Other Thoughts Archives

New Manager? – Big Risks Ahead! Eight Signs to Watch Out For

Published on April 19th, 2017 by Alan L. Sklover

“The paranoid person is never entirely mistaken.”

– Sigmund Freud

ACTUAL CASE HISTORIES: Quite frankly, there are so many actual case histories of “New Manager Risk” that I could write an entire book on the subject. A large part of my law practice over these past 35 years has been devoted to severance, and I have identified five or six situations where we can almost expect our client to lose his or her job. Putting aside for the moment the “large-scale downsizing” category, the “New Manager” category is one of the most common “one-off,” or individual, job loss situations.

I often describe “New Manager Risk” this way: (1) new captain takes over the ship, (2) new captain is eager to show how much improvement she can bring about, (3) he thinks his best path to improvement is the hiring of a “new crew,” (4) she thinks that people she has known from other teams she has worked with will be very loyal, as well, and (5) one by one, the “old crew” are convinced, coaxed or coerced to “walk the plank.”

Sound familiar? I’d be surprised if it didn’t.

While I am confident everyone has seen or experienced this very scenario, I am absolutely certain that everyone will, sooner or later, come across it, themselves. Hopefully, when it happens, it will not happen to you.

LESSON TO LEARN: The lesson to learn here is quite simple: if you are assigned to a new manager, or a new manager is assigned to you, you need to be at least a touch extra vigilant, and consider taking extra steps to do all you can to keep your job. So, the first step is enhanced vigilance, the subject of this newsletter.

***Note that in coming weeks, we will write another newsletter about steps you can take to counteract “New Manager Risk” in order to keep your job. It will be entitled “New Manager? – Addressing the New Risks.” In the meantime, consider what events and circumstances you should look out for, as explained below.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Here are eight things you can be on the lookout for if either you are assigned to a new manager, or a new manager is assigned to you:
Read the rest of this blog post »

Job Security Secret: Don’t elevate a problem without also suggesting a well-considered solution (or two).

Published on January 11th, 2017 by Alan L. Sklover

Secrets of Job Security

Secret of Job Security #4:

It’s just undeniable. It makes common sense. Studies have confirmed it. And I can attest to it:

Don’t bring a problem to your manager’s attention without also bringing to him or her a well-thought-out solution, or even better, two alternative well-thought-out solutions.

Keep it simple:

No Drama: The description of the problem should not be drama-laden, unless the problem itself is truly dramatic, and even then, cool, detached objectivity is preferred to “Boss, we have an emergency” if no true emergency exists.

Provide the Apparent Cause: The description of the problem should also include its apparent “root cause.” While the actual cause may not yet be determined, the “apparent cause” is usually available.

Don’t Blame Anyone: Your manager will be able to determine if anyone is to blame. You maintain greatest credibility if you don’t make the problem or the solution a personal issue, but an operational one.

Solutions Require Practical Steps: The solutions you offer need to include the practical steps needed to solve the problem, in a logical order, if at all possible.

Effective problem solvers are highly prized in the workplace. Those known for problem-solving skills are those with significant job security.

Become one of them. You will be glad you did.

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Heard a Recruiter is Shopping Your Job? Here’s Nine Suggested Steps

Published on December 6th, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover

“People don’t mind being used,
but they don’t like being discarded.”

– Unknown

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: Barbara, a Human Resources Vice President, had worked for 12 years for a large Midwestern hospital, where she oversaw professional staff development. All seemed fine at work, and she was soon to take a vacation. She called us at the suggestion of a former client of ours.

Barbara had just received a telephone call from another HR professional she knew from attending conferences on the topic of professional staff development at hospitals. The purpose of the call from her colleague was to inquire about the hospital’s overall company culture and, specifically, its “family-friendliness.” Barbara’s colleague also asked her “Do you mind sharing with me why you are leaving?”

Leaving? Barbara had no plans to leave. The caller explained that she was told by an executive recruiter that Barbara’s position was soon to become available, and he was assembling a list of candidates to fill Barbara’s position. Barbara did not know what to say, and finally uttered, “There must be some mistake.”

Barbara found it hard to catch her breath. Was this a mistake? Was someone disappointed in her work? Her performance reviews had been “Exceeds Expectations” for years. She had not been accused of any bad behavior. Who should she speak with . . . if anyone?

Mistakes of all kinds happen. Was the caller confused about what she had heard? Was the recruiter in error? Was it possible Barbara was being replaced? Might her compensation be too high? Her creativity too low? All sorts of questions were buzzing around Barbara’s mind.

LESSON TO LEARN: In your experience, do you believe most employees find a new job before they resign from their present one? Sure, that is exactly what most employees do. Should employers do the same, that is, find a new employee before they terminate one? From their point of view, that is the exact same thing.

Is it disloyal for an employee to find a new job and then resign? No. Well, from an employer’s point of view, it is not at all disloyal for an employer to find a new employee and then terminate the one they have. Yet, most employees feel upset, perhaps taken advantage of, or abandoned, if they find out their job is being “shopped.” Why?

I think the anger, upset, even sense of being “discarded” by means of disloyalty felt by employees who find out their job is being “shopped” is due to the seeming “behind the back,” secretive nature of it all. It would seem so very “up front” to (a) be told there is a problem, and (b) work together on an orderly transition. The problem is that neither employees nor employers ever act so “up front.” They act to protect themselves and their interests. You must admit that few employees tell their employers they are out interviewing, but rather “behind the employer’s back” find a new job, and then resign.

All that said, the employee’s feelings of dishonesty, abuse, disloyalty and abandonment are real, and not to be ignored. But, your responses to hearing your job is being “shopped” cannot be based on emotions. Instead, they must be based on clear thinking, and be a focused, rational response.

If what happened to Barbara ever happens to you, what should you do? Who should you speak to . . . if anyone? Should you begin a job search of your own?

Having helped clients in this circumstance, we share with you the responses, and the order of responses, we have found are best to make in this circumstance. Taken together they represent a mindful plan of action, which is the best response of all.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: If what happened to Barbara ever happens to you, consider these steps, and, of course, modify them as seems most sensible to the specific facts, events and circumstances of your job, career and life:
Read the rest of this blog post »

“Responding to a Retention Bonus Offer” – Ten Wise Steps”

Published on January 6th, 2015 by Alan L. Sklover

“All I’ve ever wanted is an honest week’s pay for an honest day’s work.”

– Steve Martin

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES: Jana contacted our office with an almost whimsical question: “I was just offered a bonus to stay in my job. What’s next . . . offer to pay me to keep breathing?” She honestly did not understand why her employer would pay her to stay in her job for six months, and was quizzical – and even a bit paranoid – at the same time.

In her consultation with us, we explained to Jana the two reasons why employers offer Retention Bonuses: to encourage employees to stay in their jobs either (1) during a period of heightened job insecurity, such as an upcoming merger, which makes people concerned about losing their jobs, or (2) to ensure that an important event or transaction goes smoothly, such as the closing of a large business deal or a major corporate celebration, when the employee is critical to company success. In both circumstances, the employer sees it as worth paying the employees an extra sum.

We also explained to Jana that, by its very nature, an offer of a Retention Bonus means that the employees receiving the offer are viewed as particularly valuable, and in our world that means that they might have leverage to negotiate better “rewards,” that is, higher payment, or lower “risk,” that is, less chance of not getting paid the bonus. With a little coaching, and a dose of induced courage, Jana did request both better “reward” and lower “risk” and to her surprise was successful in both requests.

Though Jana did get the Retention Bonus, her job was eventually eliminated after her employer merged with another company.

Sure was handy that Jana requested enhanced severance in exchange for agreeing to the Retention Bonus. She was the only one in her department who received extra severance. And for only one reason: she was the only one to ask for it.

LESSON TO LEARN: A Retention Bonus is exactly what its name implies: a bonus to stay in your job. For example, “We offer you (a) $25,000 (b) if you stay in your job until June 1st of this year.” By its very name and nature, such an offer says, “You are valuable to us, at least for a certain period of time.” If your employer offers you a Retention Bonus, chances are your continued presence is perceived by your employer as being significant valuable to it

Why do employers offer Retention Bonuses?: (a) to keep you on board after a merger until they decide which of the two Directors of Logistics will be kept on after the merger; (b) to keep you on board until they decide if they need you for the longer term, (c) to gain from you the critical knowledge or insight that only you have, (d) to ensure that there is a smooth transition of client relationships if and when there is a change in corporate structure or personnel, among many other possible reasons.

“Being perceived as valuable” is, in our minds, the precise definition of “having leverage” to negotiation for better terms. And for this reason, we almost always suggest that (a) Retention Bonus offers be read very well to locate hidden “trap doors” in the legal language, and (b) Retention Bonus offers be negotiated with an aim to both (i) increase what you are being offered, and (ii) decrease the chances that you will miss out on the bonus due to possibly “tricky,” unclear or evasive language.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Here are ten steps you would be “work-wise” to take if you are offered a Retention Bonus: Read the rest of this blog post »

“Private Equity Buying Your Employer? Resist These 11 Employment Negotiation Tactics”

Published on September 16th, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

“Some people, when they learn that two wrongs don’t make a right,
try three. ”

Author Unknown

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES”: For many years I have counseled and negotiated on behalf of employees when their employers (a) are being purchased by Private Equity investors, (b) are owned by Private Equity investors, and (c) are being sold by Private Equity investors. I’ve also represented employees being recruited to work for Private Equity-owned employers, commonly referred to as Private Equity “Portfolio Companies.”

In the course of those efforts I believe I have learned a thing or two about the nature of Private Equity-owned employers, and the tactics they commonly use in employment negotiations. And, though I am a few years younger than he was, as Michelangelo said at age 87, “I am still learning.”

Sure, every Private Equity investor and every Private Equity Portfolio Company is unique. And, too, you can’t paint tens of thousands of people with one broad brush. That said, there are certain commonalities and cultural norms to be found in certain industries, and certain lessons to be learned in reflecting on one’s experience over decades.

On the basis of those decades of experience, I’ve assembled this list of “Eleven Employment Tactics of Private Equity-Owned Employers.” I present them to you in the hopes that, for you, “forewarned is forearmed” (although I have never seen a person with four arms – just kidding!)

I present these thoughts to you so that you are better able to see what is likely coming your way, and more capable and confident in navigating and negotiating your way to success and security at work – the foundational purpose of SkloverWorkingWisdom.™

LESSON TO LEARN: Is it any wonder that Private Equity investors – whose job it is to (a) locate a company to purchase, (b) purchase that company, (c) reduce its costs and increase its sales, and then (d) sell that company, (e) all with one purpose in mind – to make as much money as possible for themselves and their investors – tend to conduct themselves in similar ways? It should not be surprising at all.

Likewise, it should not be surprising at all that those with a short-term perspective, who engage in the buying, exploiting (in all senses of that word), and selling companies tend to act with short-term objectives in mind, not concerned with the long-term consequences of their actions on employees, communities and other stakeholders. Why worry about the long-term effects of your actions on employees, communities and customers, when you won’t be around more than three to five years? After all, “no one changes the oil in a rental car,” now, do they?

As employers of their “Portfolio Companies,” Private Equity managers do all they can to (a) lower overhead, and (b) maximize the company’s eventual sales price – for themselves and their investors. They don’t work for, get paid by, or care much for, others. With one goal in mind – “R.O.I., or Return On Investment” – why would anyone expect anything different?

Know who you are dealing with, and keep a sharp eye out for the “sharpie” Private Equity investors who are quite convinced that their access to large amounts of investment capital is a sure sign that God has anointed them as a segment of the human race above all others.

These 11 employment tactics that Private Equity investors use when purchasing part or all of employers are to be watched out for and to stood up to, as best you can. While there is no guarantee that you will be successful in negotiating with a Private Equity manager, or in resisting the changes they will inevitably insist upon, the more you know the better you will do. That is guaranteed.

Below we present 11 employment tactics of most Private Equity-owned employers, and the best steps we have found to resist their impact. As noted below, one thing you might do, right away, is to consider changing employers, or at least testing the waters, because that is your ultimate response to these tactics: seeking employment elsewhere.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Keep a sharp eye out for these 11 Employment Tactics of Private Equity Investors: Read the rest of this blog post »

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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