whistleblower protection laws not enough….sales operations management

I went to work in September of 1991, when the company was a small privately owned $4 million concern. I got the job through a former boss that had gone to work there. I quickly rose through the ranks in sales, then in sales operations management. I loved my job, and was good at it. The company grew steadily by leaps and bounds, and was purchased not once, but twice. Originally, we were part of a Christian publishing company, and grew to a $15 million division within a $600 million company. We were left alone – as long as the division was making a profit, the VP/GM could run it any way he wanted to.

Part of the reason we grew so steadily was that I was put into a position of general division troubleshooter – the mission? Find the holes that bleed profit, and plug them. And I excelled at this. I was given bonuses galore, and life was good. The VP/GM and I had an outstanding relationship, and he was my mentor, building my skills through excellent training and positive reinforcement.

Then one day, the VP/GM decided to break the law. He decided to lie about some illegal product, and I found out about it. And was very distressed. See, I have this thing – I don’t lie, cheat, or steal. I was raised better than that. And I couldn’t just stand by and allow the man to endanger our operation – if the Feds had discovered his subterfuge, my company could have lost their right to distribute recorded material for two years – not to mention $1.5 million in fines. So – I blew the whistle. This was over two years ago and I have found that whistleblower protection laws are not enough. The last two years were hell – I was no longer “the chosen one”, darling of the VP/GM, and everyone’s favorite problem solver. Oh, no. I became “the one who must be gone from here”. And since I have never given an employer a reason to terminate my employment, not ever, and the VP/GM was also under investigation by the EEOC for discriminatory behavior towards women, I became a real thorn in the side. So the man began a very successful smear campaign, and I was his mark.

But I stayed – I endured a demotion (“Sorry, your job isn’t necessary anymore, but you can go back to Sales if you want”), then I was given the worst territory of the division and the greenest sales people to work with. And then – the VP/GM left the company (in a shambles) and started a company in direct competition with us.

He stole files, left with privileged company information regarding product costs and licensing information – hell, I held the door for him as he carted out 10 huge cases of files! Did the new owners care? Not at all. And the division was left with no management through the most crucial period of the fiscal budget. And stupid me – this is where I really screwed up. I went to the “head honchos”, and explained to them what the trouble was – that they did not know enough about our industry and how it successfully operates, and that they desperately needed my experience and know-how to get them through the fourth quarter of the year with some kind of salvaged revenue. Boy, I set myself up for the KILL! They gave me the promotion, and eight days later I was called into the president of the company’s office and threatened with termination for gross insubordination. My unforgiveable action? I sent a memo to the president and his VP of Finance outlining every area that they were blowing in operations, and what needed to be done to fix the situation. And that if they weren’t going to act upon my recommendation, then they were going to take the blame for the demise of the division, I was not going to be their patsy.

Talk about stupid – my ego got in the way of my brain’s ability to think my way through it. I committed the one professional act that is the kiss of death – I started believing my own press, and believed they could not get by without me. And I assumed that they would put up with my total lack of political finesse since I was so effective at my job. What an idiot I was – so stupid. See, I have NEVER in my life had to LOOK for a job – I always got a call from someone saying “So-and-so says I must hire you, that you’re great”. And that spoiled me terribly – and gave me an ego the size of Nebraska. So, where was I? Oh, yeah – review-time. I was reviewed by a fellow that had known me for less than four months of an eight year professional tenure, and he proceeded to cut me to ribbons; I could NOT believe it. And – offered me a down-sized position doing one-tenth of what I had been handling for years at $13K less per year than I had been making. He offered me the lowest compensation of my previous six years of employment. I sat there stunned, absolutely stunned. While he ate Tostitos (I’m not kidding, he really did).

But I had some friends still at this company, so I went back to them. And they arranged a severance package that allowed me to say “thanks, but no thanks”. And hence, the big job search – the first of my life. And I’m not doing very well with it at all. This is the longest period of unemployment of my life, and it’s gone on since January 12. What have I learned? Sometimes, the way to look really smart at your job is to SHUT THE HELL UP. 2 – it is better to be invited to the head of the table than to volunteer yourself for that hot seat. 3) Trust no one. You cannot have friends at work, it just doesn’t work. When push came to shove, all my “friends” screwed me, every one of them. Friendship meant nothing when faced with the possibility of hitting the shit list. That’s the truth. Learn when to hold your cards. Play nicely with others, even if you’re playing with liars and cheaters. Whistle blowers are known for the noise they’re making, not for the validity of what they’re raising hell about. Whistleblower protection laws are not enough. I have learned my lesson well, and will carry these lessons into my next position. And in thirty years, I plan on being on a beach somewhere, enjoying my wise investments. And knowing that there are some people on this earth I will never have to worry about running into in the hereafter. Thank you, God.