Overcoming the ‘Win at all Costs’ Mentality: Take a stand against cheating

Winning means everything. Our culture praises winning and ignores the means by which it occurs. The end justifies the means. A level playing field is no longer the starting basis for competition; if you want to win, ethics are a casualty from the start.

Some might consider that hyperbolic, but it’s hard to deny that cheating has not only become acceptable, it’s quietly encouraged and it pervades our daily activities more than you realize. And seemingly inconsequential acts are anything but. Within the staffing industry, those acts can be quite damaging industry-wide, from reputations to the bottom line.

Of course, there are the larger-than-life examples of cheating no one can deny: Sports fans have no doubt heard about the cheating that the Houston Astros engaged in the year it won the World Series through the use of technology to steal hand signals from opposing teams. And who hasn’t heard of the college admissions cheating scandal?

On a smaller scale, it happens every day in seemingly inconsequential ways — from jumping a subway turnstile, to claiming credit for someone else’s work.

The cheating worker. In the staffing industry as well, a simple act of resume embellishment can have a hazardous ripple effect. A staffing firm is not incentivized to question any resume “modifications” a candidate may have adopted in order to be more attractive to the client. And because the document comes from a “trusted” staffing services firm, the client accepts it “as is.” It is theoretical “win, win, win,” but when the new hire is installed at a rate far exceeding his/her actual qualifications, the real dancing begins.

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If it is learned that the new hire lacks the skills enumerated on the doctored resume or CV, the manager may choose to live with the outcome because going through the motions of firing and re-interviewing is simply too much trouble. The staffing firm promises to do better in the future, and the candidate prevaricates on the merits of uncertified credentials. Falsehoods are rewarded. Cheating wins.

Embellished RFP. How about on the RFP side? Perhaps you’re a staffing firm who’s being considered for onboarding to an enterprise or MSP and you’re up against bigger, more qualified firms. You might inflate the statistics on your marketing documents, increasing the number of employees, the retention rate, the size and breadth of your pipeline. Congratulations – you’re selected! Other organizations who might have better skills and capabilities who presented themselves honestly, weren’t selected. Competition is unfairly skewed. Performance ebbs. Cheating wins.

The pay rate flim-flam. It can happen from the buyer-side as well. A client posts a position at a clearly defined rate, which is communicated to considered candidates, and a staffing services firm submits a qualified candidate who is subsequently hired. However, the client notes that the candidate didn’t “fully meet” the objectives of the interview as determined by the interviewing manager, and proffers a reduced rate. The staffing firm, which has already discussed and confirmed the rate with the candidate, cannot now tell the candidate that the rate is reduced. The client knows this. The staffing firm either disengages the candidate altogether — losing any revenue at all — or lives with a smaller margin. Profits decline. Cheating wins.

It’s Time to Say “No”

I attended a conference recently with this topic as a roundtable discussion. Most attendees had encountered some form of cheating in the industry and all believed that they were victims of this scourge in one way or another. Companies and individuals won’t change voluntarily because cheating is being rewarded. It has to be driven from enforcement at all levels — the client, MSP, service provider and individual. As the moderator of the panel suggested, it requires the confidence and courage to say “No.”

To deny that cheating exists in the industry today, is to self-deceive. So I challenge you: Say NO when discovering that someone doctored their credentials on a resume. Say NO when being pressured to inflate organization’s capabilities, and say NO when clients unethically reduce rates. We may lose in the short-term, but fairness in the industry is worth it, and we’ll all win in the end.

Dan Stewart

Dan Stewart
Dan Stewart is senior vice president at Excyl, a staffing firm based in Troy, Mich.

Dan Stewart

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