"Kiefer was the most unprofessional dude in the world. That's not me talking trash. I'd say it to his face. I think everybody that's worked with him has said that," said Freddie Prinze, Jr., talking about his "24" co-star, Kiefer Sutherland. Funny thing is, they haven't worked together for about 5 years, so why start trash talking now?
Well, publicity, of course. Which worked. The latest season of "24" just finished, and Prinze was promoting his newest project, "Star Wars Rebels." He got press coverage that he wouldn't have gotten otherwise.
But, it didn't make him appear as the poor, picked on soul, that was tortured by the evil Sutherland. No, Sutherland's representative gave a classy response, "Kiefer worked with Freddie Prinze, Jr.more than five years ago, and this is the first he has heard of Freddie's grievances. Kiefer enjoyed working with Freddie and wishes him the best."
As a result, Sutherland looks great and Prinze looks like a jealous whiner.
We use the term co-stars when talking about people who work in film and television, but really, the correct term for their relationship is co-workers, or perhaps since Sutherland has executive producer credits, boss. How Prinze came across in this publicity attempt is as a whiny employee who blames everyone but himself for his stalled career.
And that is how you come across as well when you start blaming your past boss and past co-workers for why you didn't get promoted, didn't get hired, and even got fired. Now, reality is, you may be right. Your co-workers may have been awful. Your last boss may have been in cahoots with the devil himself, but when you complain about your former office mates, you're the one who comes off looking bad.
Prinze asserted that everybody who has worked with Sutherland would agree with him. The problem with that statement is that it's not true. Absolutes rarely are true, and even horrible people (which I'm not saying Sutherland is) have friends. Plus in Hollywood, being how it is, plenty of people will praise horrible people just for the chance to land a role in their next project. For example, Us Weekly interviewed fellow 24 actor, Louis Lombardi, who said:
"My experience with Kiefer was absolutely the opposite. He was one of the most professional actors I've ever worked with. He wanted the best out of everybody. I have nothing but great experiences with him. He's a gentleman."
Kind of goes against the narrative, right? When you go on a job interview and state that you left your last job because your last boss was impossible to work with, you have no idea if the person sitting across from you is best buddies with your old boss or not. You have no idea what a reference check will turn up. But, what you do know is that people who complain vociferously about their last bosses are likely to complain vociferously about their next bosses. Because the person sitting across from you in an interview wants to make his life easier instead of harder, he's less likely to take a chance on hiring you.
What do you do instead?
Be positive. There should be something positive about every job you've ever had. It could be the paycheck. It could be that they hired you when you had no experience and now you've been trained. It could be that the office was bright and sunny, or that you got discounts on restaurants, or something. Anything. Think about those things.
Admit your own faults. Don't dwell on them, but if you can't articulate what you could have done better in the situation, it's time for some introspection. It's a rare situation where different choices on your part wouldn't have resulted in a different end result.
Identify problems without blame. If you left your last job because your boss was a horrible person, the response to a question about that should be, "Jane and I had very different styles. I'm very much a big picture person, and she's very focused on details. That's why I'm very excited about this opportunity as being project manager allows me to focus on the overall success of the project..." This way, you don't say, "Jane was a horrible, picky, micro-manager who made me change the font on my Excel sheet 14 times per day!" Just that you had style differences.
Offer up additional references. Most recruiters/hiring managers will want to speak to your last boss. If you know that won't go over well, give a warning and a substitute. "I reported into Jane, but we didn't always see eye-to-eye. I've also included Heather's phone number. Heather was the director of the neighboring department and I worked very closely with her as well. She can also give you insights about my past performance."
Be nice on the internet. It's doubtful that your complaints about your co-workers will hit the media the way Prinze's did, but if you are talking trash on Twitter, it won't make you a desirable candidate. Keep in mind that this is true even if you are completely correct. The complainer always looks bad to the outside person.