Your “Employment Values” – Why Take (or Stay in) This Job?

Determine Your Own Employment Values – That’s Where Workplace Negotiating Begins

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: Robb, 48 and Deputy General Counsel for a world famous media conglomerate, was asked by his boss, the General Counsel, if he might be interested in succeeding him. His boss was 66, and approaching retirement; he could, if he chose, recommend Robb for the slot. And his recommendation would carry a lot of weight. He asked Robb to think about it, and get back to him in the next month or two.

Robb was definitely interested in the job, but didn’t want to appear too eager. Privately, he’d always wanted to be General Counsel, but not for the job, itself. Instead, he saw it as a potential stepping stone to what he really wanted: to run an entertainment company, as CEO. Robb had seen other General Counsels in the entertainment field – especially the “dealmaker G.C.’s” – rise to run their companies. To Robb, that was where the action was, not in advising on legal issues and overseeing younger attorneys or outside law firms. On two prior occasions, we’d negotiated executive employment matters “against” Robb; both had been successful for both sides. Robb contacted us for help in his own upcoming negotiation.

We began our consultation with Robb the same way we start all new-job negotiation discussions: by asking our client to sit back, close his or her eyes, and see himself (or herself) happy in the new job, six to twelve months later. Then, we ask our client to tell us “What makes you happy about the job?” As examples, is it speaking in front of large meetings, or is it traveling the world over, or is it making a lot of money? It might be all three, or it might be 25 other things. We tell our clients: whatever you foresee as making you happy in that job . . . that’s what we want to negotiate to obtain for you. If what you gain in your negotiation is not what makes you happy, then no matter what the outcome is, we haven’t been successful.”

Robb shared with us his vision of happiness as General Counsel. Funny thing: it wasn’t at all what his boss did, day in and day out, as General Counsel: (a) overseeing outside firms’ efforts in major litigations, (b) attending conferences on motion picture piracy control, on which he was a noted authority, and (c) standing in for the CEO at investor relations meetings around the world. Robb hated travel, which interfered with his being a soccer and little league coach for his kids. And Robb never liked litigation, which he felt was little more than corporate “testosterone tournaments.” He did, though, very much enjoy investor relations meetings. Robb wanted the job of General Counsel, but he wanted it to make deals: deals with producers, deals with distribution companies, deals with institutional investors, and deals with public officials who could help pass anti-piracy legislation. He also wanted to stay home with his family, and stay as far away from the details of litigation as he could. And, with all candor, Robb really wanted to make a lot of money; he always thought it would be fair if he made a percentage “bonus” on the deals he closed for the company.

Other “employment values” that he enjoyed at present were not really important to him: his job’s prestige; his present job security; his multiple and valuable benefit package.

As it turned out, Robb wanted the “title” his boss had, but not the “functions,” and didn’t care too much about the benefits and perquisites of the job. That is, he wanted to be General Counsel as he saw it, not as it presently was. Funny, Robb had never realized that before. And it turned out that changing the central function was the number one issue to negotiate; everything else was secondary, at best. Would the CEO be interested in a very different kind of General Counsel? That was the key question.

After brief discussions, we learned the answer was a clear and resolute “no.” The CEO wanted a “legal” General Counsel; he wanted to retain the dealmaking role for himself, and his direct reports. He wanted a General Counsel to “clean up our problems,” as he put it. (Actually, he used more colorful language.)

In the end, Robb didn’t put his hat into the ring for the General Counsel job, after all. Instead, months later, he set his sights on a different job: as Managing Partner of a new company backed by venture investors where he was given the opportunity, the freedom and the role of deal making. Where he could make a lot more money, spend more time with his family, and do what he really wanted to do. Less prestige, less job security, smaller benefits package. But a job, overall, that suited him – and his “employment values” – a lot better.

LESSON TO LEARN: You’ve heard it before: “it all starts with values.” Whether you want to seek a job, or stay in your present job, you should – first and foremost – consider your “employment values,” those aspects of your employment that are, simply, most valuable to you. There are innumerable employment values, but here are a set of some of the most common:

–high compensation
–reasonable hours
–world travel
–prestige
–good benefits
–creative outlet
–entrepreneurial spirit
–absence of politics
–doing good deeds
–decision-making
–job security
–career stepping stone
–mentoring
–equity opportunity
–pension vesting
–independence of action
–flexible work arrangements
–family friendliness
–vacation
–excitement
–interesting work
–new experience

Simply put, you’ll do better at things you enjoy. Whether you take a job, seek a promotion, or ask for new responsibilities where you are, it all starts with your “employment values,” from which you can determine your specific negotiating objectives. Different jobs are consistent with different values: jobs that are centered on doing good deeds for others usually don’t provide the highest compensation. Jobs with great entrepreneurial opportunity don’t, as a rule, provide the most job security. You may have to choose one value over another. But at least your decision is a conscious one.

And employment values change over time: generally speaking, younger people tend to value experience and excitement, whereas those with a few more years tend to value job security and pension vesting. You may well find your own employment values change over time. If so, what you seek from your employment relation may should change, as well. There’s nothing at all wrong with attempting to “evolve” your role in your company as you evolve as a person.

Workplace negotiating starts with employment values. And the more your employment values are consistent with your employment objectives and function, the more you’ll have “the power of purpose in your pocket.” And one thing’s for sure: it’s hard to keep down a man or woman who is purpose-driven.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Periodically, take a step back to look at your employment relation in a larger perspective. Consider what’s most important to you. Not every job can give you everything. With your employment values in mind, you can better focus on (a) which jobs to consider, and (b) what negotiating objectives you will seek. Without considering employment values, you’re more a wandering hitchhiker than a purpose-driven person. Purpose-driven people know their goals, and purpose-driven people almost always achieve their goals. And achieving goals is what negotiation is all about.

If you would like to obtain a “model” letter, memo or checklist for your use with “new job” issues and opportunities [click here].

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