Read Fire Your Boss Online

Authors: Stephen M. Pollan,Mark Levine

Tags: #Psychology, #Self Help, #Business

Fire Your Boss (22 page)

BOOK: Fire Your Boss

On the other hand, if you leave on your own you’ll be a seller in a seller’s market. You won’t be competing with others from your company who were fired. There won’t be a slew of terminations from other companies in your industry. In fact, they may be interested in stealing away people from a competitor when times are good. If your industry is doing well, the support industries will be fine too. And unless your industry runs counter to the business cycle, other industries will probably be doing well too.

John Carpinose had been in the private security industry for more than a decade. After graduating college with a degree in criminal justice he had joined one of the country’s larger commercial security companies. A skilled manager who was willing to travel because he was single, John became one of the company’s “firefighters,” rapidly responding to divisions or regions that had problems. The growing pains in the business after September 11 had spawned more than the usual number of crises. Yet John still made time for his job fishing. It yielded four offers from other security-related companies in the span of six months. John was able to get a 50 percent increase in salary by jumping to a competitor in the midst of the business boom.
There are only four arguments you can make to get more money from your boss:


Your income hasn’t kept pace with the cost of living because of inflation.

You’re making an exceptional contribution to the company’s bottom line.
You’ve taken on new tasks and responsibilities, so your job has changed.
You’re not being paid the market rate for your services.
There’s no acceptable reason for an employer to turn down a cost - of - living increase. However, it’s not actually a raise, since all you’re doing is keeping pace with inflation.
If your contribution is a onetime occurrence, you’re liable to receive a bonus rather than a raise. Still, that’s better than nothing.
Having taken on new responsibilities, you’re due added compensation, but only if the company values your increased contributions.
Showing that you’re not being paid market value puts the company on the spot. To keep you they’ll have to give you a raise. Whatever they do, there will be a positive outcome. If they value you as an employee they’ll come across with more money. If they don’t give you a raise it means they don’t value you, they don’t have the money, or both. Whatever the reason, this means you should take another job as soon as possible.
Leave Something on the Table

Over the past couple of years some of my more enterprising clients have come to me for help in trying to perfectly time leaving their job. They accept that they were hired to be fired and need to leave before they’re pushed out, but don’t want to miss out in the process. They want to keep their job as long as they’re still likely to get raises and bonuses, but leave just as their potential for increasing their income has peaked. (See the box on page 179: Tips for Getting Raises.) These people are trying to do in the job market what others attempt in the stock market or in financial negotiations.

Stock market timers try to hold on to a stock as long as it continues to increase in value, only selling it at its top price, just before it starts going down, so they get every single penny from it they possibly can. Greedy negotiators want to hold out until they either get every last dollar the other party was willing to spend, or force every last concession possible. They want to sell for the highest price possible and buy for the lowest price possible.

I tell my clients they should feel free to time their job status this way…just as soon as they’ve shown me they can do the same with the stock market or in negotiations. I don’t mean to be flippant, but no one has ever figured out how to consistently time the stock market in this way. People always sell before a stock reaches its top price — and kick themselves for missing out on a few dollars more — or sell once it has started going down in price — and kick themselves for not selling sooner and missing out on a few dollars more. And no one has ever figured out how to always get every single dollar out of a negotiation. My advice to those trying to time the job market is the same as those trying to time the stock market or max out their negotiations: don’t.

Most people make the mistake of thinking there are discrete, readily apparent moments in the rise and fall of something they’re watching closely, whether it’s a stock price, financial concessions, or earnings potential from a job. High and low points can be seen only in hindsight. It’s only after something has started going down, after it has passed its tipping point, that you can see where and when it reached its peak or hit its bottom. The only way to be able to discern the high point or low point is to wait until it has passed. That’s why, whether it comes to the stock market, negotiating, or deciding when to leave a job, I advocate “leaving something on the table.”

Success in these situations isn’t getting every last penny; it’s getting a result with which you’re happy. When it comes to the stock market, that means selling or buying at a price which works, not just at the highest or lowest price. When it comes to negotiating, that means reaching an agreement with which both parties are comfortable, not just when one side has gotten everything possible out of the other. And when it comes to leaving your job, that means, if possible, leaving while you’re still valued, while you’re still getting raises. In all these instances, greed will get the better of you if you let it. Instead, be willing to settle for less than everything. Believe me, if you leave a job at a time when you might have been able to get another raise, you’ll make up for it in your next job.

Elizabeth Stoerdeur felt a bit guilty accepting the employee of the year award from the specialty cable network where she worked, because she knew she was going to be leaving in less than a month. Elizabeth had just been promoted and given a raise for being the driving force behind the network’s surprise hit of the fall season. At the network’s annual Christmas party two executive producers had separately pulled her aside to pass on the rumor that she was in line for the next executive producer opening. She bit her lip and didn’t tell either that, knowing how fleeting success in the media business could be, she had already accepted an executive producer job at another cable network.
Covert Versus Overt Approaches

You and I and everyone else in the world who’s been conscious during the past few years realizes there’s no job security anymore, and that employees are hired to be fired. But that doesn’t mean bosses are ready to admit it — at least not to all their employees.

If you’re a lower- or midlevel worker, bosses will show you no loyalty and will fire you at the drop of a share price, but they don’t want to see that you’re preparing for that to happen and, heaven forbid, could beat them to the punch. Bosses are very uncomfortable with assertive and empowered workers. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they will preach to you about loyalty and security and opportunities for growth and advancement in the company. They’re afraid that if they admit the truth you’ll be apt to leave as soon as you get a better offer somewhere else. They’re right. Still, for you to get the most you can out of this job for the limited amount of time you’ll be there, you need to play dumb. Do everything you can to meet your boss’s needs, as I explained earlier, and keep your plans for leaving undercover.

If you’re an upper-level executive, however, you’re considered part of the club. They think you’re a professional, a peer, rather than a lowly worker or subordinate manager. Employers will be less uncomfortable with one of their own club being empowered. Since they’ll see you as being on their level, they won’t pretend there’s any loyalty in the workplace. Their willingness to acknowledge the inevitability of your leaving opens up the potential for overt action on your part. The best actions you can take are to negotiate either an employment contract or a termination agreement that defines exactly what you’re entitled to when you’re fired. (See the box on page 183: Getting It in Writing.)

Employment contracts are all custom documents. All that’s required is that they include compensation figures and an agreed-upon term of employment. Other than that, anything can be included. And my suggestion is that if you’re getting some details in writing, you may as well get all the details in writing. Include information on benefits, retirement plan contributions, bonuses, raises, vacations, sick days, personal leave, severance pay, duties, even your place in the hierarchy.
I know it’s not easy to get employers to sign employment contracts. My clients have had success getting them using three different techniques. Some have successfully transformed raise negotiations into employment-contract negotiations. Others have used job offers from competitors as leverage to get a contract with their existing employer. But perhaps the most effective strategy is to ask for an employment contract and then negotiate a compromise by getting a termination agreement.
This works by playing to the ego of your boss. The conversation usually goes something like this. You ask for a contract and your boss says the company doesn’t issue employment contracts. Rather than giving up you say your primary concern is being terminated without cause. Your boss rises to the challenge and says the company “never terminates anyone without cause.” You quickly agree, saying you have total confidence in him and the current management, but what if the company is sold? Since you both
that your boss and the current management would never terminate without cause, drawing up a simple termination agreement would just be an emotional security blanket for you. Seven times out of ten this works.
Liam Nolan is respected in the antique business as one of the leading appraisers of vintage firearms. When the large auction house for which he worked became embroiled in controversy, Liam stepped up his job fishing and landed an offer at another major auction house. But as part of his deal, Liam asked for an employment contract. The auction house, while desperate to steal Liam from a competitor, had a policy against employment contracts. The head of human resources there was willing to sign a termination agreement, however. I helped Liam behind the scenes, but he and the human resources director were able to hammer out a fair agreement over a couple of collegial lunches. The agreement spelled out that Liam was entitled to a year’s severance plus continued medical benefits at the company’s expense for up to two years, or until he landed another job.
What Brought You to This Job Will Lead to Your Next Job

Whether or not you’re part of the executive club, you need to come up with your own checklist for when you’ll be leaving your new job. Note that I used the word “checklist” rather than “timeline” or “schedule.” You should be basing your job shifts not on how long you’ve been in a particular position, but on whether or not you can obtain improvements in the factors you use in judging job offers.

I tell my clients that one of the most important things they need to do in their first week on a new job is prepare a job factor checklist. Since you probably received so many job offers from all your successful personal networking, I assume you haven’t any blank charts left over from chapter 7. That means the first thing you need to do is turn back to page 152 and make another copy of that blank chart. Don’t do this at the office copy machine, however. While I think you should be ready to leave from day one, you want to do it on your own terms. Walking around the office with a copy of a book titled
Fire Your Boss
may lead to trouble, especially in your first week. I’d suggest you take a few minutes out of one evening that first week to go through this exercise.

Start by crossing off the words Offer #1 on top of the second column and instead write Current Job in that space. Now, go down the list of twenty factors, filling in information on what your current job provides in each area. If you’re not sure of the information, leave it blank and consult the employee handbook or human resources department the next time you’re in the office. Since you’ve only been there a week, questions about these kinds of details will be seen as the sort of standard fact finding every new employee engages in, rather than a sign of impending departure.

Use a pencil when you’re filling in the chart this time, however. That’s because every time you get a raise, a promotion, or a transfer, and any time the circumstances of the job somehow change, you will need to update this chart. Obviously this isn’t something you’re going to hang on the wall behind your desk. Keep it at home in the same place you keep all your important papers and documents.

Before you file the paper away, take a few moments to look it over. Starting tomorrow you’ll be back job fishing again. Your hoped-for catch is an offer of a position that provides more, in any or all of the twenty factors, than you’re currently receiving. It’s essential that you have a clear picture of your intended catch, your next job, in mind within two weeks of starting a new job. That doesn’t mean you’re going to jump at the first better offer that comes along, of course.

Bill Kaplan Fills Out a Job Factor Chart

In order to have a baseline against which to compare job offers, Bill Kaplan needed to fill out a job factor chart for his current job as assistant manager of the bookstore.

On the amenities line, Bill noted that the bookstore offered a very large employee discount on merchandise purchased.

There was no auto provided, so Bill left the next line blank.

Since this was Bill’s first nonwaiter job it presented quite a few challenges, primarily learning how to manage employees and the dynamics of the bookstore business. Bill wrote those items down on his chart.

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