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Don Burleson Blog 









Evaluating Employee Personal Integrity and Honesty

Oracle Database Tips by Donald Burleson

Growing up, I was rightly taught that personal reputation and integrity was the most valuable asset you can have and Janet and I have built a successful business on our reputations and good name. 

Also see our sample questionnaire for evaluating immoral behavior that can predict a dishonest or untrustworthy professional and how to use bad credit reports against employees.

Our clients don't come to us exclusively because of our expertise.  They come to us because they hear about our integrity and honesty, how we have no ulterior motives, and how when we make a commitment, they can take it to the bank.

IT managers have noted a sharp increase of acts of moral turpitude in the computer industry over the past decade and they are going to great expense to ensure that their new computer professionals will not pose a risk to their mission-critical data. The stakes are high, and the new is full of reports of companies that have lost millions of dollars due to the immoral behavior to employees.

  • In Florida, William Sullivan faces accusations that he stole millions of records from the database, selling his employers mission-critical data to a data broker.

  • In California, Jennifer Adams, 45, an IT systems administrator, allegedly orchestrated a tax fraud scheme that scammed the government out of more than $50,000.

These insider threats are a major concern throughout the IT industry and CIO's everywhere are investing in tools to identify dishonest computer professionals. 


"Robert Allen", Fake expert

Within the world of Oracle database management we also see dishonesty, with unworthy scholars from around the globe labeling themselves as "Oracle Experts". 

While many just lie about their credentials and work history, some dishonest characters like Ed Haskins created Oracle expert "Robert Allen" for his Phishing web site.

Read here from eWeek how Burleson Consulting helped to uncover this dishonest computer professional.


In light of the rampant dishonesty within the computer profession, IT management has a responsibility to carefully screen computer employees, especially those in trusted positions  such as IT management, the Database Administrators and Systems Administrators, and it's now "due diligence" to investigate all job candidates to ensure that they don't hire anyone with a propensity to be dishonest. 


For example, within Burleson Consulting, our clients expect us to perform extensive pre-employment screening, evaluating every aspect of a job applicants public records, work history and personality:

Evaluating Moral Turpitude

We can see cases in American history where public figures without personal integrity have paid a steep price.  My favorite example if General MacArthur, a monumental jerk who awarded himself many medals that he did not earn, including the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Flying Cross.  He also awarded LBJ a Silver Star for no particular reason.

From the book "Anything, Anywhere, Anytime: Combat Cargo of the Korean War" on page 9 we see who an old man 5-star Army general got the Distinguished Flying Cross as a party favor from one of his underlings, two generals kissing each other's asses:

"MacArthur modestly took credit for what he considered a brilliant tactical maneuver that would complete the destruction of the North Korean Army. To MacArthur's surprise and pleasure, Stratemeyer presented him (General Douglas MacArthur) with the Distinguished Flying Cross for his "outstanding heroism and extraordinary achievement" while participating in aerial flights to Korea. MacArthur, in turn, awarded Tunner the Distinguished Service Cross."

When MacArthur was stripped of his command for insubordination in Korea, thousands of men silently cheered that justice was done.

As a lesson in personal integrity, my father was not so much proud of his own heroism as much as he was about turning down General Stratemeyer. General Stratemeyer recommended my Dad for the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, one of the Air Force's top honors. Unlike MacArthur, my father had the personal integrity to turn it down.

I have developed a method for weeding out people with poor personal integrity and it's easy to spot dishonorable people:

  • Bad credit:  A history of late payments indicates a disregard for obligations.

  • Parking tickets:  I will not hire people with excessive parking tickets because it indicates disrespect for the law.

Robert Papaj list other acts of moral turpitude in his great book Firing Computer Professional, and he also lists unobtrusive ways to evaluate the honestly of a computer systems professional.

One benefit of today's connected world is the ability to glean personal information from background check that shed light on the personal integrity of a computer job applicant:

  • Court Records - While companies have always checked for criminal histories, many are now pursuing other public records for evidence of moral turpitude.  These include divorce cases and civil litigation.
  • Credit history - Companies routinely perform credit checks seeking evidence of dishonesty and disregard for obligations such as late payment history.
  • Google - Almost all companies invest in services that check-out a job applicant on the web, and it's amazing how much personal information people will disclose in chat rooms for forums. 
  • Unobtrusive measures - Companies routinely do a surprise pre-employment drug test and require job candidates to agree to written testing, all in the quest for evidence of dishonesty.  Some companies arrange a golf interview because golf is a fantastic way to access the true personality of an IT job candidate.

  • Plagiarism - plagiarism is rampant, but it's easy to detect plagiarists using the Internet.

Remember, companies are very careful not to disclose the reason for rejecting a job candidate, and legally they don't need any reason.  Within states with "at will" hiring statutes, computer shops are free to reject job candidates for the slightest hint of impropriety.

Objective measures of dishonesty

Many IT shops use the same hiring criteria as outlined in US Federal Regulations, PART 710—CRITERIA AND PROCEDURES FOR DETERMINING ELIGIBILITY FOR ACCESS TO CLASSIFIED MATTER

Any of the following are evidence or moral turpitude, someone that cannot be trusted with sensitive corporate data:

  • arrest and/or conviction of a felony;
  • frequent involvement with authorities even as a juvenile;
  • DWI/DUI;
  • having been a patient in an institution primarily devoted to the treatment of mental, emotional, or psychological disorders;
  • A history of not meeting financial obligations.  A pattern of financial irresponsibility (bankruptcy, debt or credit problems, defaulting on a student loan);
  • moving violations with fines over $200;
  • illegal drug use (to include any use of cocaine, heroin, LSD, and PCP); and the illegal purchase, possession, or sale of any such narcotics.
  • Deceptive or illegal financial practices, such as embezzlement, employee theft, check fraud, income tax evasion, expense account fraud, filing deceptive loan statements, and other intentional breaches of trust
  • Inability or unwillingness to satisfy debts
  • Unexplained affluence
  • Financial problems that are linked to gambling, drug abuse, alcoholism, or other issues of a security concern.
  • Deliberate omission, concealment, or falsification of a material fact in any written document or oral statement in the job application

But today's IT managers must go beyond public records to evaluate personal honesty, and many shops use a Psychologist to help evaluate job candidates for sensitive computer jobs.  Some companies develop a personality profile for job candidates, rating potential computer employees for these factors:

  • Vulnerability - Omissions in the job application and willful concealment of embarrassing personal incidents (e.g. acts of sexual deviance), can make a computer employee vulnerable for engaging in illegal behaviors.

  • Exaggeration - IT job candidates who "puff" their job responsibilities, education or work history are quickly disqualified as dishonest.

  • Poor Judgment - Potential employees are evaluated (by speaking to ex co-workers where the laws of job privacy do not apply), seeking to find any evidence of contempt for management, anger issues, stalking behaviors, excessive absences from work and lying to cover-up mistakes.

  • Scofflaws - Companies routinely check a job applicants background seeking unobtrusive measures to find a "scofflaw", seeking evidence of subtle dishonesty.  This can include a history of drunk driving, shoplifting, multiple traffic tickets and possession of drugs.

  • Sue-ers - A history of civil litigation relating to personal matters (unpaid child support, allegations of bad parenting) is a red flag, as-is a history of frivolous actions in small claims court.


Death before Dishonor

I was the son of a senior Air Force officer and I vividly remember the tattoo's proclaiming "Death before Dishonor" and I remember Dad explaining the importance of living-up to a set of ideals. 

I was taught to protect my reputation, regardless of the personal costs.  I have always been taught not to stand by and allow anyone to smear your good name, and because dueling has been outlawed, the legal system is the only recourse (Libel laws were specifically introduced to stop dueling). 

As Teddy Roosevelt said (I read this on the wall at the entrance to the Museum of Natural History in New York City)  

"A man's usefulness depends upon his living up to his ideals in so far as he can."


Personal Standards and Expectations

I'm sometimes criticized for having "unrealistic" job screening requirements.  I make no secret that I prefer people with high moral standards, people with top-notch educations people who give-back (servicemen, people who donate time to charities) and people with a demonstrable work ethic, and above all, no history of moral turpitude (paying bills late, criminal convictions).  I have many consultants who far exceed my own abilities, and I make no excuse for hiring the best people that I can find.

But it is more than just skill and formal education.  I was taught to never, ever hire anyone who lies, even once.  Believe it or not, there are still folks out there who really adhere to the simple principle:

"I will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do"

As a group, my staff is over-represented by people with Faith, people with military backgrounds, and people who have pulled-themselves up by their own bootstraps.  One of my best consultants never had an opportunity to finish College, yet he became a world-renowned expert in his field.  

Note that the honor code mentions "not tolerating" cheaters and thieves.  Aby gentleman will have no qualms about reporting a cheater.  When I was an Adjunct Professor at a major university I caught one of my students cheating and I had him expelled.  Is that harsh?  No.  Cheaters hurt all honest students, and it's the obligation of any honorable person to blow-in cheaters and

Having Personal Integrity

Sometimes I think that I was born in the wrong century.  When my great-grandpa was captured by the Yankees after Gettysburg he was sent to the Old Capital POW camp in Washington DC.  Sensing that he was an honorable man, the Yankees set him free after he swore a solemn oath that he would not take-up arms against the Yankees.  During the worst combat in the Civil War, he walked out the prison gates, a free man.  Now I ask you, how often does this sort thing occur today?

My Dad taught me that nobody is going to give you a free ride and that personal honor, above all, is the key to success.  If you read Conrad's Hiltons book "Be My Guest", he had very-much the same philosophy.  Once word gets around that you are trustworthy, banks open their coffers and people come to know that your word is your bond. 

I built my business on my personal integrity.  More than 80% of my business is from repeat clients and referrals.  Word gets around.  If say that I will do something, it's going to get done, and it's a sad reflection on society that my success is due in large-part to the lack of integrity among my competition.

My parents died when I was a teenager, and even when I was as poor as a church mouse, I never, ever, paid a bill late.  In college, my prized Nikon camera has made innumerable visits to the pawn shop so that I always paid my debts on-time, every time.

Even today, I do a credit check on all my new job applicants and I don't look favorably upon late-payment of loans.  Even parking tickets bother me.  Today, my staff is over-represented with people who share my moral convictions, and I make no apologies for tossing-away applicants with any sign of moral turpitude. 

I also detest people who cheat and plagiarize, and there are some very well-known Oracle experts that I detest for evidence of disrespect and dishonesty, and even little things like twisting words in during a debate or being rude to beginners indicates a lack of integrity.






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