Normally I try to keep my notices and communications somewhat upbeat, but this time I must apologise in advance for some sad information.
It appears some individuals and/or companies are using COVID19 unethically.
I do not have hard and fast proof, just anecdotal evidence, but there is a lot (a LOT) of anecdotal evidence.
And, as engineers, we pride ourselves on being responsible members of the community. Or we should. But maybe I need to change my attitude toward my engineering peers.
I have three examples:
Example 1: Tendering. The COVID19 crisis means a lot of engineering work is slowly drying up. Tenders that normally would attract maybe 4 or 5 companies are now attracting 15-20 companies. This is normal, but … the bidders for the tenders are padding their credentials by listing very experienced contractors as key team members – without knowledge of the individual very experienced contractors. I believe the technical term is “bait and switch”. In my opinion, this is a form of identity theft, but I might be over-reacting. Aside, please do not contact me with a legal definition of identity theft, but I do think this meets the moral definition of identity theft.
Example 2: Phantom jobs. This COVID19 activity seems to the work of recruitment agencies looking to build up their data base. Many people have told me of interesting jobs where people are needed ASAP. They tick all the boxes and apply … and hear nothing … and then see the same ad posted (say) 2 months later. Again, this is not illegal, but it is (in my opinion) immoral. While rejection is one thing, lack of information is worse, and given the stress on individuals that have lost work/jobs due to COVID19, this is a potential adverse contributor to mental health problems. There is a variation on this – where the job is advertised, but internally it is defined as an expression of interest, not a job. This one can be easily solved … the job board companies need to develop a method to ensure no phantom jobs are posted. I will leave it to them to determine the best way forward with that solution.
Finally, example 3: No return communication. Before I describe this problem, I need to say the culprit may not be engineers – instead engineers tend to be the victim. When a company legitimately is looking for someone, the people in the company are probably overwhelmed with communications from applicants. The expression of interest phantom job is also a contributor to this in communications – so many people are looking for work and looking for information about the job that the phone calls and emails are numerous. While this does increase the workload, it appears the solution of choice is to ignore phone calls and emails and just not respond. Many people have told me that the switchboard will not complete their calls (if the switchboard is attended), and messages are not returned. In the rare case you do get through to a person, they tend to be overwhelmed with the quantity of communications they need to coordinate – and because they are stressed (and have the power) they can be a bit abrupt on the phone. There is a similar situation with emails. One person on the other end of this situation has said they get over 300 emails per day. Valid … but digging deeper shows most of the emails are group emails where the discussion is ongoing, and the person “wants to be in the loop”. This can be changed if companies use email etiquette. Some simple rules for email etiquette:
- Do not include everyone in the discussion, but include everyone in the resolution
- Does your manager really need to know this? Aside … many young people think the answer is yes because the manager needs to know they are being productive – that is the other side of micro-managing (being micro-managed), and we all know micro-managing is bad.
- Reply in a timely manner. I know I am sometimes guilty of this, but … if you have so many emails that it is negatively impacting your performance, you need an admin assistant. And that can help the economy by creating more jobs (yes this is wishful thinking, but … at least it is upbeat – and it will increase the productivity of the person receiving the 300 emails)
I am hoping that adapting to COVID19 does not increase unethical behaviour in the engineering community. Please let me know your observations. And stay safe and well.