Friday, February 13, 2009

Ethical dilemma #4,228

"Do you know Alex Dixon? Of course you do. I'd like some background on this guy."

That question came via work e-mail from my good friend Scotty at 9:45 last night.

Background:

Scotty works for a Great and Powerful Software Company. This Great and Powerful Software Company forms partnerships with IT consulting firms like the ones that have employed me over the past 20 years. How this Great & Powerful Software Company perceives its partners (and the people they employ) can have a huge impact on the amount of business they do together each year. We're talking millions of dollars in consulting contracts.

Feel free to say that in your best Dr. No/Austin Powers voice: Mee-lee-ons of Freakin' Dough-lars. Riggght.
~~~~~~~~~~~~
Background on this guy:

The person he's asking about is a former co-worker of mine.

Next time you wipe your ass, think of Alex Dixon. Seriously. Do it. For me.

He's an ego-maniacal jerk who refuses to contribute to projects in any meaningful, helpful way, but will: a) scream like a spoiled child if it doesn't go well or b) happily take full credit for it if by some miracle it's a success.

He is without question one of the most ethically bereft (personally and professionally) people I've encountered in my entire life.
~~~~~~~~~~~~
Alex Dixon, Hedy?

Yeah. Not real of course. I changed the name to protect the prick-hole.
~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I'd like some background on this guy."

The fact that Scotty used 'this guy' tells me he probably already has a pretty good take on Alex.

Still.
~~~~~~~~~~~~
Option 1: Decline to answer like those salmonella peanut-jobs from Georgia. "No, I'm sorry, I can't help you."

Option 2: Spill it. Tell him everything I know about this guy and let the computer chips fall where they may.

Option 3: Be honest yet professional. "I did not have a great relationship with Alex professionally but you might find him entirely competent and likable."

Option 4: Be dishonest yet professional. "He was a great guy. Go get 'em."

Okay. Option 3 is impossible - they're mutually exclusive. And just thinking about it makes me puke up in my mouth a little bit.

I can't decline to answer, either, because Scotty and me don't have that kind of relationship and besides, he'd eventually ply me with Jack & Cokes and drag it outta me anyway.

Option 4 is not possible because, while I'll happily lie to Scotty about how close I am to the pub we're meeting at in order to keep him from leaving ("I'm passing a ball field." "You silly, lying bitch. You're not even close."), I'd never, ever lie to him about some worthless piece of shit ex co-worker.

So I'm pondering option 2. Which could have a negative impact on the business of my former employer. And could have an impact on some likeable, competent folks who still work there.

So. What would you do? I think I've figured it out, but perhaps I've forgotten an option? Any legal ramifications to this issue, Dave? Please help.
~~~~~~~~~~~~
I am listening to: Dr. No on the TV
I am reading: This great article by Thomas Friedman (I really love this idea)
And I am: Mildly perplexed

16 comments:

Posol'stvo the Medved said...

What I think I'd do, if I were you, is answer the question without answering the question...

"Can you tell me a bit about why you want background on Alex?"

(blah blah blah)

"Hmmm. Is declining to answer an option? Can I send you to someone else who might be able to answer? Not trying to be coy here, but I have a genuine dilemma about how to answer that."

If you have the kind of relationship where you can lie to him about how close you are to a pub, I would expect that he would get what he needs from this.

And let's face it, if your former firm is still employing the jerkstore, maybe it *should* have a little impact. Not wanting to hurt the innocent bystanders here, but from what you describe, Alex is a train wreck a-coming from SOMEwhere. And when that happens, those innocent bystanders may get some short term pain for greater long term gain if it becomes clear to the bosses that the reason they didn't get their precious contracts was because of Alex, then Alex might be placed in a position where he can do the least amount of damage...

Or maybe not.

Dunno.

Hedy said...

You nailed it. All of it. I'm responding with a question - you phrased it better than I did in my head - and Scotty will figure it out.

And yes, Alex is a major train wreck that has somehow managed to avoid multiple lawsuits. There are so many unbelievable stories about this guy, it's bad. Now that I think about it, I probably don't have to be the one to share any information at all - I'm sure there are plenty of other folks out there who would happily spill it on this chooch. However, I've found that I can't be the instrument of karmic retribution, I just have to stand back and wait for it to happen. Thanks, Pos and Happy Valentine's Day to you and the Mrs.

Posol'stvo the Medved said...

Right back at you and Jim...

Hedy said...

And then there's this, via IM from a good friend of mine who still works with Alex: "If you tell the guy the truth, who cares, it's well known Alex is a jackass."

So there ya go. Classic.

wafelenbak said...

I had a very similar dillema once. I felt awful, because we were interviewing a former co-worker who had actually hired me into a job at one point in my career. But, I get along with everyone and this person was the one example I always used in interviews when asked to describe how I handled a difficult co-worker.
My boss asked me for my feedback, and I WAS honest and professional. I said she is good at what she does but she is difficult to work with. They hired her anyway.
And then fired her three months later.
So, I think it is better to be honest and let the chips fall where they may. It would have hurt *my* reputation to recommend her only to have her kicked out the door later on. I really believe people have to lie in the beds they make for themselves.
Pleading the 5th would be a viable option too though--usually when you abstain from comment the inquiring party can read between the lines and you still protect your own behind.

Cindiloo said...

I personally would never put the truth in writing!!! The next thing you know your computer will be under investigation for slander and the tard will be a millionaire. The law is behind the assholes of the world.

Anonymous said...

The state of our country exists primarily because of the many people who chose to "look the other way". If we choose to not bare witness and tell the truth as we see it, we will be subjecting others to the same senseless cruelty we once suffered. We must not fear the ramifications of speaking the truth. And we should not assume that our fortitude will create collateral damage around the problem we highlight. Indeed the truth is more likely to create a new and less toxic environment, free of the madness and chaos we all so despise. It is our duty to speak up when malicious forces have been clearly identified. We must stand as witness to the evil as well as the good. And if we waiver in our duty these malevolent forces will only thrive and multiply.

We do not seek revenge or retribution. We only seek an end to the tyranny of those who create darkness and blight without regard to their fellow man. There exists no legal action against the speaking of truth... speak "off the record" if we must... but if called upon it is our moral obligation to stand up and bare witness to the truth.

If we allow fear to prevent us from speaking frankly and fairly… tyranny wins... and the rest of us lose.

Grommit
American Dog

Anonymous said...

The state of our country exists primarily because of the many people who chose to “look the other way”. If we choose to not bare witness and tell the truth as we see it, we will be subjecting others to the same senseless cruelty we once suffered. We must not fear the ramifications of speaking the truth. And we should not assume that our fortitude will create collateral damage around the problem we highlight. Indeed the truth is more likely to create a new and less toxic environment, free of the madness and chaos we all so despise. It is our duty to speak up when malicious forces have been clearly identified. We must stand as witness to the evil as well as the good. And if we waiver in our duty these malevolent forces will only thrive and multiply.

We do not seek revenge or retribution. We only seek an end to the tyranny of those who create darkness and blight without regard to their fellow man. There exists no legal action against the speaking of truth… speak “off the record” if we must... but if called upon, it is our moral obligation to stand up and bare witness to the truth.

If we allow fear to prevent us from speaking frankly and fairly… tyranny wins… and the rest of us lose.

Gromit
American Dog

Anonymous said...

"Gromit for President" ... "Gromit for President" ... "Gromit for President" I'm getting buttons and posters printed.

Do not forget how "Alex" treated u and the daily shouting and all that nasty stuff. Scotty is asking for a reason and would like your honest opinion. Be honest and say it as it is.

Dave said...

The lawyer part: Truth is an absolute defense to an action for defamation. If you go that route, do not opine, recite facts, preferably those that are easily documented.

The person part: Nothing is gained by piling on. Option 3, or some variation is "true;" and, Scotty will get the idea.

CRUSTYBEEF said...

I see the corner you feel you're in, but why worry about karma coming to hurt you? You care and that's the difference, if you didn't you wouldn't weigh options, you'd just reply to your guy. You're fine.
Seems to me from what you say about this Alex character, he has shit out his own karma stools and there's nothing wrong with you being professionally honest==on the phone that is.Let his karma come around Boy George style.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

There is no reason why you cannot choose Option 2. Sure it may be more difficult, but you know that being honest, yet professional is the "right" thing to do. I am sure you would expect the same if the roles were reversed.

Hedy said...

Anonymous: I think you meant option 3 "honest yet professional", correct?

It's always interesting when people post anonymously.

And yes, I'd expect the same if the roles were reversed but I know for certain this particular person isn't capable of being honest or professional. Thus the dilemma.

Don said...

Actually since you published this in great detail on your blog, you have already chosen not to do Option 3 "honest, yet professional". Perhaps this was your way of answering the question for Scotty without needing to.

AS for anonymous, it's because I am too lazy (and too infrequent) to create an ID.

Hedy said...

Thanks, Don.

"Actually since you published this in great detail on your blog, you have already chosen not to do Option 3"

This would be true if Scott read my blog. He doesn't.

Hedy said...

I know the whole 'Scotty doesn't read my blog' thing might appear to lack truthiness, but we know each other professionally and, to him, reading my blog is liking watching me take a dump or something. It's too much.