It’s one of our worst nightmares: an IT contractor walks out on an assignment in the middle of the day. My heart sank when I read the story of a UI/UX Designer placed at Apple who did just that. Contract Worker Walks Out on His Dream Job at Apple – Literally. Thanks to Staffing Talk for covering Jordan Price’s self-published piece. The story in short is that Price, placed on a temporary assignment at Apple through a subcontract, thought he had landed his dream job. Instead, he reports numerous problems including a bumpy onboarding process, too many meetings that he felt were disruptive to productivity, long hours, and, most concerning, a boss who was insulting, bordering on harassing. As to why he didn’t talk to someone and just quit, he says, “I didn’t feel there was anyone to turn to. It was unclear who exactly I even worked for or who I should share my grievances with.”
There are many lessons to be learned here, certainly first and foremost by Mr. Price. He has certainly done himself a disservice in behaving this way. Talent doesn’t make up for immaturity and poor decision making skills. Knowing who you are working for is mostly your responsibility and being unsure should have sparked him to action to find out, not quit. He should have at least started by contacting the recruiter who worked with him initially and exhausted all possibilities before leaving abruptly.
Harassment is a serious issue and there are legal guidelines in California and I’m sure a policy at Apple. At ATR, during orientation, we tell our contractors to contact ATR’s HR department if they feel harassed or mistreated in any way at a client. We also emphasize that ATR is their employer. If he had contacted our HR, we would have discussed the situation with him, assessed what if any steps he had already taken, and asked what he would like us to do (i.e. talk to Apple HR, the staffing onsite, the manager, etc.) If he wanted to handle it onsite himself, we would advise him as to the best course of action and would continually follow up with him to see if the situation improved. If he wanted to leave, right away or later if things didn’t improve, we would try to place him somewhere else and find alternate candidates to replace him at Apple. He would be able to give proper notice and everyone’s reputation would be intact.
I don’t think I am relaying anything groundbreaking here except that Mr. Price’s experience shows that it doesn’t always happen. Clearly the staffing firms that he was dealing with, and that Apple had chosen, had lapses in process. What could have been done differently to prevent this? Obviously, the interview and hiring process are designed to screen out bad workers and give you people that won’t behave in this way, but nothing is foolproof. Additional steps need to be taken.
I can’t say that something like this couldn’t happen at ATR but it is much, much more unlikely because of, at the very least, two things we do:
- Check in with the employee periodically. At least within a few days of starting and then perhaps weekly or monthly depending on the length of the assignment. If onboarding doesn’t go well everything gets off to a bad start, as Price’s story exemplifies. You also want to make sure that everything continues to work out. Don’t assume they will get in touch with you – being proactive is the key.
- Check in with the client periodically. Make sure that everything is going well from the client’s point of view. Just because your contractor is happy doesn’t necessarily mean that the manager is as well. The sooner you know if there is a problem the more quickly you can address it. Small things can be taken care of before they become bigger issues with more serious consequences. Proactive client service is good client service.
Two simple steps with a huge impact. The client has some responsibility here too. If you are using contingent labor then you need to ensure that the firms you contract with have processes in place that include touching base with all parties to ensure everything is going according to plan and everyone is satisfied. These are basic KPIs in my book. I would expect that Apple has such measures and that these firms were lacking in this instance, which may result in changes.
There should be no confusion on anyone’s part about who the contractor is working for either – if there is, there’s a problem with your staffing firm. At ATR, it is clear to everyone that the contractor is our employee. As such, they are assigned to our HR personnel. When you are being recruited, your primary contact is your recruiter but once you’re hired, you’re an employee. Of course, you are more than welcome to contact your recruiter or your client’s account rep too. Everyone at ATR is happy to answer a consultant’s questions. Not everyone in the industry gives consultants access to their HR department, and we see the possible consequences thanks to Mr. Price’s tale. We feel it’s not only the right thing to do but that it makes good business sense; it’s better for both our contractors and our clients.
Stories like this one just remind me why! Make sure that you and your staffing firm are doing the right things to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.
CEO and President
ATR International, Inc.