I said some time ago that when the time was right I would reveal the circumstances under which I was fired from my job last February. And now that time has arrived.
Firstly, we need to go back to April 2009 when the company I was working for – which I can now tell you was Sakhalin Energy Investment Company (SEIC), the Gazprom-owned Shell-managed operator – was winding up its construction projects and shedding its expatriate staff. My contract ended in the early stages of the great cull, and by June 2009 there were only a handful of people left, so the demobilisation – after so many scares in the months and years previously – really did happen this time around. The post-construction contracts on Sakhalin were few, and there was room for only a small percentage of those who had hitherto been employed (which is the case on every major project). There was, and still is, some construction going on with the Exxon-led Sakhalin I project’s Odoptu field development, but most of the work was either with maintenance and operation contractors or on brownfield engineering contracts. Of the latter there were only two, both of which were won by Production Services Network (PSN), who on Sakhalin divided themselves up into PSN and an outfit called Sakhalin Technical Services Network (STSN), a joint venture with a local construction company, with each company managing one of the contracts. Any engineer looking for work in the post-construction phase of the Sakhalin developments had little choice but to approach PSN or their subsidiary STSN. At that time, they were the only game in town.
April 2009 was an awful time to be looking for a job and as I mentioned at the time, I was looking abroad and not too unhappy about the prospect of leaving Sakhalin, but the job market had collapsed and there was very little work about. To cut a long story short, I banged on a few doors and got an interview with STSN for the position of Senior Project Engineer. They had just had a big pile of infrastructure work land on their desk and did not have much on-island (or as it turned out, on-anywhere else) experience in executing this type of work. My main role with SEIC had been within the infrastructure construction department as a project engineer, at least when I wasn’t being asked to go to offshore platforms and rock-dumping vessels. I also had the advantages of being resident on the island, kind-of Russian speaking, familiar with Sakhalin, and I had worked with STSN’s main construction contractor.
At this point I will give some background information on the company I was about to join. The management of STSN had turned over twice already in just over two years of the contract period, and the staff resembled a constant state of chaos made up of frantic recruitment amongst a blizzard of sackings. Whilst things were fairly stable for the Russian staff, the expatriates assigned to the contract were here one minute, gone the next. The position with the highest attrition rate was that of project engineer, and the job boards of the Aberdeen-based recruitment companies kept this position posted as permanently open. I knew many well-qualified Russians who had sent their CVs into STSN, often with the recommendation of one of the expats working there, only to find they were met with total silence even as the adverts remained open and the complaints about the difficulty of recruiting locals got louder. I knew one girl who actually had an interview and they never even bothered to call her back. After making two fruitless follow-up calls herself, she gave up and went to work for somebody else. Many Russians soon learned not to bother applying there. I knew all this at the time, and I also was aware that they had failed to deliver a single project since the contract had begun. But at the time, as I said, it was the only game in town for expats wanting to stick around on Sakhalin. So I pressed on and after a couple of interviews which confirmed yet again that people end up in HR, they offered me a job.
And this is where the first warning bell sounded as applicable to me personally. At the beginning of the negotiations, STSN said they were willing to offer me a PSN staff position, as opposed to a role contracted through a manpower supply company. There are various pros and cons of each option, and I started the discussions on the basis I would be staff. The way the salary was calculated was by using a UK base rate for the position and adding on various uplifts for location, additional working hours, etc. The base rate was determined by what the client was willing to reimburse and formed part of the contract between STSN and the client. There is little which is a secret on Sakhalin Island, and I had found out that the rate which STSN could offer a Senior Project Engineer and be covered by what the client was reimbursing was in a band set at £65k-£75k per year (this is the base rate; the uplifts, etc. are irrelevant in this context, as is what the client actually pays STSN). The client would reimburse the same amount (of which the salary would only be a part) regardless; the range was to enable STSN to adjust its offer based on experience, individual circumstances, etc. All normal stuff, found anywhere in the world. But STSN offered me only £60k, which was outside the band they could work in. Knowing what the band was, I countered with £70k, right in the middle of the band. This took place during a phone call with the Contract Manager, a chap by the name of Jonathan Watt, who is effectively the boss of STSN. The response from him was a curt:
“Well, £60k is what we’re offering, if you don’t like it, just say so and we’ll look for somebody else.”
I accepted the £60k. Clearly he was in a stronger negotiating position than I was, and in some ways he had saved STSN money. But the fact that he was only willing to offer me less than what the company allocation allowed and issued a snooty ultimatum at the first opportunity didn’t give me much confidence. A decent manager would have responded to my £70k with £65k: right at the bottom of the band, but still close to what they had considered market rate. I wouldn’t have expected to get the top rate, as my experience was somewhat limited in many ways: at 32 years of age, I will freely admit this. But the result of Watt’s handling of this part of my recruitment meant I joined the company thinking him a bit of a twat.
As things turned out, and this was to be very important later on, I didn’t take the option of being PSN staff. According to a policy which is a legacy from the days when they were part of the (American) KBR, all overseas staff need to pay a hypothetical tax on their salary which they get reimbursed at some vague point in the future after both the British and Russian tax years are over, minus 3% or something, and nobody could tell me exact figures for what I’d be getting paid each month. Given I’ve been out of the UK tax system since June 2003 I had no intention of getting back into it in order to delay the payment of my monthly earnings, so I opted instead to join STSN as a contractor via a manpower supply company, who I will call Tachyon, paid on a day-rate basis. By taking this route, Tachyon was my employer: my contract was with them, I was paid by them, they arranged my visa, medical, travel, everything. I turned up to work for STSN, for which Tachyon was reimbursed, and I took my day-to-day direction from STSN management. Most of my new colleagues were contractors employed in this manner, with only a handful of the expatriate staff being PSN staff.
For those unfamiliar with oil and gas contract employment, anybody employed like this can be sacked from the job without any warning or reason by the company to which you are seconded. Usually you see out a notice period with the manpower supply company, but you can find yourself working away on something one day and simply not being required the next. Generally this works pretty well, as being able to sack people on the spot means there is a low risk in taking people on in the first place, and the flexibility of the system means there is usually plenty of work available. Day-rate contractors are generally paid more than the staffers to compensate for the lack of holiday pay, pension, job security, training, etc. and the whole thing is a trade off. Having spent my career up until joining Sakhalin Energy as a staffer, I quickly came to realise I would much rather be a day-rate contractor. Anyway, I want to make clear that the point of this post is not to complain about the terms and conditions which contractors work under. Far from it.
So, I joined STSN via Tachyon as a Senior Project Engineer working on infrastructure projects. My immediate boss was a chap called Carlos Mila, who also had interviewed me. He was the Projects Delivery Manager and as his job title would suggest, he was responsible for ensuring projects got delivered. I reported to him, and he reported to Jonathan Watt. At the beginning I thought he was okay, even though he had the annoying habit – and I see this a lot – of trying to present himself as a wizened sage who young whipper-snappers like me should respect, admire, and aspire to become. The project I picked up had not been going long and seemed to be in a bit of a mess, mainly because nobody had been able to dedicate enough time to it, hence my employment. I was not given any kind of job description but having some idea of what was expected I just grabbed the project and started running with it. In the first few months the client was pleased and so was STSN it seemed. I was happy enough with my project, although what was going on around me made me wonder a bit.
Firstly, one of the other project engineers had a complete nervous breakdown due to the pressure he was being put under. Then another one got sacked. That left three of us. Two more were brought in, one of whom declared he would only be part time and the other lasted a single rotation. Then another got sacked, and two more were brought in. Then another was brought in. Between May and September I had seen four of my project engineering colleagues either sacked or quit. In a department of five or six, that is a concern. Shortly after joining, one of my colleagues quipped as to whether I had received the project engineer’s rope in my starter pack. Jokes started to circulate over who had the rope at any given point in time. Despite my good start, I knew my being handed the rope was only a matter of time.
The main problem was that the projects were not getting delivered, and for that there were several reasons. I won’t go into them all, but the one I will expand on was the fact that Carlos Mila, our Projects Delivery Manager, was useless at his job. It took me a while to figure this out, but over a few months and amid the warnings from my colleagues (including those who had been shown the door), I came to view him as more of a problem than a help. I don’t know what his history was, but he was always going on about his illustrious career where he managed this or that megaproject whilst remaining very woolly on the actual details. He liked to think himself as a bit of a project “hard man”, somebody who commands respect by being ruthless and efficient, prepared to make the tough decisions and cut down anyone in his way. Unfortunately, he cut down anyone in his way but couldn’t make a decision. Rather than shouldering some of the burden his staff was suffering under, he would simply pass down each and every task and directive that came across his desk to his project engineers. The ability to delegate is essential in any project manager, but somebody who delegates 100% of his workload, including those items he is supposed to do such as putting together an organisation chart of his own organisation and compiling his reports, is useless. As it was in the case of Carlos, people were asking what he actually did. I can answer that: he massively exposed his project engineers in front of the client by openly blaming them for not doing stuff that he was supposed to have done. He’d call people into a meeting at a moment’s notice and expect them to regale project information for the client, stuff which they usually didn’t have to hand but that he, as the projects manager, should have compiled and had prepared before the meeting. When the hapless underling didn’t have the answers, he would chastise them in front of the client for their disorganisation. Thanks pal! All I ever saw him doing was bollocking his project engineers, and never once actually helping them or doing anything constructive.
And that was first major problem I had with him. He just didn’t help me. I had no direct reports and to get stuff done on my project I’d have to go begging to one of the other departments for help. In theory, Carlos was supposed to be the authority which would get this done, in practice I’d get told to sod off because some other project would take priority. My project would then slip, and I’d be given a bollocking. I was told “You just have to manage it”. Great. So I started going to Carlos with specific problems I needed help on, something which I would expect him to go and sort out. After doing that a few times, I quickly learned that going to Carlos with a problem resulted in you having the same problem but now with “a little report” added to your workload. A typical conversation would go like this:
Me: Carlos, I have a small problem. I need to get an estimate done but the estimator is away on leave. We promised to get this done by Friday.
Carlos: What project is this?
Me: Project 123XYZ
Carlos: [blank look] Which one is that?
Me: The new warehouse we’re building on the northern site.
Carlos: [still with a blank look] I thought we’d agreed that estimate would be done by our estimator before he left.
Me: Yes, but he didn’t. I don’t know why, nor do I care, but this is the situation we’re in. Last time I looked at my staff, I didn’t have any, let alone an estimator. So what do I do? Shall I tell the client to shift it rightwards a few weeks?
Carlos: No, we can’t do that. If he asks, tell them we’re working on it.
Me: Erm, he knows the estimator is away. He’s not stupid.
Carlos: Oh. Erm. Right, you need to send me an email with a series of bullet points…actually, can you make that a little report?…outlining the issues here. You need to include the minutes of the meeting where we agreed to get it done by Friday, and print out what has been done so far, and put in the date when he went away and will be back, and we’ll discuss it at the management meeting next Tuesday. Oh, and can you put in a summary of the project so we have something to refer to when we discuss it.
Me: Oh, thanks pal!
For the first few times I used to put these daft reports together in the expectation something would be done about my problem. Inevitably, nothing was, the reports or emails would come to nothing, Carlos would do sod all to help, and I’d be left with the same problem I started with. After I’d realised that, I started solving these problems on my own as best I could, and left Carlos out of it altogether.
Now, hidden in that exchange was my second major problem with him: he wanted me to continually butt heads with the client, and eventually start lying to him. Now I got on quite well with the client, and I had a big problem with lying to him. I don’t mind, on a lump sum contract, playing the usual contractual shenanigans, obfuscations, and withholding of information to extract a better deal for ourselves or buy us some time, etc. Nor do I mind telling the client to sod off when he asks a question he has no business asking. But what I was being asked to, without wanting to go into details of the situation, was to tell a demonstrable lie to the client to cover the fact that Carlos had not done his job properly. He also wanted me to start obstructing the client in a manner which he had ample opportunity, but each time failed, to do himself. Fuck that, frankly.
And that I didn’t comply with this wish, and the fact that I got on with the client whereas he enjoyed no working relationship with them whatsoever, made him think that he had a serious problem in me. Another chap involved in all of this put it best. Carlos wanted puppets. He would write a script for his engineers to follow, and if you didn’t follow it, he would hammer you into the ground. And that’s what he did. He wanted the primary role of his engineers to make his job consist of doing nothing, and their secondary role to take the blame and cover up for the fact that he was doing nothing. If you weren’t prepared to do this, you had no place in his organisation.
Inevitably, the time came late last August, just as I was preparing to go on leave, he called me into his office for a bollocking. It was one of the most incompetent bollockings I’ve had, and I’ve had a few. His complaints were:
- I have exceeded my level of authority.
- I have bypassed the lead project engineer and himself in project decisions.
- I am too close to the client and tell him too much stuff and I have probably broken the confidentiality agreement I signed when I joined.
- I am upsetting people.
This conversation took place with no other people present, and he said it was just an informal talking-to which I should consider when I went on leave. My response was roughly as follows:
- What is my level of authority? I have seen no job description other than that I am a Senior Project Engineer, which can mean anything. Despite asking for clarification several times, I have no idea what project decisions I can make and what I can’t. True, I have found myself doing my own estimates, translations, writing site safety plans, site construction procedures, and document control when those particular departments couldn’t or wouldn’t help me, but you knew I was doing that. What, specifically, are you unhappy with?
- I have not seen an organisation chart since I joined, at least not one that has not gone out of date within two weeks of it being issued. Who am I supposed to report to? If it is the Lead Project Engineer, what is he responsible for on my project? What is his role? (As for my bypassing him, he had me bang to rights on that one for the reasons I’ve already explained).
- What specific information have I passed to the client that I should not have? Do you have an example?
- Guilty as charged. When I am told something I have to get done is essential and priority, and I ask politely time and time again for support and each time am told to get stuffed, yet I am still held responsible for getting it done, you’re going to see some pretty ugly behaviour from me. But again, you knew about this.
Carlos couldn’t answer any of this. He couldn’t tell me what my level of authority was, nor give me an example of where I have exceeded my level of authority. He couldn’t give me my job description, nor that of the Lead Project Engineer, nor where our respective roles and responsibilities lie with respect to a project, nor could he point to an organisation chart which didn’t have half a dozen people on it who had recently been fired or quit. He couldn’t tell me what information I passed to the client that would be considered a breach of the confidentiality agreement, he just talked in woolly terms about my being too close to the client (I understood exactly what he meant: I didn’t pass on Carlos’ lies). He essentially agreed with me on the fourth complaint, but told me I had to do things better anyway. He was probably right about that in some ways, and so I agreed with him. Once again he insisted that this was only an informal talking-to before launching into another of his fatherly “If only you listen to me will you become a true project engineer capable of achieving the lofty heights which I have reached, etc. etc.” He told me to think all this over when I was on leave. I did, and reached the conclusion in the taxi to the airport that Carlos was an incompetent twat. I found out later that immediately after this informal talking-to, Carlos attempted to get me sacked.
Now, if the projects weren’t getting delivered and the project delivery manager was incompetent, why wasn’t something done about it? For that, we need to examine in a little more detail the role of Jonathan Watt, the head man of STSN and Carlos’ immediate boss. I have long complained about the unrealistic experience that the oil and gas business demands of its personnel, usually refusing to look at anyone with less than 10 or 15 years experience whilst simultaneously whining that there are no young people coming through. In Jonathan’s case this didn’t seem to be a problem, as he managed to secure the top position on a major oil and gas engineering project by virtue of, erm, serving a full career in the British Army and having a mate who knew the CEO. Before coming to Sakhalin, from what I could gather, his role had been to write some procedures (which, having used myself, are fit only for the dustbin) and managing some vague small project somewhere in the UK for a short time. To be fair, he probably only got the STSN gig by volunteering for it when nobody else wanted it. This is pretty common in Sakhalin, and especially so for companies which don’t pay very well, a group to which PSN most certainly belongs. So before I go into further detail on what was going wrong around me in STSN, bear in mind that the person at the head of the company, the one who is supposed to ensure everything runs smoothly, everyone performs, and projects ultimately gets delivered had virtually no experience working in a commercial environment, no experience in oil and gas, and no experience working in Russia.
Inevitably, things went from bad to worse. Whole departments, vital for the successful execution of engineering projects, were simply not functioning properly. There were no procedures in place for the construction activities we were supposed to be carrying out on site, the document control department did not know how to receive drawings from subcontractors, there was no method of measuring work progress on site, and when I arrived the QA/QC department refused to get involved with anything other than playing office policeman. Worst of all, the engineers worked on a 7/3 rotation meaning any given engineer was out of the office for 30% of the time; in theory somebody else covered for him, in practice work piled up. The concept of prioritising work to STSN meant employing all resources on the one project deemed priority and leaving the rest on the shelf. As a result, my project slipped further and further behind, with Carlos helpfully advising that “I’m employed to manage these things”. Which was the crux of the problem: I was responsible for doing something but had no authority to do it. Carlos refused to take responsibility for anything, Watt stayed in his office being utterly out of his depth to even recognise the chaos going on underneath him. Those with authority would accept no responsibility; those with no authority were held responsible. In the oil and gas engineering world, finding yourself in this situation is as common as daybreak.
Faced with this situation, I effectively started managing myself. I had frank discussions with the client about project progress and why various activities could not be complete, discussions which Carlos and Watt would have preferred I did not have. For a few months I was able to drag my project forward inch by inch with a combination of doing everything myself and getting the client to intervene. It was grim stuff, but as I’d said to Carlos during his attempted bollocking, if I am going to be held responsible for getting something done and given no resources, support, or authority you are going to see some pretty ugly tactics being employed while I go about it. For a while, it worked.
However, as things slipped further, Watt started to intervene: he’d have been better off staying in his office. Having been kicked by the client and alerted by his own people that things were going disastrously wrong, he started getting involved in areas he should have stayed well out of. What was required from him was strong client management (which was non-existent: the project engineers had to manage the client at the project level leaving higher-level issues completely unresolved) and the effective leadership of his organisation. What we got was his involvement in project issues such as planning and construction bringing to bear not experience but bizarre practices and buzz-words which appeared to have been gleaned from an American management book. We spent two weeks on some bewildering requirement to identify “synergies” across our projects, when what I needed was a competent civil engineer and some clarification on my level of responsibility. Next we spent a week on an innovative scheduling method which the client rejected out of hand, Watt having failed to run it by them beforehand.
With the major issues remaining unresolved, Watt started to blame his subordinates for his organisation’s failings, starting with his most outspoken and blunt employee: me. Unfortunately for me, Watt, and the projects Watt had taken to listening to Carlos and had bought wholesale into the idea that I was the problem. I was aware of this, but when Carlos was finally sacked on the insistence of the client I thought maybe he would let it go. In what stands as a devastating testament to Watt’s judgement, he continued with Carlos’ reasoning long after the latter had been given the boot to the utter relief of almost everybody else, both client and STSN alike. Before long, I was dragged into a meeting room at the end of a long day, completely unprepared, where I was accused of much the same things as Carlos had levelled at me a few months before. Added to the list of charges was my blaming everyone else for my own incompetence and I was making it impossible for him to manage “his team”, which could have referred to nothing else but my constant request for assistance from people, namely him, to provide some support and direction. This from a former Colonel. Clearly the British Army has slipped somewhat. Much to my surprise, he said that this was a continuation of what Carlos had said to me, despite the insistence at the time that this had been an informal talking to. I countered in the same way I did with Carlos: I asked Watt for specifics. He deflected the question, and continued with his complaints, so I asked him again for specifics. His response? “I can get them.” One would have thought he would have got them before pulling me in for a bollocking, unless none existed. To this day, no specifics were ever given on what I was supposedly doing wrong. I was a bit stuck, and not a little distressed. How can you respond to a vague accusation about your performance or relationship with the Client when no specifics are given? Watt brushed such objections aside by assuring me, as Carlos had done, that this was just an informal talking to. I also asked him where my job description was and why after five months there was still no organisation chart to which I could refer, but he brushed that aside also and instead told me I should go on leave and think about some things. I did, and as with Carlos, reached the conclusion in the taxi to the airport that Watt too was an incompetent twat.
I returned from leave in survival mode, determined to hang on as long as possible before my inevitable sacking. I’d seen this before with so many people in STSN: once you are made the scapegoat for managerial incompetence, there is no redemption. Sure enough, once my “informal” talk with Watt was over he – like Carlos before him – tried to remove me from the project, and therefore from his employ. Fortunately, as on the occasion when Carlos had tried, the client rejected his request. I wouldn’t say the client thought I was anything other than average, but they appreciated that I was being open and honest with them (hint: this goes a long way, no matter what people say), I was trying damned hard to get the project progressing, and compared to the managerial and other incompetence they were paying for even with an average performance I was a bargain of the century. In short, they wanted me on the project far more than they wanted me off it, and they recognised that I was not the cause of the multitude of problems they had with STSN.
Still, I was somewhat surprised to get an email from Tachyon asking me for a conference call later that week. Wondering what it was about, I asked Watt. He told me that it was merely a “formalisation” of what we had talked about before I’d gone on leave and “nothing to worry about”. A formalisation? Didn’t he tell me at the time this was an informal chat? Yes he did, but Watt was not only incompetent: he was also a liar. I was even more surprised to receive an email from Tachyon with a bizarre template attached, which had been sent to them by Watt, of a performance improvement plan I was required to complete within a week and return to them. The five objectives were as follows:
- To improve performance / delivery in current role
- To improve understanding of interaction between engineering disciplines
- To improve understanding / delivery of subcontractor management
- To represent the company in a positive manner and not disclose internal STSN information
- To deal with internal team members in a positive and reasonable manner in line with the core values of the Client and STSN
For each objective I had to identify a Task and a Measurement. However, without being given a job description, KPIs, or details of how I was supposedly going wrong, it was almost impossible to come up with tasks and measurements to “improve performance/delivery in my current role”. And how does one measure “delivery of subcontractor management”? How do you measure the degree to which I represent the company in a positive manner? It was nonsense on stilts, and everyone who I showed it to agreed with me.
However, Watt lacked the managerial skills or guts to deal with me directly, and instead preferred to hide behind the contractual arrangements between STSN, Tachyon, and me in order to avoid having to answer any awkward questions arising from his idiotic performance improvement plan. During the conference call with the General Manager of Tachyon, (who, I should add, was very understanding throughout my entire ordeal), neither of us could make head or tail of how I was supposed to explain how I was going to complete such a ludicrous task. I also told him that I had time and again asked for a job description to no avail, there was no organisation chart, there were no KPIs in place against which my performance could be measured, etc. Realising something was seriously amiss, Tachyon agreed to talk to Watt to get some clarifications. Watt’s response, which was passed through Tachyon to me, was typical for an STSN manager:
“If Tim’s a professional engineer like he claims, he should know where he’s going wrong.”
And with that, I was told to complete the performance improvement plan ASAP. I suppose it is easier than justifying serious complaints against an employee, but I suspect he was, as with so much else, incapable of doing so.
By this time I had a new manager, somebody who I had worked for in the past and I respected and liked. A sensible chap who knew me well, he helped me complete my performance improvement plan with the aim of satisfying Watt and putting all this behind me so I could concentrate on delivering my projects (which was pretty hard to do with Watt’s personal obsession with me added to his general incompetence). So I submitted it on a Wednesday afternoon, completed as best as I could given the nonsense that it was. On the Monday, I was called into another meeting with Watt, accompanied this time by some HR lackey, and told I was being “let go” and I should pack my things and get out of the building, which I duly did. When I asked why, I was told I would need to ask Tachyon. I was not surprised, and was quite prepared to be sacked that afternoon. I had been tipped off that a meeting with the client took place on the Saturday and my fate had been decided. So I packed my things, left the office for the last time, and went home.
That evening I called Tachyon, and spoke with their General Manager. He told me that STSN had not seen any improvement since I submitted my performance improvement plan. Given this was submitted two working days before the decision to sack me was made, it is clear that Watt was using the plan to put a veneer of formality and due process on what was an arbitrary decision to get rid me. Also, Tachyon told me that Watt had said the client had asked for me to be removed from the contract and he had no choice but to follow their instructions. Again, this proved to be a complete lie.
Because unknown to Watt, the stupidity of whose assumption that people don’t talk to each other surpasses that of all his other decisions, I found out who had said what to whom and when. Over a period of several months, Watt had petitioned the client to have me removed from the project on the somewhat woolly grounds of “performance” and “attitude”, only to find each time the client reject the proposal because they were reasonably content with what I was doing (as opposed to the expensive shambles which was STSN in general). One of the client employees began to think Watt had an obsession, and wished he would concentrate on something else, such as doing the job he is paid to do. Eventually, and this was the Saturday when the deal was done, Watt told the client that I was planning to strip the servers of all project information and do a runner, and he had evidence that I was planning this. I can tell you now that this was a complete and utter lie: having failed to persuade anyone that I should be sacked for poor performance, Watt resorted to lying to a major international oil company that I was about to engage in criminal industrial sabotage. The client did not believe it of course, but Watt succeeded in threatening them enough to agree to let me go, if for no other reason than to get Watt to relinquish this particular obsession and, as it turned out, as a big favour to me.
To summarise, Carlos had asked me to lie to the client repeatedly on project issues to protect himself from criticism. When he saw I was not going to do his bidding, he tried to get me sacked and failed, but succeeded in persuading Watt that I ought to be sacked. Having failed to provide me with even so much as a job description, Watt criticised my performance in what he told me was an informal talk but refused to provide any details or specifics, claiming they were not necessary. He then instructed my actual employer to issue me with a formal performance improvement plan which he never had any intention of using for anything other than cover for his predetermined decision to sack me. Having failed in his quest to do so, he resorted to slanderous lies in order to get his way. He then lied to my employer as to why I was sacked.
Let’s stop for a minute and look at the PSN corporate website. They have these things called their Core Values, which Watt used to ramble on about during laughable “Team Briefs” on a weekly basis when I was in STSN. Two of these core values are “Integrity” and “Innovation”.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen such dishonesty and lack of integrity the whole time I was in Sakhalin, and for a company to act in the manner it does – and I was one of many treated this way – is laughable. The only innovation I saw during my time with STSN was the manner in which they would sack their employees. One of Carlos’ parting shots at his leaving party, which I did not attend, was that he would make sure I never work in the oil and gas business again. Recently I heard that he was rejected from a position on a project after his would-be employer contacted somebody on Sakhalin for a reference and received a twenty-minute enlightenment in return. It’s funny how the oil business works, especially given I am now working for a major oil company of whom one of their subcontractors is, you guessed it, Production Services Network. Like everything else I experienced in Sakhalin, I will remember PSN well.