Difficult Choices

 
“It’s not hard to make decisions
when you know what your values are.”

– Roy E. Disney

NOTE: This Newsletter is of considerable length, befitting its importance to so many. For this reason we are presenting it in two installments, this first including Elements of Comparison 1 through 9, the second including Elements of Comparison 10 through 18. The second installment will be published next week. “Stay Tuned.”

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: Danielle, a senior marketing executive, was quite unhappy in her job. Her employer’s management was extremely dysfunctional. Sales were soft for many reasons, and, of course, much of it was blamed on her and her team. With 21 years experience, she knew her team was running on all cylinders, but even great marketing can’t undo an outdated product, an insufficient marketing budget, and almost daily interference with marketing decisions imposed by the CEO’s wife.

Without her reaching out, she was contacted by a recruiter with a very intriguing opportunity, with (a) better salary, (b) but lower bonus opportunity, (c) greater retirement benefits, but (d) later retirement age, (e) a new, exciting product line to market, but (f) a small marketing budget that gave her limited discretion. The position also came with a three year contract, but it required relocation to a city she’d never before even visited. A confusing list of advantages and disadvantages, positives and negatives.

To say it was a hard choice to make would be an understatement. Danielle knew the positives and negatives of her “bird in the hand,” but didn’t know what she would experience with the “two in the bush.”

Working with Danielle was one of my favorite client experiences. It involved first identifying, and then weighing, her personal values, career planning, life goals and difficult choices.

In the end, she made the move to the new job, and fortunately has never looked back. In hindsight, it was surely the better choice, but as they say, “Hindsight is 20-20 vision; the harder ‘sight’ is ‘insight.’”

These days many people face this dilemma, as company after company seeks to improve its human capital, expand, or just “see what is out there.” If you are in this situation, or if you receive two job offers, the decision between or among your available job opportunities might be a difficult one. Even if you find the decision an easy one to make . . . are you sure you considered all of the factors that are wise to take into account?

LESSON TO LEARN: Depending on your personal preferences, brand and skillset, as well as whether we are in “good” or “bad” economic times, it may seem that job opportunities are depressingly scarce or wonderfully abundant. Whether job opportunities are scarce or abundant, employees often have occasion to decide between (i) leaving their jobs for other offered positions, or (ii) making a choice between two or more new positions offered to them at one time. It is common that comparison of two jobs, or two job offers, can be a difficult thing to do. It is often an “apples vs. oranges” comparison, and can get quite confusing. And, so, we offer you the same list that we offer our clients to make these difficult “apples vs. oranges” comparisons.

The list we offer below has another, somewhat unintended, advantage: It may remind you of one or more job opportunity components of comparison that you had simply not even thought about. Like a checklist of sorts, it may bring to the surface of your consciousness something that had been lurking in your mind, heart and soul, that had not yet come to the surface of your awareness.

For those facing the need to make a choice between “take this job or take that one,” below is what our clients have found to be the most important elements needed to compare, and a simple way of doing so. It is not scientific, it is not foolproof, but most of my clients who have used it reported back to me that it was extremely helpful. Hopefully, it will be for you, as well.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: When you need to compare two or more employment opportunities – whether it’s a choice between two different offers, or remaining in your present job, or accepting a new offer – you need to make your decision wisely, prudently and carefully. For that reason below we present these common elements of job opportunity comparison as a “tried-and-true” method of doing so.

Depending on your values, one of these elements of comparison may be of no consequence to you, while to another person making a similar comparison, that person may consider it the #1 determinant of his or her decision. It all depends on what is important to you.

This exercise is also of real value in helping you see which elements of each job opportunity you may raise in another round of negotiation. And, too, this exercise may show you that you need additional information before making a decision. Incidentally, please do not think that our order of presenting the following elements of job offer comparison reflects what we believe are the most important ones; it does not. What is important to you is all that counts.

Please also don’t expect perfection or precision in this process. Scores of, say, 52 versus 55, will not likely mean much. On the other hand, if your overall scoring for different job opportunities yields a 79 for “Job A,” versus a 12 for “Job B,” you have a clear indication that something is telling you “Get out of your fog, open up your eyes to what the numbers are telling you, and don’t look back.”

To begin, simply (1) print out this article, (2) in the left-side margin, enter your scores for each element of “Job A,” and (3) in the right-side margin, enter your scores for each element of “Job B.” (4) Then tally them up. Consider trying this exercise more than once; practice only improves your precision:

1. Base Salary. I am certain that I do not have to remind you of the importance that base salary will play in your job opportunity comparison. That said, it’s also true that it is only one element, among many, and often not a critical one. For example, in some industries, base salary is only 10% of overall yearly compensation. At the same time, a relatively small difference between base salaries is often meaningless to your overall decision regarding which position to pursue, especially when you take into account the effect of income taxes on your actual take-home.

On a scale of –5 points to +5 points, assign to your “scorecard” how you view the Base Salary offered by each of the job opportunities you are comparing, –5 denoting “it’s a real problem,” +5 denoting “it’s a really attractive element of this job opportunity.” Put your “Job A” score in the left margin, your “Job B” score in the right margin.

2. Title: Title is something that you can’t spend at the supermarket, but it is a basic element of comparing two or more job opportunities. Title suggests authority, either a little or a lot. It also sends a message to those around you of your importance in the overall enterprise. It also reflects your proximity to power inside the organization. The size and quality of your benefits package, too, can depend on your title.

Title is also something of a step on “the ladder of success” which may make you eligible, or ineligible, for a next job you seek. Would you rather be a “Senior Client Relations Manager” or an “Executive Vice President?” Does it matter at all to you? It may or it may not; that’s the point of the exercise.

Remember to “score” the Title element of your job or job offer comparison on the suggested scale of –5 points to +5 points.

If at an existing job, you can always ask for a raise at this time instead of leaving. Asking for a Raise can be tough. We offer a Model Memo to Request a Raise – with 15 Great Reasons that you can adapt for your own effective Raise Request. It shows you “What to Say and How to Say It.”™ To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

3. Non-Salary Cash Income Elements (including such elements as Annual Target Cash Bonus, Commissions Potential, and other Anticipated Additional “Cash” Income): Some people thrive on such incentives, being super motivated by them. Others would rather not have to think on a regular basis about what they will bring home each year. We are all quite different in this respect.

In reviewing this component of comparing job opportunities, give considerable thought to whether such incentive compensation is earned and paid on the basis of, (i) on the one hand, objective and measurable metrics of success, or, (ii) on the other hand, significant degrees of “the sole discretion of management.” Generally, the more objectivity of measurement, the less later disappointment; the greater subjectivity, the greater and more frequent will be later possible disappointment.

Whether important to you or not, please take the time to score each job’s or job offer’s Non-Salary Cash Income on our –5 points to +5 point scale, and record them in the margins. Is one a -4? The other one a +2?

On the job? Help yourself get a good next bonus. If you would like to obtain our Model Memo to Set Your Bonus Expectations with Your Boss, just [click here.] Shows “What to Say and How to Say It.”™ Delivered by Email – Instantly!

4. Sign-On Bonus: It seems that each year more and more of my clients are being offered sign-on bonuses. Employers like them because they are “one-time” payments, and immediately enticing, not something expected each and every year. Employees seem particularly enthralled with them, and thus they are an effective recruiting tool.

Beware, though, of the very real possibility that they may need to be repaid in full or pro rata if you leave the company, or are laid off, during a specified period of time, often two years, sometimes more, sometime less. You should ask whether it is repayable under any circumstances and, if so, what those circumstances are. And bear in mind, too, that repayment is almost always “before tax,” meaning that even though you paid taxes on this income, repayment will be “in full,” with no reduction for your taxes already paid.

Not to get you confused, but the reverse side of the coin of a “sign-on bonus” is a “retention bonus” that some employers offer to a departing employee who submits her or his resignation; this, too, may entail repayment if you do not stay for a specified period of time.

Like each other component of comparison, on a scale of –5 points to +5 points, assign to your “scorecard” how you view the Sign-On Bonus of each job opportunity you are comparing, –5 denoting “it’s a real problem,” +5 denoting “it’s a really attractive element of this job.” Zero is simply “There is no difference” or “I don’t care.” Might one opportunity be a –2 in this regard, while the other a +4?

We offer a Model Letter to Request a Sign-On Bonus (or Other Up-Front Payment), containing six alternative compelling rationales. It shows you “What to Say, and How to Say It.™ To obtain your copy, [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

5. Employee Equity: While inapplicable to government service, not-for-profit employment and most small privately-owned companies, many jobs offers include some form of “equity,” meaning common stock, restricted stock, stock options, so-called “phantom” stock, LLC Units and other forms of company ownership.

Of all of the common elements of job offer comparison, equity is the most difficult to compare, as it takes a good understanding of how these “work” to determine how valuable they may be.

Example: If you are offered options on 10,000 shares, does the company have a total outstanding of 100,000 shares, making you a 10% “owner,” or does it have outstanding 10,000,000,000 shares (that is 10 billion) which would make you an owner of one millionth of one percent? That sure is a big difference.

Example: Do your options cost you $100 to exercise (meaning, to purchase), or do they cost $100,000 to exercise? Can you afford it?

Example: What are the tax ramifications of being awarded equity? It can be quite complicated, and therefore requires discussion with a tax professional.

These and many, many other questions need to be examined before equity ownership can be compared. In this category of elements of job offer comparison, if you are not well-versed in the various issues of employee equity ownership, you would be wise to consult either an attorney, or an accountant, who is both experienced and knowledgeable.

Only when you do understand the details and relative values of one or more offers including equity ownership, use our scale of –5 points to +5 points, assigning to view of the Employee Equity offered by each job opportunity you are comparing.

6. Employee Benefits: Employers differ wildly in the “benefits” they offer, both in variety and quality, ranging from health insurance to life insurance to pet insurance. Working for a university or college may well provide free college tuition to your children. One client I know is willing to keep her present job – almost no matter what – because she will be getting all three of her children free college educations, together worth at least $600,000! Now, that is attractive!

Life insurance may be the most important benefit for you, or perhaps it is employer assistance in purchasing a home. A job offer may even include eldercare coverage for your elderly parents, which could be priceless in your circumstances.

The degrees and quality of Health Insurance coverage offered by prospective employers is one element of job offer comparison that my clients definitely do NOT pay enough attention to. I strongly suggest you inquire about this area of benefit if you receive a job offer, or just make sure you are fully aware of what your present job does provide. Other issues, too, should be examined, such as how long you need to be an employee before you are eligible to receive the benefit in question.

This element of comparison may make no difference at all, but, then again, it may be the one and only factor in your decision.

So, on a scale of –5 points to +5 points, assign to your “scorecard” how you view the Benefits offered by each job opportunity you are comparing. Might one opportunity be a –2 in this regard, while the other a +4? Then, put your scores in the appropriate margin.

To clarify important terms of your employment, such as (a) whether you will be required to sign a non-compete, and (b) when your health insurance coverage begins, we offer a “Memo to HR to Clarify Benefits and Burdens” of new employment. “What to Say, and How to Say It.™” To obtain your copy to adapt and use, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

7. Future Employment Restrictions: In some industries and positions, whether a job or job offer requires that you sign a non-competition or a non-solicitation provision or agreement may be your one “deciding factor.” This is so especially in positions related to Sales, Marketing, Customer Relations, and Business Development, in which pursuing clients and customers is your primary goal. Being required to potentially being out of work for a year or more, without income, can be the #1 issue for you; it is for many.

This may require that (a) you ask whether you will be required in the future to sign such “restrictive covenants” or “continuing restrictions,” and then (b) asking that assurances of no such restrictions will be put into a writing such as an Offer Letter. This may also require that you have an experienced attorney review and analyze the enforceability of any such “restrictive covenants.”

As with all of the “components of comparison,” get the data you need, and on that basis make a judgment of “+5 to –5.”

Be proactive and pre-emptive! Consider obtaining a copy of our “Model Letter to HR: Will I Be Required to Sign a Non-Compete for this Job?” “What to Say, and How to Say It.”™ To obtain a copy for your adaptation and use, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

8. Ownership of Your (a) “Creations” and/or (b) “Relations”: We live in a world where (a) “what you have created” and (b) whether you own all or some of the legal rights to it, may be the greatest determinant of your overall achievement and success. This is a matter of greatest importance in the media, technological and science-based industries, but it is a matter of great importance in whatever industry you are employed.

So, too, is it a crucial matter to determine whether your “Book of Business” on any job and in any job offer you receive is clear and in your favor, meaning that you can, indeed, “take it with you,” if and when you depart your employment, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. This is often overlooked at the job offer stage, to the great disappointment and regret of oh-so-many employees.

Remember to “score” the “Ownership of Creations and Relations” element of your job or job offer comparison on the suggested scale of –5 points to +5 points, or anywhere in between.

Want to have or share ownership or authorship rights in creative works you create? We offer Two Model Memos Requesting Ownership/Authorship Rights in what you create at work. If you do, just [click here.] They show you “What to Say, and How to Say It.”™ Delivered by Email – Instantly!

9. Is Relocation Involved? If So, What is the Better Location, and Who Pays for Your Move? This is one of those elements of job comparison that is very personal: Does taking the job require that you and your family relocate? For some people, relocating is a simple “non-starter,” while for others it is a “just perfect opportunity,” depending on their personal and family circumstances. One client found the Boston area simply without par as a place to raise her children, while another chose the Midwest as a preferable place to live his life.

Of course, integrally related to this element is whether the employer provides financial and/or logistical assistance for a required relocation, and if so, in what respects and to what extent. Beware of the presence of repayment obligations here, too.

Expatriation, which generally is meant to mean “temporary relocation to a different country” involves a very serious review of what is entailed, and provided to you and your family.

On a scale of –5 points to +5 points, assign to your “scorecard” how you view Location; Required Relocation, for one or both of your job opportunities you are comparing, –5 denoting “it’s a real problem,” +5 denoting “it’s a really attractive element of this job.” Zero is simply “There is no difference” or “I don’t care.” Might one opportunity be a +4 in this regard, while the other –3?

Look Before You Leap!! Get a copy of our 138-Point Master Guide and Checklist for Employees Contemplating Expatriate Assignments. Everything you forgot to ask about, and for, and then some! To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

REMINDER: Elements of Job Opportunity Comparison 10 through 18 will be published next week. So, “Stay Tuned.”

In Summary . . . (Part 1 of 2)

Do you have a job and another one offered to you? Perhaps you are in a job search, and have simultaneously received two job offers at the same, or almost the same, time. Or perhaps you are working at one job now, but applying for a job to see if you might be considered? In any of these circumstances you may find yourself confused as to how to decide between two job opportunities. We suggest you try to “clear the fog” in your mind with our “–5 to +5” method. It can help ensure you consider the key elements most people consider, and others, and also help you decide among them which is most important to you. It also might help you in requesting suggested modifications for an offer letter you may have received. The small effort is surely worth ten times itself in terms of your making the most mindful and meaningful decision you can make.

P.S.: If you would like to speak directly about this or other subjects, Mr. Sklover is available for 30-minute, 60-minute, or 120-minute telephone consultations, just [click here.] Evenings and weekends can often be accommodated.

SkloverWorkingWisdom™ emphasizes smart negotiating – and navigating – for yourself at work. Negotiation and navigation of work and career issues requires that you think “out of the box,” and build value and avoid risks at every point in your career. We strive to help you understand what is commonly before you – traps and pitfalls, included – and to avoid the likely bumps in the road. For those with two or more jobs or job offers in front of you, and having difficulty deciding among them, this method may help you make your decision, and then navigating and negotiating to your very best success.

Always be proactive. Always be creative. Always be persistent. Always be vigilant. And always do what you can to achieve for yourself, your family, and your career. Take all available steps to increase and secure employment “rewards” and eliminate or reduce employment “risks.” That’s what SkloverWorkingWisdom™ is all about.

*A note about our Actual Case Histories: In order to preserve client confidences, and protect client identities, we alter certain facts, including the name, age, gender, position, date, geographical location, and industry of our clients. The essential facts, the point illustrated and the lesson to be learned, remain actual.

Please Note: This Email Newsletter is not legal advice, but only an effort to provide generalized information about important topics related to employment and the law. Legal advice can only be rendered after formal retention of counsel, and must take into account the facts and circumstances of a particular case. Those in need of legal advice, counsel or representation should retain competent legal counsel licensed to practice law in their locale.

Sklover Working Wisdom™ is a trademarked newsletter publication of Alan L. Sklover, of Sklover & Company, LLC, a law firm dedicated to the counsel and representation of employees in matters of their employment, compensation and severance. Nothing expressed in this material constitutes legal advice. Please note that Mr. Sklover is admitted to practice in the state of New York, only. When assisting clients in other jurisdictions, he retains the assistance of local counsel and/or obtains permission of local Courts to appear. Copying, use and/or reproduction of this material in any form or media without prior written permission is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved. For further information, contact Sklover & Company, LLC, 45 Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 2000, New York, New York 10111 (212) 757-5000.

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