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Beware of “Likely Successor Risk”

Published on August 29th, 2017 by Alan L. Sklover


Danger Ahead:
Beware the Danger of “Likely Successor Risk” —

In new employment, all employees face the risk of being a “new kid on the block.” That is, ?there is always the chance that you just won’t “fit in” with the “in crowd.” That is just a fact of life.

Executives and managers who are viewed to be potential or even likely successors to higher-placed persons are advised to beware of what I call “Likely Successor Risk.”

“Likely Successor Risk” is the risk that others, who themselves seek promotion may see you more as a rival, than a colleague. They may be less than enthusiastic, disruptive, or even sabotaging to your efforts, plans and strategies. It is just a fact of life.

In extreme cases, others – and their friends – might just decide to make life miserable for you in a passive, or even aggressive, way.

You can’t change human nature, but you can and should bear “Likely Successor Risk” in mind when you negotiate basic elements of your potential new employment. As “Likely Successor Risk” elevates all other risks, wherever you see possible risk, seek degrees of “risk limitation.”

  • So, if you are given a formula for incentive compensation based on specified metrics, bear in mind that you may be swimming “against the tide,” and so seek more reasonable metrics, or a minimum guarantee, at least during the first year or two.


  • So, if you are promised compensation or equity that vests over years, request accelerated vesting if you are terminated without cause, or if you are denied the promotion you were led to expect.


  • So, if you are granted severance if terminated without cause, ask, too, for that same severance if you resign for a “good reason“ such as diminished responsibility, relocation to a different city, or had your compensation lowered.


  • So, consider asking for a robust severance package if you are later denied the promotion that attracted you to take the job in the first place.


There is risk in every employment relation. “Likely Successor Risk,” however, adds to the level and intensity of every risk to your achievements, your compensation, your job security, and even your industry reputation.


Job offers often dangle substantial rewards. It is always important to focus, perhaps more so, on risks. That is doubly so if you are being brought in to be a likely or potential successor to your manager or other position. Simply put, others may have “different plans” which will likely affect you.

Caution: There may be Danger Ahead.

For a complete list of our Model Letters, Model Memos, Checklists and Form Agreements, just [click here.]

For a telephone consultation on strategies to deal with “constructive
discharge” or other workplace issues, just [click here.]

© 2017 Alan L. Sklover. All Rights Reserved. Commercial Use Strictly Prohibited

Pregnant? When, How, and What to Tell Your Boss

Published on September 7th, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover

“ It’s a great thing about being pregnant –
You don’t need excuses to pee or to eat.”

– Angelina Jolie

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: I must admit – being a man – that I have no direct “personal” experience with pregnancy. However, I do have many female clients, in fact, a majority of my clients are female, and I think I’ve learned more than a thing or two from them on this subject. And, too, I am an employer, and have been told by more than one female employee that she is pregnant. So, I think I see things from “both sides” at least a bit.

I know from many of my clients’ case histories that notifying their employer of a newly confirmed pregnancy, and then “navigating” the process of the many details of “pre-leave,” “leave,” and “post-leave,” were harrowing. Many of them have asked, “Do you have a checklist of some kind that I can use?”

And many of them have shared a sense that, if they don’t do this carefully – very carefully – their jobs and careers could suffer.

LESSON TO LEARN: Pregnancy is a time of transition. There are bodily changes, emotional changes, changes in family dynamics, and others, too. It is not surprising that pregnancy brings about certain workplace changes, as well.

Preparing for the workplace changes cannot be accomplished entirely on one’s own. Your colleagues, managers, clients and assistants may all have to make adjustments to accommodate the changes going on in your life, and common sense dictates that you and they cannot make necessary adjustments until you’ve given them notice of your pregnancy.

So, when should you give notice of your pregnancy? How should you do so? What should you say? There are no hard-and-fast rules. That said, here are the guidelines we have put together from the experiences of our clients, from hints and ideas found on the internet, and from my own experience as an employer receiving notice of pregnancy from my own employees and partners.

They are set forth here, so that you can consider inserting them into your notice of pregnancy, and also as checklist of items to attend to. You have enough on your mind, already.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: We have assembled the suggestions we received from our clients and others about when, how and what to do when giving notice of your pregnancy. You can also use these suggestions as a kind of checklist for your Maternity Leave planning.

One important thing to bear in mind: “No one size fits all.” By that I mean that each of us has different views, sensibilities, circumstances and concerns. Perhaps in no context is that more relevant than it is in matters of pregnancy and maternity. So, pick and choose which, if any, of the following suggestions may apply to you, and which may not, and insert those that do make sense into your notice of pregnancy:
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“How can I tell if I have job security?”

Published on March 22nd, 2011 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Alan, what questions do I ask to find out if I am an integral part of the corporation, or if I am going to keep my job?

Mississauga, Ontario

Answer: Dear Janet:   

As we all know, all employees and employers are unique. What might work for one employee to determine his or her degree of job security might not work for another employee. However there are certain “job security themes” that are applicable to nearly all employees and employers.

Here are six (6) questions you might ask, if they seem appropriate for you and your employer:      

1. Perception of Your Promote-ability: “To be considered for a promotion, what skills and abilities do you think I should try to develop?” Your boss’s response – and even his or her body language – when you ask this question should tell you a lot. A person whose contribution is valued should get one or more positive and practical responses to this question; at least attention and indications of concern or support. Conversely, expressions of hesitation, bewilderment, doubt or negativity in response should tell you that your job security is not solid. (Incidentally, the same question could be raised with respect to a raise in salary, higher bonus, or to be one of those employees eligible for a stock or stock option grant.)

2. Involving You in Long-Term Efforts: “May I participate in our department’s yearly or long-term planning?” If your superiors see you as likely to be around for the long-term future, they are more likely to involve you in plans concerning that long-term future. It’s that simple. In contrast, a response such as “I don’t think that would make any sense,” or even “Why?” should tell you a lot. Again, though, watch for facial expressions and body language: small things can often tell you a lot of big things.

3. Willingness to Invest in You as a “Long Term Asset”: “Would you support my request to HR for company reimbursement for my tuition for online courses to learn a new skill or new language that would surely help our department? As they say, “No one changes the oil in a rental car.” Well, its converse is true: “All smart people change the oil in a car they plan to keep a long time.” If you are seen as a long-term asset, worthy of investment, you have job security, and vice versa. This would be even more telling if you prefaced this question with something like, “It sure seems that you could use more support with spread sheets (or Arabic language; or software coding; or Six Sigma training; or some other truly critical need of your boss.)  How could he or she say, “No,” if he or she really does need that extra support, unless you are not considered “likely long term?”

4. Willingness to Sponsor Your Career Path: “Would you be willing to sponsor me in developing a long-term career plan with the company?” This is a variation of question number 3, above, and perhaps more applicable to senior managers and executives, who are often rated among their peers as “High Potential” or “Low Value.” It truly puts the manager in a position to either lend his or her credibility to your long-term career. A negative response says, in effect, “I don’t think being affiliated with you in this company is advisable.”

5. Grant of New Responsibilities: “May I take on added responsibilities?” This is perhaps the simplest question to ask, and the simplest answer to help you asses your relative job security. What boss does not want to transfer more responsibilities to an employee, unless, of course, that employee already has “one foot out the door?”

6. Frank and Open Inquiry: “Forgive my frankness, but if you were me, would you plan on a long-term future with this firm, or would you seek it elsewhere?” With certain people, nothing beats the straightforward approach. However, the biggest strength of this approach is its biggest drawback: your boss may not tell you the truth, but instead what he or she wants you to believe is the truth. Still, it’s something to consider.

Of course, Janet, there are limitless other ways to determine your relative job security. These are examples, only, but illustrations of the “job security themes” I have noticed over the many years I’ve been in this line of work.   
Your question will, I believe, help so many others who face the same quandary you do. Thanks for writing in! Hope you’re enjoying the blog! 

Al Sklover

© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“Facing Merger or Sale of Your Employer? Here’s Fifteen Smart Steps”

Published on December 11th, 2010 by Alan L Sklover

“Don’t make the mistake of loving your company.
It will never love you back.” 
– CEO of Reinsurance Firm
(recently laid off following merger)

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY*: I left my last law firm employment about 25 years ago. I left because I just didn’t see the law firm having much of a future. The reason was that younger partners were not permitted to bring in their own clients. Instead, they were assured that they would “inherit” the significant clients of the law firm when they became senior partners, just as the then-senior partners had done. It didn’t make sense to me, and I didn’t trust it. That was one of the major reasons I left to form my own firm.

At that time, many New York law firms were merging with one another, and consolidating with other law firms in other cities and countries, to form “mega-law firms” with offices in all major cities around the world. At the time I left it, my law firm was engaged in exploratory discussions with several other law firms, in what was then a literal wave of law firm consolidations. This is precisely what has happened – and is happening now – in many industries, from banking, to real estate, to media, to healthcare. Time after time, there have been waves of mergers and sales, each forming larger and larger institutional employers. 

About a year after I left my old law firm, the partners had a large meeting. The “Merger Negotiating Committee,” as they were called, had an important announcement to make. From what I was told by three people who attended that meeting, this was the gist of the announcement made by the Merger Negotiating Committee: 

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have great news: In thirty days, our law firm will be merging with one of the most prestigious law firms in the world. We will have offices in nineteen cities. The major clients of our firm have been consulted, and they are all in agreement with our decision to merge. In fact, all of our major clients have encouraged us to make this move. Perhaps most importantly, each of our firm’s 25 largest clients has agreed to become a client of the new merged firm.”

“Also, all of the necessary arrangements have been made, financial, legal and even with our present landlord. All of the agreements have been negotiated and signed. Everything has been attended to, and has been finalized.”

“As to specifics, of the 84 partners of our firm, only the six members of the Merger Negotiating Committee will become partners of the merged firm. Of the 214 associate attorneys of our firm, 26 have been selected to become associate attorneys with the merged firm. Those partners who are not becoming partners of the merged firm, and those associate attorneys who were not selected to become associate attorneys of the merged firm, will need to remove their belongings from our offices within ten days.”

“We thank all of you for your years of dedication, effort and loyalty.”

78 of the partners out of 84 were effectively terminated. 188 of the 214 associate attorneys also were effectively terminated. Worse still, they were all left without clients, without offices, and without warning. All were left asking themselves, “Where is the great news?”

I am reluctant to say it, but I couldn’t understand why they all didn’t see it coming. Even way back then, I’d never seen a law firm that needed two “heads” of litigation, two “Senior Partners of labor law,” or two heads of Human Resources. Have you?

LESSON TO LEARN: If you have any reason to expect that your employer may be seeking to merge or be sold to a competitor, you have reason for concern. And, too, you have reason to start taking steps to protect yourself.

On a sinking ship, do you wait until you feel the water at your ankles before you put on your life preserver jacket? In a burning building, do you wait until you feel the heat of the fire on your fingers before you seek a safe exit? So, why would you wait to take precautions if you had reason to believe a merger or sale of your employer was underway? Only two possible reasons, neither of them smart: fear and denial.

That’s not good enough. If you want to “survive” the layoffs and “restructurings” that inevitably follow mergers and sales of companies, you need to take action. Below are the fifteen steps we counsel our clients to take – and the ones they have taken to their best advantage.

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“Change in Control at the Office? Here’s 10 Ways to Keep Your Job”

Published on October 19th, 2009 by Alan L Sklover

“Most people are willing to change, not because they see the light,
but because they feel the heat.”

– Unknown

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORY”: Stephanie was the HR Director of the Reinsurance Division of a large, international insurance firm. Because of the recent downturn in the economy, business throughout the industry was slow. For this reason, the CEO decided to pursue the increasingly common “consolidation” business strategy. In fact, he decided to attempt to purchase the company’s largest competitor, in this way eliminating competition and gaining overall market share. At the same time, the CEO calculated that overhead could be reduced, as there would be no need for two Security Directors, two Marketing Directors, two Chief Information Officers, etc.

Stephanie understood that there would also be no need for two HR Directors, either, and for this reason became quite anxious. She called for a consultation.

With our guidance, Stephanie put together what we call a “Job Continuity Plan,” that is, a plan to improve the probability her employment would continue regardless of any reduction in workforce. She devoted time, care and attention to “thinking out” her job continuity plan, and promptly proceeded to execute on it.

Stephanie’s job continuity plan was based primarily on what she perceived to be her CEO’s first concern: keeping control of “who goes – who stays” after the merger. She knew he had concerns that valuable people might defect, that long-term friends needed to be protected, that promises he made to bring about the merger had to be kept, favors to repay, and “scores” to keep. On her own initiative, she began the process of cataloguing and proposing ways to address each of those concerns. She made sure the CEO knew she was “in his corner,” on his side, and a critical team member.

About four months later, when the merger did, in fact, take place, Stephanie was asked to meet privately with the CEO, and was given her “news”: she was asked to take over the HR duties of the merged company. She was more than relieved. On the other hand, her counterpart at the acquired firm – who had expected to get the merged job – was crestfallen. Did Stephanie’s job continuity plan make the difference? We’ll never know. One thing we do know for sure: it definitely did not hurt.

LESSON TO LEARN: There are many kinds of “change of control” that might take place at work, including these seven most common types:

1. Company is bought, sold, or merged with another company;
2. Division or department is shut down or sold to another company;
3. New CEO is brought into your company, and likely to bring in his own team;
4. New Manager or Boss is put in charge of your Division or Group;
5. Reorganization results in you reporting to a new manager or boss
6. Transferred to new Boss’s Group; or
7. Boss leaves; New Boss Hired.

Changes in control at work are inherently risky in terms of job security. No matter what type of “change of control” you might face, the arrival of a new “captain of the ship” is bound to result in him or her assembling a new “crew,” and certain of your colleagues – perhaps including you – being “thrown overboard.”

However, “forewarned is forearmed.” In every “change of control,” there are “Decision-Makers” who will make decisions regarding your future. In any “change in control” there are certain steps you can take – and should take – to try to affect those decisions, to lower your chances of job loss, and increase your chances of keeping your job.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Here are ten things you can do to lower your chance of job loss in a “change in control” at the office. Each is one step in the right direction:
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Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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