Welcome to the Team, We’re Thinking About Firing You

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I was chatting with a colleague about a talented new hire he was hoping his company would be able to bring on. The candidate aced her interviews and came with high recommendations. She went to the right schools and interned at the right firms.  Everything seemed on track until she received her offer letter. The letter was all roses and sunshine until you got to just about the last paragraph. Early on it mentioned how impressive she was and how they would be happy to have her be part of the team. Further on it described the compensation program and the great pay she would receive.

Then, just before the “let us know when you want to start” section, it included a little reminder. “You must attain the following license within X months of your hire or your employment will be terminated.”

The candidate was offended by the overt mention of this.  She  knew about this rule. It was mentioned in her interview and stated in an addendum. Why did the company feel the need to add this comment in the letter itself? My colleague asked his HR department and their answer was: “Because we can terminate a person if they don’t have their license.”

It made me think about the communications we commonly send to employees. How many times, in the interest of being careful, or “covering ourselves”, do we include a statement that negates the positive effect of an entire document or program?

My first thought was we are living in sensitive times. Maybe some of the people we are hiring today have never received strong “constructive” criticism. Perhaps people need to toughen up a bit. Then I brought up the topic with a group of professionals with a wide range of ages and experience. I gained a fresh perspective.

My favorite comment from this discussion was from someone who compared the negative statement to communicating with existing staff. “You would never do that with someone who already worked for you. It would be like saying good night to your staff each day with: Have a nice evening, see you tomorrow…maybe.”

Very few people take a job just for the money. No matter how much compensation is offered, we need to make sure everything else communicates the same high regard for the candidate as does the money.  It's hard to get someone to come to the game, when you have made it clear they might not get to see the end of it.

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