Great Employer or Scary Employer?

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Great Employer or Scary Employer?

As we all know, most job advertisements tend to be pretty dull, given that they basically follow the age-old “hey, here’s why we’re an awesome company” and “we’ve got this role we need to fill” and “here’s the 143 specific skills and qualifications you must have to be considered for it”  type of formula.

The other day, however, I came across a published listing (I’ll leave the company name anonymous) that contained some pretty unusual language.  In addition to all of the standard skills/qualifications stuff mentioned above, the advertisement in question also included a particular list of items — called “Principles of Working Relationships” — apparently designed to describe the organization’s corporate culture and spell out the expected behavior of employees at their firm.  And just to clarify, this advertisement was for a professional-level position — not a retail establishment, hourly role, or unskilled labor environment.

So here’s what was sitting smack in the middle of the ad…

Principles of Working Relationships:

•  You and your manager have agreements about what work is to be done and how and when it is to be done.  These are often documented in your Job Description or other documented system.
•  Changes in work requirements are made after mutual agreement between you and your manager.
•  You take full accountability for performing the work and achieving the results as agreed.
•  Your manager is accountable for providing you with the resources and guidance needed.
•  You are accountable for notifying your manager, and any other affected people, in writing if the work will not be performed or the results will not be achieved as agreed.  Your manager will also notify you if commitments made to you cannot be achieved.
•  Your manager can assume the work is being performed as agreed unless otherwise notified.
•  Periodic check-ins between you and your manager is the main vehicle for keeping each other informed about how work is progressing.
•  Failure to notify of exceptions or missed due dates – in other words silence – is not acceptable.
•  Encourage your coworkers to communicate challenges and opportunities to their manager, rather than to fellow coworkers.
•  Relationships built on trust are developed as managers and associates keep their commitments and successful results are achieved.

So here’s the interesting part.  I’ve shown the above advertisement to several people so far, and when I do, I get a totally mixed response to it.  Some people think it’s a very positive and useful addition to the normal fare, since it sets expectations and lets potential candidates know exactly what kind of environment they’d be walking into.  Other folks, however, seem to find it highly offensive, indicating their belief it reflects a “big brother” type of management style and implies that most professionals don’t already practice these types of habits — and need to have them clearly spelled out, in writing, as if they were in second grade.

So I’ll let all of you out there weigh in and help break the tie, if you’re so inclined.  How would YOU feel if you were applying to an opportunity that spelled out a list of “rules” or “expected behaviors” in this fashion?  Like it?  Don’t like it?  Think it’s a potential red flag?  Love to hear your thoughts, if you’re willing to share them.  Definitely one of the more interesting things I’ve come across in an advertisement, recently…

By | 2016-10-20T17:37:25+00:00 July 20th, 2016|Job Searching, Negotiating|15 Comments

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  1. Karen July 21, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Although I respect the fact that they have such procedures in place, this is something that would belong in the agreement that the employee signs when they are hired, not on a job posting that is seeking senior level talent. If I didn’t know anything about the company, I would probably do some research before applying for this one. There must be some history there to make them feel that they have to establish this from the onset.

  2. Jennifer July 21, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    As I was reading “the list” and recalling previous jobs I’ve held, some positions came immediately to mind where this ‘agreement’ would have been very much in line and even welcome and appreciated (and dare I say ‘normal’) within a particular company’s culture. In other positions, it would have been viewed by any of the employees as ridiculous and a total ‘red flag’ indicating that serious micromanaging would be happening. Given that – as a contractor – I’ve worked in a plethora of vastly different cultures, I can see where this could be both a help and a hindrance to both potential and eventual employees so it would boil down to whether or not a potential employee who was viewing this before becoming employed with the company could (or would want to) work in an environment where this type of thinking was “the norm”.

    Personally, I would very much appreciate seeing this in a job post BEFORE pursuing the company and/or accepting a job offer (esp. if it’s a permanent one) as then I could weigh the expectations and culture against my own expectations and the type of culture and environment for which I’m looking and ideally suited – based on my work style and personal needs. Some people don’t care about culture, environment, fit, etc. and can “get in and get the job done” regardless of what’s going on around them while others discover about themselves that “the right fit” is paramount to job satisfaction and personal enjoyment and can make or break a job offer.

    Another thought that comes to mind is that this “list” could be in response to a company having been unsuccessful in filling a particular role with the ‘right person’ because needs and expectations hadn’t been clearly communicated and therefore this was the way to end the ‘revolving door’ issue. Put it all out there, right up front, so there are no surprises and THEN those who are not intimidated or put off by “the list” (and who might actually appreciate and welcome it) would likely be the ones to respond and be the type of person the company is attempting to attract.

  3. Mark Mitchell July 21, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    Definitely scary. I don’t like it. Can you imagine what their employee handbook looks like.

  4. Matt Youngquist July 21, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    Anonymous Comment Received: “Matt — I read the list above, and it all seems so reasonable that it seems extremely odd to put it in the description = red flag. Also covering for their own disastrous management comes to mind, because, again, how bad are you at interviewing that you need to state this? This is exactly how I would expect an org. to operate and yet I bet there is something very wrong… still wouldn’t stop me from applying, ha ha…”

  5. Anonymous July 21, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    This would be a definite red flag for me. These are requirements for any professional, so this rings of Micro-management, even at higher levels – Run for the hills! As already expressed by others, we all want to work with accountable people who uphold these work values, but adding it to an employment post sends all kinds of negative messages, like… So do they have a problem with their professionals = the need to broadcast this?

  6. Matt Youngquist July 21, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Anonymous Comment Received: “There is an undertone of ‘discipline will be enforced’ but no specifics other than what is unacceptable behavior. If this a senior level recruitment I would most likely take it as an assumption on the part of the hiring folks that “you better toe the line “….or else! Not a very encouraging welcome coming in the door. Wonder who wrote the job description ? HR other senior exec?”

  7. Matt Youngquist July 21, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Anonymous Comment Received: “Hi, Matt. Simply. O.M.G. I am surprised they did not include and “you will be expected to come to work each day on time…if not — you will be expected to call in and advise your manager….etc etc. I think it is a reflection of the a younger work force that has not been accountable….and the company might have been burned on behavior that says ‘well, I didn’t really feel like it, and it really wasn’t all my fault, it was hard…….’ I think any professional that has any sort of career history would question the depth of the company that even thinks this is an appropriate job description for a professional! It’s even a bit much for 1st timers, or hourly folks…….it’s degrading. Well THAT certainly hit a hot button!”

  8. Matt Youngquist July 22, 2016 at 2:46 am

    Anonymous Comment Received: “Matt: I think this company is used to employing a lot of entry-level people in professional roles and they are trying to mitigate that by spelling these rules out. I had an intern while I worked at my last organization, who was a recent graduate, and spelling these rules to him in writing upfront would have made a lot of sense. You could even add ‘You have to answer e-mail within one business day’ and ‘You have to answer calls on that big black desktop phone and respond to voice mail’ to the list. I’d also mention, as somebody with a lot of international background, that some of the points of view expressed above are likely coming from the standpoint of 1st world professionals, accustomed to kids who learned civics in school. That is not the case in other countries, and often is not even part of common culture. At my prior employer, many of the behaviors/problems cited were issues at all levels in the organization — up to the C-suite — impeding communication, creating tensions, and making the workplace unpleasant.”

  9. Ann Kruse July 22, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    My reaction: this is the way normal adults work together – except when they don’t. I’ve been on the “disappointed” side of projects where managers did not keep their side of this unspoken bargain. So my initial reaction is that it’s a breath of fresh air to make this explicit. However, it’s done in a ham-handed way, making it a rule with a threat of discipline, rather than as a positive aspect of the culture.

  10. Michael Eyer, Ph.D July 24, 2016 at 3:07 am

    it’s an interesting concept. I don’t believe you’ll be able to ‘break the tie’ by asking for comments without asking the commentators for a bit more info – and of course promising not to spam us / sell the info. I believe you’d see a different response from boomers (me) and millenials; from people w/ at least a bachelor’s degree (me) or less education; from whether the resondent is from white collar (me) or blue. In other words your “answer” will be meaningless without more data.

  11. Jim Gaynor July 24, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Tremendous red flag.

    To dedicate that much explicit verbiage says, to me, that they’ve had problems – Big Problems – with working relationships at this company. Big enough that they want to put it in the public job description, rather than have it be part of the 2nd stage interview process (“let me tell you about how we view working relationships”) or in the employee handbook. Especially with that kind of declarative “these are the Rules” phrasing.

    And if the working relationship problem is that large, then chances are excellent that it’s still going on.

    Any posting with that section in it would be a Pass for me, unless I had an inside contact with the company that could give me detailed information that it was there for a different benign reason.

  12. Marie L. Koltchak July 24, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    The items on the list seem like no-brainers — they seem like reasonable soft skills.

    The item, “You and your manager have agreements about what work is to be done and how and when it is to be done.” seems odd — that is the basic premise of working for someone/an organization, and many relationships in general come to think of it.

    I wonder why someone would feel the need to spell that out.

    I project a scenario where a manager (or whoever wrote the list) has had one, or a few, challenging experiences and has developed this list as a heads-up/wish list. The phrase, “Encourage your coworkers to communicate challenges and opportunities to their manager, rather than to fellow coworkers.” seems code for, “Please find me candidates who will communicate rather than gossip (and sow mayhem) for the love of Pete!”

  13. Anonymous July 27, 2016 at 4:10 am

    If you have to spell it out in this level of excruciating detail, I can only imagine what the processes must be like when working there. This is common sense stuff spelled out at a third grade level for a professional level job? Um, no thanks. I’d never apply to work there. It comes across as pedantic, at least to me.

  14. D September 2, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    My work history expands over 30 years. Looking back on past positions, very few I’ve experienced where management is constantly spending time and money controlling employees, as this ad portrays. If this is an entry level position, then there is an expectation on behalf of the company that they will need to train each person they employ into this position, or pay a professional the wage they deserve and not worry about all the training and headaches. This ad is highly negative and will attract that negativity. There is nothing mentioned about appropriate training and openness to work together as a team. It’s no wonder people do not speak up and do a great job, they are probably treated accordingly by management, therefore, all the rules are being spelled out in the job description. I would never keep reading the job description to the end if I was not reading to critique for this blog post. :) Next!

  15. Anonymous September 11, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    Great post – it has a bit of a threatening overtone to it, but at the same time it is common sense. My sense is there are some trust issues between the hiring manager and some of the people that she or he has working at this time.

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