You are interviewing for a high level position with a major company. Everything is going well, and the person you would be working for requests to meet with you to discuss “details”. When the meeting begins, your potential boss, John, verbally offers you the position and the title you were hoping for. He also offers you a salary that is below market value, however he promises it will be adjusted as soon as you come on board. He explains that for “HR” reasons he must stay within a certain range, but he understands your skills and knowledge are exceptional and, again, commits to bringing you to fair market value once you are “on board”. As part of the negotiations, you request a sign-on bonus, but your potential boss clearly states that sign-on bonuses are against company policy. You leave the meeting with the title, level, and salary components of the offer nailed down, but it appears that the sign-on bonus is non-negotiable.
You believe John is an honest guy with the best of intentions and you resign from your current position to accept his offer. Upon starting your new job, you immediately meet with John to get your pay adjusted, as committed, which would bring you to fair market value for your position. Without the promised increase, there are people working well below your level, in fact with dotted lines reporting to you, making significantly more.
A week later, John emails you and apologizes saying “HR is watching him” and he cannot pursue the pay raise immediately. He suggests instead, that he pay you a significant “overload” to rectify the pay issue in the short term. You agree this is acceptable, but weeks later John comes back saying HR had declined the overload. At the same time, you had spent some time going over the financials, as was part of your job. You find that significant sums of money had been dispensed within the past year (almost $100,000) to two of the employees that have dotted line reporting to you. When you ask the Office Manager about the cash outlays, she simply replies, “oh, it was for Bill and Dave’s signing bonuses.” That seems odd, so you call HR to request the policy on signing bonuses… they don’t have one – signing bonuses are at the hiring manager’s discretion.
What would you do?
Although I think my client may have been a bit too trusting in the negotiations, I also understand he wanted to believe that he was being treated fairly and that his potential boss, John, was honest and motivated to make him happy once he joined the company. When his boss did not come through on any of his commitments, and had, indeed, explicitly lied to him regarding the company policy on sign-on bonuses, what should my client have done? He found himself in the position of making less than the employees that reported to him, while also finding he could not trust his boss.
We often want to believe in other people – believe they have ethics… a moral compass. But too often in the business world, this is not the case. My client learned some really tough lessons and still carries the scars left by his experience.
There was not a lot my client could do to recover the situation. However, as a leader and representative of your company, consider turning this on its head and note the following when interviewing and preparing to hire a candidate:
- Do Not Ever Make Promises You Can Not Keep:
As a leader, you must conduct yourself appropriately to maintain a high level of integrity. Do not commit to a potential employee anything that does not have prior HR approval.
- You Are Liable For The Verbal Commitments You Make:
What many leaders miss is that they are liable for the promises they make on behalf of their company during the interview, as well as during compensation/negotiation meetings.
- Beware Of Consequences:
As an agent of the company, always be aware of the consequences of your actions. They can be devastating, and may include lawsuits that could cost your company millions.
- You Are Responsible:
You are the one responsible for ensuring that the information you are giving to a potential candidate is correct and complete.
For the next few weeks, we will be discussing ethics in business. I would love for you to engage the discussion and let us know what you would do or tell us about unique experiences that you have had that called ethics to the front and center. Please feel free to contact me at Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back next week for the next installment of Leadership Across Boundaries and Borders.
Please note: The names of both the guilty and the innocent have been omitted for the protection of all.