person and situation contributed to the behavior. Then we need to ask ourselves if we have similar situations in our organization. If so, we are more likely the see the Hickey again, unless, as Tim says, the individual has truly learned from the mistake.

  2. Charlie Judy says:

    ahhhhh, hickeys. it’s been so long. every now and then i try to give one to my wife, but she wriggles away before i have a chance to inflict true damage. i know, tmi. sorry. anyway, from an employers perspective i think there’s a lot of good that could come from requiring new hires to fully bear all hickeys. if we could truly rely on altruism in the workplace, the idea is that we’d be in a better position to help mask or entirely remove that hickey in the future (i.e. learning, development, focused attention). i wish we were better at sharing performance data across employers – kind of like electronic medical records. doesn’t matter what doctor you see, they should know your medical history. doesn’t matter where you work, they should know your performance history. clearly the workplace isn’t mature enough for this approach, but it’s kind of cool to think about. in fact, i think i’ll blog about it. thanks!

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  4. Thank you for this. I was just worrying about how I could get more readers and feedback on my blog. I think that I am on the right track, and this post gave me some more food for thought.You look awesome and there are some pretty scary chicks in the lineup! I love it all costumes, smack talking,protective gear, trashy names, sounds like a damn good time to me!
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  5. chris toranzo says:

    I live in a town where most people are blue collar. I work in a company that has about 300 employees
    most of which are unmarried females between the ages 25 to 60. the thing I notice the most is usually
    after the weekend a lot of these women come to work with enormous dark purple hickies plastered over their
    necks. some of the males I work with also come to work with bruises on their necks and bodies. that is acceptable to the management of the company. this company is run by a fifty something year old sexy female. I know the guy she chills with, who is 20 years younger than her. he always has massive hickeys all over him. so I guess the acceptance of hickies depends on where you live, and the company’s attitude toward them. I know hickies are generally considered taboo, however in the environment I live in they are commonly
    acceptable.

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