Last week I told the story of Laura, a long-time acquaintance from Vancouver, who had been in negotiations with a company regarding a new position. She had been offered a job and had asked for a few days grace in order to think through her decision. She received an email assuring her that the job would be held pending her decision until Thursday of the following week and when she called on the following Wednesday was told that the job had been given to someone else.
I asked you, my dear readers, to weigh in with your thoughts on this matter and, boy, did you ever.
Seldom have any of my blogs led to my phone ringing as many times as it has this past week and it seems, sadly, that Laura’s experience is far from being an exception.
Nine of the folks who took the time to call informed me that either they or someone they know well, had exactly the same experience as Laura, each one having had a written promise of a job being held until a future specified date only to find that the commitment was not worth the paper it was written on.
Others called to share similar experiences where the word of a person representing a company was not honored and senior management, when made aware of these reversals of promise, did not see the act of not honoring their very word by their employees to be a big deal.
I was told of a person who was verbally promised a substantial raise by his boss. This was followed up by a confirming email sent to the employee, who later discovered when the boss reneged on his promise, that this was a pattern known to many within that organization.
The son of a friend of mine told me that prior to being transferred to another city to assume a more senior position with his company that he had been assured, in writing, that all moving expenses, including legal and real estate fees, would be reimbursed by the company, only to find out, after having relocated his family, that reimbursement was “not corporate policy, the person who had made the commitment to them should not have done so, and oh well, too bad, so sad.”
Having listened to this somewhat steady stream of these types of stories I could not avoid asking myself whether we have reached the point where our word truly has no meaning.
I remember, as a very young boy growing up in Cape Town, my grandfather telling me how, in years gone by, he had frequently bought and sold property simply on the basis of a handshake whereby he and the buyer or seller would agree upon a price, shake hands on the deal, exchange cash, and then meet up several days or weeks later and stroll down together to the Land Office to formally register their transaction.
My grandfather naturally assumed that the whole world operated that way and would undoubtedly be shocked to hear of these types of stories today.
Not for a moment do I believe that this type of behavior has become the standard in our business world but, having listened to all these stories, it does make me wonder how widely the “okayness” of this type of practice has spread.
I am curious to find out whether stories of this nature are simply becoming standard practice and, in an effort to explore this further, I am conducting highly unscientific research by asking you to please contact me if you have a similar story to share.
I don’t believe we have sunk to new lows. I do believe that the vast majority of folks would rather take a bullet than not keep their word and that those who are unable to keep their word, through no fault of their own, suffer sleepless nights as a result.
I want to believe that the stories relayed to me this week are anomalies that rarely occur.
Part of me is anxiously awaiting your calls and the other part hopes I never hear from you.
Till we read again.