Horrible First Professional Experience at Accenture – Sue or Not?
Some time ago we received the letter below from a former Accenture employee asking for advice.
First of all, I would like to say how amazed I was when I tumbled upon your website, Exposing Evil Empire.
I had a horrible experience at Accenture, but as it was my first professional experience, I was unsure whether my perception was right or simply uneducated and inexperienced.
Then I found your project, an entire website solely dedicated to bringing awareness about what is going on in this company, and in a feeling of relief I thought that maybe it was not just me then…
Today I am contacting you to ask for advice as I feel I have been done wrong – like so many other (ex) employees of this horror place – but in an illegal way that could make me sue them.
Here is my story:
I joined Accenture in August, 2015 as a fresh graduate in Technology Consulting. During my interviews I was told (promised) I would be doing Business Process Management (BPM) and IT strategy.
However, my roles only consisted of pure “Client Delivery & Operations” (CDO) work. This is heavily implementation focused and not so much strategy/design/business focused.
My first project was data loading and user manual writing. My second project was configuration and setup.
Already from my first project, I had the feeling I had been screwed because the work I was doing was nothing related to what I came to do at that company or even anything close to my field of studies.
I shared my worry with my Career Counselor (CC) and my desire to have a project that involved actual business analysis and BPM. I was told it was normal for a first project, and the usual BS we give analysts to make them accept crap work.
I was told to wait and that my next projects were going to be more interesting.
I accepted to be patient and three months later, I was sent on my second project after a two-week training at the analyst school. I was booked for this project for 18 months.
My first day in that project I was sent directly to the client, and presented as the expert in the system to be delivered. I had absolutely no idea what that system was, or how it worked.
There was nobody available on the project to train me, so I was told that I had to “train my own self” with the user manual, and training documents.
I was bothered by this but did not make a big deal out of it, I do not mind learning on my own. However, the problem was that I had zero time to train myself as I was in a client-facing roll with a very demanding client who was asking me deliverables every day.
I found myself in a position where I had to deliver work perfectly without knowing how the system works… I could not believe it was even possible that my manager would put me in such a position…
Anyway, I still did it, by working 15 hours a day, on weekends, days off, etc.
– Sounds familiar?
Then I realized this second project was just as uninteresting as the first one, and that people in Technology Consulting (TC) were actually doomed to do CDO work for ages before touching real analysis whether they wanted to or not.
This is when I wrote an extensively motivated e-mail to my career counselor asking to be moved in Management Consulting (MC)… and that lead from bad to worse.
– Sounds familiar?
I was invited to a meeting with a Managing Director who tried for half an hour to convince me to stay in TC, but after seeing my determination to move to MC told me “do amazingly good on your current project, discuss a roll-off date with your managers, and then you can move to MC”.
I then followed his advice and asked my managers to foresee a roll-off date.
Next thing you know, I was invited by them in a meeting the following week to tell me I was rolling off by the end of the week.
The reason given was that I was the newest analyst in the project and that they did not want to spend time or resources on me if I was going to leave the project…
Then they started mentioning my performance and that supposedly there were complaints from business about me… NEVER did I receive a complaint from business… and if it was the case, why did the manager not say anything about it to me? How am I supposed to improve myself if managers keep feedback to themselves?
– Exposing Evil Empire
Anyway, I rolled off this project and I asked a meeting with my career counselor the next day (he was my new career counselor and this was our first meeting, as my previous one had to leave).
He was aware of my desire to move to MC, and immediately started the meeting by telling me “I don’t want to discuss your transfer to MC”. Right there I understood something fishy was happening. We discussed what had happened on the project I left and then he proposed me another project in technology and I said No.
Because I had realized how they work.
They would yet again put me in a project where I would only be doing CDO work and technology implementation, but no business analysis and I had decided not to waste any more time in a direction that I had not chosen.
The next Monday, he called me back to tell me that he had called my Project Manager on my first project to ask how I did there and that bastard told them I did “average” while he did not even ever follow my work. I was working remotely with a team of people in a different location, and I was only receiving instructions and feedback from the senior analyst.
I even had asked that Project Manager to do my performance review when the project ended (because I was told the senior analyst was not permitted to do the review) and he still never did it. I asked him a second time to do it because he had not send anything and he never did it.
Finally the conclusion of the discussion was that my Career Counselor told me “if we were to have a performance evaluation of you right now, it would not be good”, and so I was let go.
I felt a tremendous amount of injustice and disgust.
Not only had I wasted my time in this hideous company for eight months on a bunch of tasks that had nothing to do with my interests or field of study, but on top of it they were blaming me for a bunch of things that all seemed like complete BS.
While writing this to you, I still wonder if maybe I am the one who is blind and they did not do me wrong, but I was really incompetent??!
But when I think about it really, I don’t think I messed up in such a horrible way that justified me to be fired, no?
And after reading all the stories on your website, I think they’re very capable of that kind of low moves.
I am now wondering if I could/should sue them for unjustified termination?
See the thing is, they did not document anything… They say my performance on my first project was average, but they have no backup for this since:
- the Project Manager who said that didn’t even complete my project evaluation, he had no documented evidence for what he said about me and
- he never followed my work first hand, it was the senior analyst who managed me entirely, so how could he even have a valuable opinion?
Same story on my second project, there was no documentation of my performance, no warnings, no report of business complaints…
Finally, they sent me the official papers for termination, and the reason mentioned was:
However, they are currently recruiting in the same department where I was, the exact same kind of profile…
So, I guess I have a couple questions here:
- In the light of the facts I am giving you here; does it seem to you that I was I actually at fault in this case?
- Given the lack of documentation and apparent fogginess of the reasons for my termination, do you think it is reasonable and worthwhile to sue them?
- I am now looking for new opportunities in management consulting at the competition such as Big 4, etc.
Do you think they work in the same type of manner?
Is this something intrinsic to those huge consultancies?
Is there a similar website to yours about the other huge consulting firms?
Or has Accenture really a unique way to torture its employees?
I wish that I had found your website before I signed my contract with them. I am quite traumatized by this first work experience, and I want to avoid at all costs falling into this again.
- What is your view on my experience and what do you recommend me doing for my next steps in my career?
Many thanks in advance for the time you will spend reading this and advising me, it is highly appreciated.
Answer from Exposing Evil Empire
We so recognize what you are writing. They treat people like shit, and blame bad consequences from management decisions on their subordinates. Like when they tell the client you are an expert and give you no training – that is horribly bad management, but it is really the Accenture way.
They are great at selling projects and promising big, but they are lying to their clients.
Can you sue them? Yes, I think so.
Make sure you save the recruitment ad where they have the same profile again. That is proof they are lying about the reason for firing you.
You say you got bad feedback out of nowhere. Inventing false and negative feedback is a common tactic within Accenture when they have decided to ‘out-manage’ an employee. By ‘out-manage’ I mean when Accenture forces an employee out through a careful (illegal) process that often includes harassment.
I have heard about such bad ‘feedback’ from many Accenture employees.
Later they will use this ‘feedback’ to claim you were a bad performer that can legally be fired. It is a tactic to cover their backs to ‘comply’ with employment law. You see, in many countries it is illegal to fire employees for no good reason.
It is a bit stupid that they claim that “average” performance is enough to be fired. Then half the company should be fired.
Verbally they told you it was because of bad performance. Later, in writing they said it was because of “the needs of the company”. They might have changed the excuse because they realized the first excuse would not work out in court (due to lack of documentation?). I think you can prove that both excuses are false. The real reason is that you didn’t let them push you around.
To answer your questions:
1) Were you at fault?
No. Absolutely not. You were fired because you did not fit into the “obedience culture” of Accenture. Blind obedience. They want you to sacrifice your career for them, and get nothing in return.
You wanted to work with what you were hired for, and therefore you were fired.
2) Is it reasonable and worthwhile to sue them?
Difficult question. It depends on who has the burden of proof. If you have to prove they did wrong, then it is more difficult. If they have to prove that you were “incompetent” or had bad performance (or that their business needs changed), then it is easier for you.
Have you saved things from your laptop, such as email archives? Phone bills?
Try to save everything.
There are also other ways you can prove things. You can contact the Senior Analyst and ask him (in writing or in a recorded phone call) what his evaluation of you was.
I will not go too much into details now. But try to be “evidence greedy”. Save everything that you can.
You should contact a lawyer who specialize in employment law in your country. Have an initial meeting and see what they say. Before booking a meeting, ask them if they will charge you for it. They should not (but this depends on the firm and location). If you can get meetings without being charged, then you can see several lawyers – you will get a feel for what they say about your case and which lawyer you like best.
3) Are all consulting firms like this or does Accenture have a unique way of torturing their employees?
I think Accenture is unique in its torturing ways, a lot worse than the competition.
However, this industry is known for long hours… don’t be surprised if you have to work 10-15 hour days at another consulting firm also. But they will treat you much better. And probably no weekend work. (But who knows…)
The other thing you should know if you are interested in Management Consulting is that, due to the nature of consulting you will not be able to choose projects as you please. The firms get a project and needs to staff it with people. Most projects will not be strategy or other cool work in fancy industries or for companies like Apple or Google.
If you get a job in Bain/McKinsey/BCG then you have a higher chance of getting interesting work, but the Big 4 have less interesting work.
Only Accenture treats its employees the way you, I, and many others have experienced, but the work will be stressful in other consulting firms also.
If I were you, I would look to other jobs in other industries (that actually produce something to be proud of!).
Management Consulting recruiters are excellent at making it sound like a super exciting job:
- “work with the CEOs”
- “only strategic projects”
- “best minds”
- “best colleagues”
- “best skills development”
- bla, bla, bla…
Well, it is not all true. Most of it is not true, in fact. If you think of it… no M.C. analyst will ever get to work with the CEO of a client company. The partners handle all those contacts. It is too important to make a good impression and they want to keep this valuable professional relationship to themselves.
Overall, the industry is very hyped up.
It can be very tempting as a young professional to go into consulting… you want to experience many different functions (marketing, finance, operations, etc.) and see many companies.
The problem is that you can never choose your project.
I think you should look outside consulting.
Try to figure out what you want to do… if you suspect that finance or marketing is what you will like most, then go for that.
If you want excitement, maybe starting up your own company is an option (just not in management consulting).
There are other service industries that might be nice, such as advertising, mobile app development.
Many companies outside consulting have a nice culture and nice co-workers – working with people you like does a lot to make you enjoy your work. And many have lots of interesting tasks.
Then there are NGOs like:
- Doctors without Borders,
- Save the Children,
- Action Aid,
- World Vision, or
- Red Cross
Try to dig deep into your mind and think about what you would like to do. Which courses in your education did you like most? Talk to friends and family about this. If you still want to do management consulting, I would suggest applying to the top three-four firms that actually handle strategic projects (Bain, McKinsey, BCG, Monitor). After all, you can learn a lot in two years in a top firm.
4) Our view on your experience
You are smart, ambitious and you want to learn. What you are not is a person that likes being pushed around. You are not a drone and that is why you did not fit with Accenture.
I think you should set your own goals. I think starting your own company might be good for you, but it is a difficult path. You might need a bit experience first (or maybe not…). It takes time. Cash flow is uneven. If you have a secure economic situation then you can do it. If you live rent by rent, paycheck to paycheck, then you should wait.
You are obviously able and willing to work hard. To be the manager of a start-up you need discipline. You need support from others, maybe a partner (a good friend who is smart and strong where you are weak, I would suggest).
Otherwise, as I said, figure out which function you most like and go for that in a company. Maybe a small or medium sized company (great experience for becoming an entrepreneur).
NGOs can be exciting too. Expect people to work less hard. Lower pace than consulting. You’ll have time for hobbies and friends.
Even government can be exciting – imagine working on a plan to make a city sustainable by 2040, for example.
If you were traumatized at Accenture, it might be good to do something completely different.
About your Accenture experience, I think you were completely normal, you worked hard and performed well. Accenture does not appreciate working smartly or god results. They like elbows, obedience and being able to bill high amounts to their clients (read: work LONG hours, rather than efficiently).
You stood up for yourself when they screwed you over. They hired you for one thing, then broke their promise, or lied to begin with. You reacted in a normal and professional way. You are not a Yes sayer, if you know what I mean. Most people at Accenture obey and suffer silently.
Congratulations at getting out after only eight months! Most people suffer much longer than that at Accenture.
Did they write their promise in your employment contract? I.e. in which division/practice you were to be working.
About the lawsuit
Talk to lawyers. See how much evidence you have. I think you might have a case. I suspect they have to prove the reason for firing you. Be aware though: Accenture will in lie a trial. If you talk to the people first and record it, that is a good thing. Otherwise, some will be scared into lying (e.g. the Senior Analyst might lie to save his own job) and others will gladly lie to help Accenture (e.g. the Career Counselors, Project Managers). Be smart and “evidence greedy”.
For your career, think long and hard about what you like. You cannot have it all as the MC recruiters promise.
Jack of all trades, master of none.
Try something different. Consider your own company, now or in a few years’ time. Maybe something completely different like a café or a product.
What do you think, dear readers?
Should he sue Accenture?
Any advice on how to do it?
Please comment below!