Tired Of The Grease? Become A Squeaky Wheel. Why it may be time to speak up instead of sucking up. Plus: What to do if you fibbed on your resume.
(Business 2.0) – Q My boss asks me to buy him Popeyes fried chicken and blot the grease from it with paper napkins. I don't want to do this anymore. How do I get out of it?
A Are you kidding me? You blot the grease? I hope you do it in private. Otherwise, you need to quit that job right now, because no one in your office has any respect for you. Annoying favors are OK once in a while to get on the boss's good side; picking up the dry cleaning or bringing him his morning orange juice is well within reason. But the fetch-and-blot routine is absurd. People who get walked on are seen as doormats, and they get left on the ground floor. So the next time your boss asks for degreased chicken, tell him, very calmly, that while you do want to be helpful, you think this particular request is beyond the call of duty. This might be hard for you, since to date you've been commanding so little respect. But take a deep breath and spit it out, because you need to turn things around.
Q I fudged my resume to get my current job. I said I graduated from college, but I didn't. (I dropped out during my junior year.) How do I come clean without getting fired?
A In the wake of recent news that Bausch & Lomb CEO Ronald Zarrella was nailed for falsely claiming to have finished B-school, there's likely to be a rash of people scrambling to clean up their resumes. But keep in mind that Zarrella wasn't fired. After he made a great show of contrition by offering to resign, the company's board decided to keep him. (Presumably, as business leaders, they were not shocked to learn that someone in their employ had lied.)
Your first task is to figure out how dire your situation is. Sometimes it's a no-brainer: If you're a welder, who cares whether you graduated from college? Probably only your mom. If you're a college professor, however, you should consider a career change--and maybe even a name change. Those trustees can be brutal, as evidenced by the recent resignation of Hamilton College president Eugene Tobin, who had come under fire for giving a speech in which he quoted book reviews from Amazon. com without attribution. (He was accused of plagiarism, not the lack of rigorous scholarship.)
Some situations are less cut-and-dried. If you're a bigwig in a public corporation, you're right to fear that your fib could come to light. You would be better off getting out in front of any potential scandal by admitting that you lied and apologizing. But the board might not be in a forgiving mood, so hire a lawyer before you make a mea culpa. Remember that fired-for-just-cause clause in your contract, the one where you lose all your severance pay? Even if your lawyer can't save your job, she might be able to save your golden parachute.
If you're a middle manager, you have the recession on your side. Few companies have the staff to check every resume on file. I'd suggest that you breathe word of this to no one and then correct your CV the next time you start job hunting.
In the meantime, the safest course of action is to be a good little worker bee. You certainly don't want to give your boss any reason to look for an easy way to fire you. You might also consider finishing college, since your lack of a degree is likely to hinder your career aspirations. This certainly isn't news to you, of course, or you wouldn't have lied about it in the first place.
Penelope Trunk is the pen name of a former New York marketing executive. Submit your career questions and conundrums to AskPenelope@business2.com.