The check is in the mail and other corporate fables

Some of you appear to be on the verge of changing jobs and I thought I might do my part to demystify the process of figuring out what the prospective employer or HR person really means when making any of the following statements:

1. We are looking for someone with an advanced degree for this position

2. You are really overqualified for this job

3. We will start you on a provisional basis and in six months, after you have proved yourself, we will give you a raise based on your performance

4. I know we didn’t get the offer letter out, but we’d like you to start immediately

5. Your interview travel reimbursement check will be cut at the end of the month

6. We don’t have a workstation for you yet. Do you have a laptop of your own?

7. We are like a family here.

All of these statements have been said to me at one time or other, and they were delivered with the utmost sincerity. The reason I am writing this is that all of these statements were totally false.

The executives who said them were either clueless or consumate liars. In some cases, they were both. When I confronted them with the truth, they were astounded that I was making an issue of it.

If you hear any of these statements during your interview or during the first week of employment, head for the nearest exit. If you are persuaded to stay, as I have been once or twice, you will be most unhappy with your decision.

Here is what they mean:

1. We are looking for someone with an advanced degree for this position. We don’t care what you have done. Our policy is to fill senior positions with PHDs so it looks good to the board/ to analysts/etc.

If this is said by an HR person, it means that he is covering himself by ensuring that candidates are totally qualified on paper, because he has no clue if you are qualified otherwise.

2. You are really overqualified for this job. You are too old, too experienced, and I’m afraid you will expose me as an incompetent if you are hired.

3. We will start you on a provisional basis and in six months, after you have proved yourself, we will give you a raise based on your performance. If we can get you started at a salary lower than we agreed upon, we can defer giving raises to the other employees. In six months, we will have found so much fault with your performance that you will feel lucky if we keep at any salary.

4. I know we didn’t get the offer letter out, but we’d like you to start immediately. We should not have been so generous with the offer. You are so desperate we could have negotiated a better deal. We think we can get you to come on board with no written offer and we will begin renegotiating your deal after you have been working here for several weeks.

5. Your interview travel reimbursement check will be cut at the end of the month. Your new employer is playing funny games with money. You will find that this company has great difficulty paying bills of any kind. Whenever the subject of money comes up, the executives of this company will become evasive, change the subject, and will even attack you for your unprofessional attitude. Get out before it costs you your sanity.

Your termination check will be in the mail…for a very long time. Enough said!

6. We don’t have a workstation for you yet. Do you have a laptop of your own?. This company has its attention focused only on getting production out of you, not on providing you with the tools to do your job. If you fall for this opening gambit, you will be using your own laptop and providing your own supplies from here on out. Just wait until they try sending you on your first trip. They won’t have a credit card for you either and will ask you to put the charges on your personal card and fill out an expense report to get reimbursed. If you fall for this one, you should wear a T-shirt that reads, “Terminally Gullible!”

7. We are like a family here. This covers a multitude of sins. Quite often it means that all of the execs are related and the stupid ones are above criticism by non-family members. It also means that regardless of your competence and performance, it will be a cold day in Hell before you join the inner circle of executives who make decisions.

It can also mean that we do things together outside of work. This can get cloying if you have a life of your own.

Family owned companies are like benevolent dictatorships. When they work, they can be incredibly efficient. The problem comes when power is transferred to the next generation. Incompetent family ranks way above the competent outsiders when it comes to promotions. If you are any good, you will do better in a company that rewards performance and eases the incompetent toward the exits.


Last of all, one of the hardest things to learn is that you owe NOTHING to your employer, except good work for fair pay.

We learned the traditional idea of loyalty to the corporation from our parents before we could barely speak. Work hard, be loyal, and retire with a pension. Today, you are as indispensable as the person who mows your lawn or cuts your hair. When economic circumstances change, you cut back without a second thought. Same with companies.

You probably signed an agreement when you were first hired that you could be dismissed for cause or for no cause. You are an employee at will and can be let go with little or no notice. Think of yourself as a mercenary who honors his/her contracts and you will be mentally prepared for the modern workplace.

Trust in yourself and in your fellow mercenaries as they show themselves to be worthy of trust. Deal fairly with your boss and insist that he deals fairly with you. Never forget that HR people are not your friends. They exist to protect managers from you. They will always side with management, even when there is management wrongdoing. Finally, when it comes to trusting upper management, watch what they do, not what they say. There are some good guys out there. Just don’t assume that all are that way.

Hope this helps. Have I missed any of the really bizarre fables?

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