A large bank is one of those places where bureaucracy tends to rule supreme. While that makes it easy to goof off while waiting for other people to make decisions, it can also leave you exposed in the middle of a storm of bad decision-making. That's just what happened to Paul when his team had to hire a new Windows sysadmin. One of the recruitment firms they partnered with - Human Solutioneering - put them in touch with Bob. Bob was very strong in administration and Active Directory, and he already lived in Iowa, where the bank was headquartered.

Paul and his H.S. contact had been through several hires that quarter, and they both knew the drill: since the team had given Bob the green light, they just had to wait for management sign-off. Paul said they would most likely extend a formal offer by the end of the week. When Friday came around, though, Paul received a no-go email from his boss:

"We have to put all hiring on hold for about a month: one of the VPs was spooked by an auditor in the parking lot yesterday and they've dropped an emergency budget freeze."

Paul called Human Solutioneering to let them know. He always hated to be the bearer of bad news, but he wasn't expecting their response.

"This is a big problem, Paul," the H.S. recruiter said. "You should have told us sooner."

"I didn't have a response until today," Paul said. "So this is the soonest I could have told you. What exactly is the problem? We've turned down candidates before."

"Well, this time the candidate already gave his two weeks' notice."

"He WHAT?!" Paul spluttered, struggling not to choke on his coffee. "We didn't even give him a formal offer!"

"Bob's an excitable fellow, Paul. When we told him he would probably get an offer by Friday, he said he had to go draft his resignation letter, and hung up. Why aren't you guys giving him the job?"

Paul fought not to be put on the defensive; it wasn't his fault this guy had played his hand too early. "I can't really comment on that. Look, you're Bob's representative, right? Didn't you call him back and suggest that quitting before signing a job offer was a bad idea?"

"Well, we..." The recruiter paused, and coughed. "Well, you guys always came back with the offer, so we figured-"

Paul's second line lit up, and he took the opportunity to put the Human Solutioneer on hold. Looking at the call display, his heart sank. HR was calling, and he could only think of one reason that would be.

"...Hello?"

"Paul, we have a 'Bob' on the phone, and he's wondering about his start date and when his benefits kick in. We don't have any record of his hiring, but he said he interviewed with your team. So..."

"Uh, yeah. Our budget was frozen so we never made a formal offer."

"Oh." For the second time that morning, Paul had left someone at a loss for words. "...Well, seems Bob was dismissed from his current job and was wondering when to expect his next paycheck. What am I supposed to tell him?"

When did I become the bad-news expert? Isn't that HR's job? Paul wondered, but he said, "You'll have to apologize and tell him to look elsewhere, or get back in touch with his former employer. I've got to go."

Paul took a deep breath before he took the recruiter off of hold. He had one last bit of bad news to deliver.

"That was our HR department. Apparently Bob called, and he did not part ways with his employer amicably. I expect you'll be hearing from him."

The recruiter swore, then cleared his throat. "Um, any chance you guys have another opening we could slot Bob into? We can always just say you've already interviewed him, and... you know?"

"Sorry," Paul said. "We're not looking for anyone else right now. Good luck."

He hung up.

That would have been that, but Human Solutioneering decided to make Paul the scapegoat. For the next few weeks, his mobile rang at all hours with calls from an unrecognized number in the Iowa area. The caller never left a voicemail, and Paul didn't bother to answer. He couldn't bring himself to deliver any more bad news; if he kept playing the messenger, it was only a matter of time before he got shot.