Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 54 – the business context 3

This is my 54th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with a focus on the employee-to-employee and employee-to-business side of that as found in more individual jobs and careers contexts. See Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-51 for that side to this overall narrative. And in that context, I have also been discussing the business side of negotiating, starting with Part 52 and Part 53, as also found at that same Page 4 directory page.

I focused in Part 53 on what might be considered challenging, or at least potentially challenging contextual issues that can come to shape and even limit possible negotiations and from both sides of the table. Though in keeping with the overall orienting focus of this business-side phase of this series, I raised them in that more particular context:

• The problems that can arise from friction, where essential information that a here-business-side of the table negotiator would need, is not and even cannot be available to them in an error or gap free form and where and when it is needed.
• And how this overall phenomenon: business systems friction, can lead to restrictions on what people who are actually hands-on negotiating on behalf of a business, can even discuss let alone agree to.

And one of the consequences of these restricting processes, and of the first of them in particular, is that negotiations can enter gray areas of uncertainty. Though I have to add that restrictions on what a business-side negotiator can even discuss, and restrictions on what they can even consider addressing in any consequential manner can lead to gray area confusion and its consequences too, and regardless of how or why they become so constrained, too. Gray can flow both ways in this.

And that brings me to a crucially important point, and certainly where a manager has to negotiate under restrictive terms that they have real reason to see as going against their own professional interests, the interests of the team that they work with and lead, and the interests of its individual members – and even against the real interests of the business as a whole, as can happen when senior management in effect ties the hands of those under them, when facing disruptive change and when having to maneuver to accommodate that.

To take that out of the abstract, I began this business-side part of this series by returning to reconsider a particularly challenging negotiating context that I delved into in some detail from the employee side, in the first part of this series in its Parts 32-49: downsizings, where managers can often find themselves forced to in effect follow a set script and with no judgment or input on their side allowed for.

I ended Part 53 stating that:

• One of my primary goals here is going to be to offer approaches for finding if not creating some clarity in the midst of the fog of that grayness – and clarity that you can find useful in reaching better negotiated results that will hold with time.

And I begin addressing that by offering a basic suggestion that might sound more than slightly counterintuitive when faced in specific here-and-now negotiating contexts, with all of the pressures that they bring to bear and on all involved:

• The fog of grayness in this can become one of your strongest tools and certainly when you have to negotiate up a table of organization or chain of command, in order to be able to more effectively carry out negotiations on their behalf, or at the very least with their support.

Let’s take this out of the abstract by considering another real-world example. Corporate decides to end business support for employee development training, as this has been called in that business. Offering this as a special benefit and to both hands-on and managerial employees was a basic policy according to which those employees who meet all of their goals and a significant number of their stretch goals from their annual performance reviews and who score above some minimal high-level on their numerical scaled performance ratings, were given paid work time and tuition funding support, to take professional training courses or programs that would make them more valuable to the company. This might mean gaining new skills or expanding upon ones already held. This might mean gaining new professional licenses. My point is that this supported the business and it supported the people who entered into it; it benefited those employees and the teams they work in as well as the business as a whole. And now this program is going to be stopped, and for what are primarily short-term justified budgetary reasons, to the extent that any such explanations are offered at all.

I picked this example for a reason; it might arguably be seen as a fog and grayness-free decision. But that might only holds true in the abstract, and real uncertainty might arise in the specific instances that it would have to be carried out in.

You are a mid-level manager who has some technically skilled superstars on your overall team. One of the lower level managers who reports to you and who has one of these particularly high value employees on their immediate team, comes to you to tell you that he just got an email telling him that a skills and license upgrade program that that employee was told in writing he could attend under the old terms, was not longer going to be supported for them. This employee had gone to a great deal of effort to make sure that their participating in this would not be disruptive with that including, their having put in a lot of unpaid overtime work in preparation for it. And if this is canceled this way, the business will probably lose them as a result.

Where is the gray fog in this? Start with that written agreement to support this employee in their participating in this training program, that is now going to be overturned. Are exceptions going to be made for people who are already taking such a professional advancement opportunity now? And what of those who have been formally told, and in writing, that they would be able to do this for specific professional advancement courses or programs. Would that qualify as breach of contract, if this was entered into as a formally stated employee benefit for those who qualify for it, and it is suddenly stopped and even for those who were already enrolled – and who might not be able to back out without steep cancelation fees if nothing else? And even if this does not qualify as a legally restricted breach of contract, what am I supposed to do to address this at least breach of trust that all of my best people will see in this?

• Frame your side of this in terms of the uncertainties that can arise, in the specific contexts that you seek to address.
• Be very focused on precisely what you seek to accomplish. In this case that means finding a way to get the business to grandfather in employees who are already in this, and with that including anyone who was told in writing that they have been approved for one of these employee development options, and certainly if they are now financially committed there.
• And frame this in terms of risks and benefits to the business, whenever possible. Do not just make this all about risk or benefits to yourself or to the people on your team – and even if their concerns are in fact what would drive you to attempt this negotiation at all.

I have written in this blog, and certainly in earlier postings to this series, of negotiating with people as if from the same side of the table as them, and with a goal of reaching win-win resolutions from that. That definitely applies here – and with your goal being one of making senior management see a tapering of this program, rather than an abrupt ending, as a win-win with them coming out ahead too.

• If you can define the terms of where issues are gray and foggy, that are consequential to what you seek to negotiate towards, you can significantly contribute to the defining of any new clarity that might be reached to replace it.

I am going to continue adding to a set of more general business-side negotiating tips in what follows, but with this in place I am going to begin to delve into some of the specifics, as at least preliminarily listed in Part 52. And I will begin that with a discussion of a complex of issues that I of necessity pointed to in my working example here:

• Negotiating with peers and negotiating up and down a chain of command, however that might be defined in a business.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 53 – the business context 2

This is my 53rd installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with a focus on the employee-to-employee and employee-to-business side of that as found in more individual jobs and careers contexts. See Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-51 for that side to this overall narrative. And in that context, I have also been discussing the business side of negotiating, starting with Part 52, as also found at that same Page 4 directory listing.

I began this more business oriented narrative in Part 52, by reconsidering one of the most challenging and consequential negotiating contexts that an employee of whatever rank or title can face in a jobs and careers setting, unless that is they are among the few who find themselves explicitly protected from it by a golden parachute: a downsizing. I addressed this complex of issues and challenges in some detail, from the employee perspective in Parts 32-44, and then in Part 52 from the perspective of a business manager who may find themselves forced into carrying this out and even when doing so goes against their best interests as they see them.

• It is all but universally assumed that an employee facing a possible downsizing approaches that from a position of powerlessness. That can be true; it is certain to become so if it is simply assumed to be.
• But managers who have to select and dismiss there can be acting under orders and under what they see as coercive pressures, if they are to avoid being let go too, that can seen just as disempowering.
• And a manager who does as told there and selects and dismisses is likely to approach that knowing that they may be sitting on the other side of that table if and when a next round of such lay-offs are carried out, too.

One of my more general goals for this half of this series, as stated in Part 52, is to address the challenge of separating personal and individual, from business when representing a business and either as a whole or for some area of it. And I acknowledge up-front, in anticipation of further discussion of this set of issues to follow, that this will mean considering what might best be thought of as gray areas: areas of uncertainty as to how best to proceed, that can and do arise in real world contexts where negotiations become necessary.
• And that point of detail, as noted in Part 52, brings me to the issues of flexibility and of degrees of flexibility in what you can and cannot say, agree to and do, and how you might address that.
• That means understanding the constraints that you face and where you in fact can be flexible in your own decision making and follow-through. And it means finding ways to create greater flexibility for yourself in that, and particularly where you will be held responsible for outcomes realized.

I raised these topics points, in the context of that above-repeated more general goal in Part 52, and my more specific goal here is to at least begin addressing them. And I begin at least preparing to do so by raising the issues of clarity and consistency of message that any business negotiations might be saddled with.

I have repeatedly written of business systems friction in this blog and its series: the more microeconomic counterpart to macroeconomics’ economic friction. In both cases, friction is seen as arising from information and communications gaps and challenges, where consistent, accurate, timely information cannot be developed and shared where it is needed, when it is needed and with who needs it, and with consistent reliability. And this leads to both flawed and limited communications and to message inconsistency and the ambiguity that can come from that. But this noted, friction can also have its greatest impact here, when it means single consistent but less-than-effective messages being shared, and with prescribed actions that they contain within them, enforced.

Let’s consider this from a business negotiating perspective. When you are communicating and negotiating on your own behalf you may be doing so on the basis of faulty and incomplete knowledge, but effective negotiating always assumes that as a possibility so it is at least as much about fact-finding as it is about reach out to persuade and positively influence. But critically importantly from the perspective of this line of discussion, when you are communicating and negotiating on your own behalf, and strictly on your own behalf you do so with a single voice and representing that single voice.

When you approach this same basic task as representing an employer: a business, you have to represent several and even many distinct and separate voices, some of whom you might not even realize have been playing significant roles in shaping the basic messages and directives that you would work from there. And that is where the above-cited business systems friction enters this narrative.

As a set of rules of thumb, if not axiomatic assumptions,

• The larger and more complex the organization – or rather the larger and more complex the areas of it that you would represent in it (with all of those input-providing stakeholders included there),
• The more room and opportunity there will be for friction to arise there and both as information and directions are sent to you, and as you seek to communicate back and both to share ongoing results and as you seek advice, guidance or permissions.
• And added complexity as to what has to be negotiated, and added criticality for successfully completing those negotiations and in what has to be negotiated to accomplish that, all serve as friction creating multipliers there too.

And that is, among other reasons, why events such as downsizings can become so tightly scripted and with so little room to maneuver for anyone caught up in them, and certainly at anything like the level of how and when individual employees are being dealt with – or at the level of the managers who have to directly carry that out.

Friction and the communications and information development and sharing challenges that it creates, poison flexibility with uncertainty and with the pressures to risk-avoid that that creates.

I stated in Part 52 and again here towards the start of this posting that I would of necessity deal with gray area negotiating contexts here in this series progression. To clarify that, one of my primary goals here is going to be to offer approaches for finding if not creating some clarity in the midst of the fog of that grayness – and clarity that you can find useful in reaching better negotiated results that will hold with time.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment. Then after that I will proceed to successively address the other topic point issues raised in Part 52, expanding on that list as I proceed. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 52 – the business context 1

This is my 52nd installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in more individual jobs and careers contexts (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-51.) And I continue on from there in this series, starting with this posting, to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations.

I focused on the individual in the first half of this series, as jobs and careers negotiations all take place on an individual level, and certainly when viewed from the employee perspective. But I would argue that ultimately, business negotiations are also more individual in nature as it is people: individual people who enter into them and carry through upon them – not abstract business entities. So my initial goal for the progression of postings that I begin now, is to address and hopefully clarify the particular challenges that those individuals face when they have to be able to negotiate as individual people, but on behalf of larger and at times largely abstract organizational constructs, and at least occasionally where that means they’re negotiating against what they might see as their own best interests.

I write of what is to come here, in those perhaps stilted sounding terms because business systems and their goals can become abstractions. If you have any doubt as to the validity of that assertion, I suggest you’re rereading at least some of my postings in this series that address the issues and challenges of employees seeking to communicate and negotiate in the face of possible downsizings (as offered here as its Parts 32-44.) I addressed that complex of issues there, from the perspective of the individual hands-on employee or manager who might find themselves to have become caught up in one of those events and with them facing possible dismissal as a result; I offered that narrative in terms of directly involving personal impact for them. But consider the same issues and challenges from the perspective of the other side of those negotiating tables, and the other side of the conversations that might lead to them. When a manager faces having to carry out this type of business-side discussion, they might very well see themselves as being forced to harm their own best interests, and certainly if quota based selection and dismissal of members of their own team means they’re of-necessity losing people who they have come to see as being all but essential for their own success.

Those people, representing the employing business in all of this, are still individuals as they participate in those processes. But they are also agents of larger organizations and with that including legally constrained and defined corporate entities. They are there and functioning as agents of others, and of business processes and of the strategic and operational decisions that would invoke them into action. They are there and functioning as agents of business abstractions. And certainly in anything like a downsizing context, they might be constrained in what they can say or do, or agree to, according to highly choreographed guidelines. They might in fact simply be following a script and one that cannot allow for or permit much if any deviation on their part.

That, among other considerations, is why I placed so much emphasis in those earlier postings on finding and entering into conversations with people who can actually say yes: people who in fact can go beyond simply following a set script in what they say and do and even in what they can just listen to, let alone agree to. Reconsider that from the perspective of the business side of the table; consider a manager who has been given what amounts to a downsizing quota to meet, as their specific functional area of a business: their team has to carry its share of the pain from a downsizing, just like every other manager in their overall department has to. And they find themselves forced into following what amounts to a script there. Who can they talk to who might be in a position to enable them in this? Who might be able to give them room to negotiate in, for this?

Most business-sided communications and negotiations are not as inflexibly limited as this, but when someone represents a business and communicates and negotiates accordingly, there are always going to be at least some outside-imposed goals and guidelines: some restrictions. So I begin this new narrative here by raising the issues of range of flexibility when speaking and acting on behalf of others, and on behalf of businesses per se. And I begin this by coordinately addressing the issues of untangling when we speak for ourselves and with our own goals and priorities in mind, and when we are representing others, and larger business entities.

• My goal for this half of this series is to address the challenge of separating personal and individual, from business when representing a business and either as a whole or for some area of it, as begun here. And I acknowledge up-front, in anticipation of further discussion of this set of issues to follow, that this will mean considering what might best be considered gray areas: areas of uncertainty as to how best to proceed, that arise in real world contexts where negotiations become necessary.
• And that point of detail brings me to the issues of flexibility and of degrees of flexibility in what you can and cannot say, agree to and do, and how you might address that.
• That means understanding the constraints that you face and where you in fact can be flexible in your own decision making and follow-through. And it means finding ways to create greater flexibility for yourself in that, and particularly where you will be held responsible for outcomes realized.

Looking at specific situational contexts here, I will at least briefly delve into the issues of:

• Negotiating with peers and negotiating up and down a chain of command, however that might be defined in a business,
• Negotiating across a table of organization and
• Negotiating when that reaches outside of a business.

And as a part of this I will also discuss more general areas of consideration such as:

• The importance of arriving at win-win resolutions for any long-term negotiating success, and the perils of negotiated terms that at least one side would see as having been zero-sum for them and with they’re having lost in that,
• Conflicts of interest and both understanding and recognizing, and addressing them, and
• Negotiating in the context of change and the unexpected.

I will almost certainly add to this to-address list as I proceed in the installments to this series to come. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 51 – the jobs and careers context 50

This is my 51st installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-50.)

And more specifically, this is my second of two summarizing postings that I offer as I complete what has become a progression of fifty installments here, focusing on communications and negotiating in a more individual jobs and careers context. I offered the first of these two: Part 50 of this series as a whole, with a goal of at least briefly, categorically addressing the challenges of change and of the unexpected. Addressing that means rethinking and reframing your jobs and careers planning, and your day-to-day work practices with a goal of being more flexible and more adaptable, while connecting into your workplace community in ways that can make that possible. My goal here is to offer a matching discussion of the “systematic” side to that. And I begin doing so by directly confronting a readily perceived point of misunderstanding that many of us face when considering the two together: flexible and adaptable, and systematic and structured. Don’t they contradict each other?

• In a fundamental sense, my goal for this posting is to argue a case for seeing them as reinforcing and even enabling each other.

Yes, systematic and structured can mean rigid and brittle from that, with any stress, any pressure leading to fracture and collapse. But the systemic of perhaps less individually visible and addressable gaps of ad hoc and one-off as workplace routine can and do become just as risk creating. That perhaps opposite end of the spectrum alternative can and with time probably will lead to the same fractures and collapses. So the two might, at least long-term, be best considered as representing alternative faces to a same underlying planning and execution weakness.

• In a fundamental sense, my goal for this posting is to at least offer some thoughts in the direction of a viable and long-term beneficial middle ground that is built upon a combination of reasoned and considered stability where that would offer the greatest value, and adaptive flexibility where that would.

And I begin that with an essential core element to the stable foundation that I write of here, that I made explicit note of in Part 50: building mutually supportive networks with your colleagues where they would be more inclined to give you support when you need that in the face of change, because they know you are there for them too.

• Think in terms of building for adaptive flexibility from a stable foundation that can help you to be productively flexible.

Then be flexible, with that starting with your not slipping into workplace day-to-day ruts. And build for this with an assumption in place that you can achieve at least some of your goals as they might be challenged by most any circumstance or event that you might face (even if that means you’re being prepared for that with well considered Plan B possibilities in mind as a part of your more “stable” planning.)

• That last point of perspective is important. If you enter a potential negotiations opportunity assuming that it would be impossible for you to gain anything of value to you from it, that presumption will likely become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
• Good negotiations can lead to long term mutual gain. And remember, long-term stable, reliable gains are never zero-sum, winner take all. They are and they must be win-win where both sides see value to themselves in honoring both the terms and the spirit of those negotiations and their at-the-time negotiated agreements.
• And this means knowing your goals and your priorities and it means you’re being willing to compromise and yield on some points in order to gain on others.
• And reaching that means you’re knowing the goals and the priorities of the people who you would meet with and negotiate with, and as they see them.
• Negotiate from a consultant’s perspective and as if you were working together with the people you meet with on this, to help them reach their key priorities, while seeking your own as well. Negotiate as if from the same side of the table as them, in this, taking a non-adversarial approach.
• This means you stepping back from the potential emotions of the moment and of the issues at stake, and it means you’re reaching out to help those who you would negotiate with to reach that perspective too.

All of the above bullet points are about agile flexibility. But they cannot work with any real reliability, where they are carried out in practice, absent a well considered stable framework and approach.

And with that, I end this posting and this half of a basic narrative that I would offer here in this series: its jobs and careers side. I am going to turn to and begin discussing communications and negotiations from a business perspective, starting in the next installment to this.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 50 – the jobs and careers context 49

This is my 50th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-49.)

I devoted Part 1 of this series to offering a brief general orienting note as to what would follow it here as an organized series per se. And I did so with a goal of discussing more general issues and approaches and more specific contexts in which they would variously arise as important, where negotiating skills and negotiating approaches would offer value in a business setting.

I have attempted to at least selectively address both sides to that in what has followed, albeit with the resulting overall narrative often focused more on the specific than on the general. My goal here is to step back from what have often been those largely special case and specific circumstances, to offer something of a more general framework that they and other possible scenarios that I could have included here, would all call for and fit into. And I begin doing so by explicitly noting two points of detail:

• I selected the specific issues and scenarios that would arise around them here, because I saw them as holding value to a potentially wider audience, and because I have had specific experience with them so I could more knowingly address them, and
• I selected them in full awareness that I would of necessity leave out a great many alternative selection scenarios that could just as reasonably been chosen and developed here.

My goal for this posting is in effect, to at least categorically address those left-outs of that second bullet point and as a source of critically important if generally stated importance. And I begin doing so by acknowledging what should be an obvious reality. No matter how many specific business context issues I include here and no matter how comprehensively I seek to do so, I would still leave critically important gaps in what I would cover in this series – and even if I were to attempt as comprehensive an effort here on this as possible. So with that noted, I begin this posting’s main line of discussion by noting some crucially important facts that we all need to keep in mind:

• You have to be ready to face and address the unexpected and even when that means facing and acknowledging the reality of issues and challenges that you would prefer not to have to deal with. I have made note of this point a number of times in this series already, and certainly in the contexts of the specific types of negotiations requiring scenarios that I have raised and discussed here. But it is a generally applicable principle too.
• It is vitally important to be prepared and to be flexible in what you can be prepared for, from your ongoing work performance and from your ongoing workplace communications efforts. This means thinking through and performing on a day-to-day basis at work, in ways that can create and sustain supportive connections with others there. It means working and communicating more effectively. It means building bridges. And it means creating shared value, and it means you’re being a source of value that others can and do appreciate.
• And it is important to be agile and flexible in your thinking, and that you not simply slip into a day-to-day routine rut – as is all too easy a trap for any of us and certainly as our more routine day-to-day workplace experience smoothly proceeds. There, all last week, all last month, all last year … cannot reliably mean forever moving forward, or even just next year or next month or even next week. The disruptively unexpected can happen and with time it will.

Which of those points is the most important? My routine, less considered response to that question would probably be the third and last of them, as I have seen way too many people miss seeing what in retrospect should have been the obvious and essential, because they never look up to see what is, and is not taking place around them. But all three are in fact just elements of a larger and fundamentally indivisible whole. And with that noted, I add that I am writing this posting at a time when the entire United States national economy and essentially all businesses involved in it, are facing catastrophic change and uncertainty, and stress and challenge from the COVID-19 pandemic. I write this when essentially every nation is facing that, or will face it depending on where they are now as far as disease spread is concerned for them. Six months ago, COVID-19 did not exist and certainly as a pandemic, or even as just a more localized epidemic. Now it has virtually shut down entire business sectors and certainly where employees and managers would have to work together and with their clients and others, in person and face to face.

I raise this here, as businesses that can in principle operate remotely and via teleconferencing, video chat, web-based and other online sharable channels and approaches, and that have the capability actually do that, attempt to remain open and functioning and even with social distancing and other disease transmission containment efforts in place. And many are now attempting this and related disease containment-supportive efforts and often for a first time. And that brings me to the questions and issues of who would do this work and under what conditions and with what resources –and with that often meaning what online-connectable resources they individually have or can access at home.

• How would these hands-on employees and managers do this work, and when? Would they still work at least more or less “regular hours” or would they be expected to change or add to that in some significant way? As an extreme case situation would “work from home” come to mean “always on and always on-call for more work”?
• What would they be expected to do, or even provide in the way of information security in all of this? What of that would they be held responsible for and under what terms and conditions?
• What would their employer cover for expenses, of the resources that at-home, telecommuting employees or managers provide, that would be used for their work?
• And how would the novelty of what is required of these people be addressed as far as their compensation and related matters are concerned, where that can mean anything from determining overtime to managing sick time allowances? Should, for example a key-skills salary employee who would not usually be eligible for anything like overtime per se, be awarded what amounts to that as special compensation if they in fact do have to work significantly longer hours than usual, in order to address special critical needs issues?

These briefly stated questions only begin to touch upon the terms of employment and work-related benefits issues, that this sudden and unexpected shift to telecommuting and away from in-workplace work has brought us. And few if any of us, could have imagined the new employee-with-employer conversations and negotiations that must arise from all of this either, and certainly not that six months ago in our then still at-least seemingly pre-COVID-19 world.

I write a lot in this blog about change and about disruptive change and the emergence of the novel and the unexpected. That applies in the context of this series too, and that is a fact that cannot be forgotten except at peril.

I said at the end of Part 49 that I would turn here to “reconsider jobs and careers-oriented and supportive negotiations and negotiating processes as a whole.” And I have in fact been doing so in what I have offered up to here in it. But to complete my addressing that, I add one more key word to that here-repeated line of text: “systematic.” I am going to complete this more general discussion of negotiating in an employee-with-employer context in the next installment to this series. And then I will switch directions to consider business negotiating from a business perspective.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 49 – the jobs and careers context 48

This is my 49th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-48.)

As a part of that larger effort, I began discussing severance agreements, and severance packages that would be offered to a departing employee as a consequence of signing them in Part 45 of this series. I then shifted directions in this narrative after that, in order to discuss business-oriented social networking as it rises for its importance in that context, doing so in Part 47 and Part 48 . But I return with this posting to the topic of severance agreements again, as my next step point of focus in this narrative, and to the issues of what can be problematical severance agreements. And I do so by explicitly noting an issue that can arise, and particularly in a small or more medium-sized business, but that can in fact arise in any sized business where their leaderships tries to save money by cutting corners.

The specific corner cutting that I make note of here, arises when people who might be expertly experienced in other fields of endeavor but who do not have legal training or experience, act as if they did and in at least one crucially important area of their business. So at least in a Personnel and Human Resources context, they try cobbling together what might be significantly impactful legally binding documents, assembling them from portions of boiler plated or similar offerings that they have found online, and even when they do not know the provenance of those role models or where they might conform to specific legal codes in place – if that is, they would be considered valid and reasonable in any court of law anywhere.

That, at least, can be considered a more reasonable circumstance where the types of issues that I would address here can arise. An incompetent locally licensed attorney, if properly unmotivated can create those same problems too, and both for the business that they are working for and for anyone who that business would give copies of that work to. So I begin the core line of discussion of this posting by setting aside the question of where a faulty contract – in this case a faulty severance agreement, might come from. And I set aside the question of why that business might find itself burdened with this risk-creating challenge. And I focus on what happens when someone from Personnel or Human Resources places such a flawed legal instrument on the table in front of a soon to be former employee, and asks them to pick it up.

Let’s at least begin to address that with the fundamentals, and with some basic, essential questions:

• What do you need to achieve coming out of this meeting, as far as the benefits that you would receive from it are concerned? And what do you know up-front, that you want to avoid coming out of this too?

Now setting those general orienting points aside and focusing on this meeting itself, remember that the person who you are meeting with who is representing that business, has in most cases at least, no legal training or standing whatsoever. And remember that any advice or guidance that they might offer verbally as to what those severance agreement papers say or mean, holds no weight. That point of detail, I have to add, would also apply to generally stated comments and seeming agreements that an attorney representing that business might offer verbally, and certainly if that did not translate into a signed and initialed change to the formally presented written agreements in place and on that table.

The only details that count there are to be found in what is actually written in those documents that you are being asked to sign, and with whatever legal interpretations that a possible legal proceeding might determine for them if this were to come to court. So if that Personnel department or service clerk, or that third party outsider “rightsizing specialist” consultant or contract worker who you are meeting with, says that you would be agreeing to A if you sign those papers, but the papers actually say a very different B (with that perhaps buried in legal jargon), then the B interpretation is all but certain to prevail. Conservatively here, assume that B will always prevail, and as an absolute given and particularly if that would be more of a negative for you than a self-assured but uninformed A would be, as shared with you by someone who is simply trying to get you to sign those papers and leave.

And this brings me to the next fundamentally important questions that I would raise here:

• Do the finely detailed, legal jargon filled papers that you see in front of you come with a legally framed but layperson-readable summary that would help you to understand what the full documents contain? Or have you just been handed a thick stack of complex text and without any legally sustainable clarifying explanations, that would add weight and value to whatever you hear from the person carrying out this exit interview from the other side of the table?
• If this has been thought through in advance by your soon to be former employer and their (presumed) legal counsel, have they prepared and offered you an at-least briefly stated question and answer document that would address the more likely questions and their official answers, that you might face and need addressed if you are to act in your own best interest?
• And regardless of how those questions are answered in any given downsizing or other layoff or dismissal event, do you feel pressured to sign and as quickly as possible?
• Is the person carrying out this exit interview, sitting across from you at that table, verbally offering you more if you sign now and I mean right now, and less if you delay and even briefly?
• Now what happens if you say that you need to show this to your own attorney? And that might be very important and even essential from your perspective, particularly given the complexity of the text of most of these agreement contracts, and the fact that they are always written in legal jargon, and because of the importance to you that this be done correctly. What should you do if the person exit interviewing you falls back on “company policy” and says that you cannot take any of those papers out of the room with you unless you sign them, in which case you would be given copies for your records (because these are proprietary, sensitive documents)? And what should you do if that person relents but says that you must come back to sign them within some very brief specified timeframe, or you will lose all benefits beyond whatever minimum might be required by law?

My goal with that last point in particular but in fact in all of them, was to raise some specific red flags that should prompt you to demand a right to legal counsel. My goal there was to prompt you to at least pause and consider before signing anything that might prove to be fundamentally irrevocable and certainly on your part. And with that, and looking beyond your particular general, ongoing jobs and careers preferences and concerns as touched upon above, I raise three specific sources of constraint that you might very well face in any separation agreement documents, that can all prove to be either acceptable or problematical:

• Non-disparagement agreements,
• Non-compete agreements and
• Nondisclosure agreements.

In principle, all three can be simple and straightforward. But they can also be drafted in ways that can turn them into what amount to minefields for you, and even perhaps especially when they are simplest (and simplistically general) in their wording and in their range and duration of impact. These types of add-on documents, I have to add, constitute one of the key areas of possible concern here, where amateur efforts to draft contractually binding agreements from found-online content, can and do fail.

• Know what you are getting in return for signing a separation agreement with this business, that would hold positive value to you. Know what you are relinquishing and under what terms and for how long, if you do sign that agreement.
• And think long-term for both sides to that, and even if your inclination would be to take more of an immediate here-and-now focus on all of this as you wonder about more immediately upcoming bills due, and other suddenly emergent issues that you would hope your benefits package might help you with.

And know and demand your rights and your own individual rights, and even if you are one of a large group of individuals facing dismissal at once in a downsizing, and even if you have been part of a collective bargaining group and have lost your job coming out of such collectively organized negotiations.

And as a worst case scenario, if you reach an impasse with whomever is exit interviewing you and you see need to share copies of the documents that you are being asked to sign, with your own attorney, and they refuse to let you do so … smile politely and get up and head for the door. Then call a competent attorney who would represent you personally, and your needs, and who at least preferably would charge you only if you win your case, or who would do this work for you at a realistic cost to you. Smile and leave that room without verbalizing any recriminations on your part and without losing your temper – and particularly if you feel angry, hurt and even betrayed after years of loyal service there. That calm exterior and that willingness to not let your emotions shape and limit what you can achieve moving forward, might prove to be the most important and decisive decision you make and follow through upon in this type of meeting, and particularly if it goes south for you as is.

I have focused here on what are admittedly worst case scenarios because exit interviews and separation agreements that go smoothly and that would be mutually beneficial and for both you and your now former employer, do not need lengthy discussion. So I focused here on red flag issues and on a need to be aware of their potential, and on you’re looking out for them and responding to them if and when needed. And with that, I end this note by offering a perhaps trite sounding, but nevertheless helpful final thought. Hope for the best but be ready for the worst. And be ready for the more likely partly good/partly problematical middle ground that you are most likely to actually face. And be prepared to bring in expert advice for the likely problematical there, when and as that becomes necessary.

As a caveat, I readily acknowledge that I am not an attorney, so I offer this posting as advice to seek out professional help of that type when and as needed, and with as much awareness and understanding as realistically possible as to when you might need to pursue that path. And I offer this on the basis of my own experience and from incidents and problematical business processes and practices that I have seen in the course of my professional career.

I am going to step back from the more specific issues of this series’ Parts 2 through this posting in my next installment to this series, where I will reconsider jobs and careers-oriented and supportive negotiations and negotiating processes as a whole. Then after completing that summarizing discussion, I am going to switch directions to consider business negotiating from a business perspective – and what that even means.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 48 – the jobs and careers context 47

This is my 48th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-47.)

I began discussing severance agreements, and severance packages that would be offered to a departing employee as a consequence of signing them in Part 45 of this series. And I began discussing business-oriented social networking in that context in Part 47, as a core Plan B element at the very least, that you should be pursuing if you see a dismissal as possible or impending.

I strongly recommend you’re reviewing that posting in particular as I build from it here. And I begin that continuation by offering a point of detail that you should be prepared to have to deal with as you reach out to network with current colleagues, who might at least potentially be able to help you and with specific advice and further networking leads if nothing else when you face an impending lay-off or dismissal and a need to find further employment elsewhere:

• Downsizings and impending layoffs or other dismissals are frightening, and understandably so. So you might very well find that even your colleagues there who you have been on friendliest terms with, and even your colleagues there who you have gone the farthest out of your way to be of help to through extra effort on your part, might suddenly want to avoid you.
• I have seen this happen. It is common for people who see downsizings and other reductions to step back in fear that whatever has led to that, might be contagious in some way – and particularly when those layoffs are taking place as part of a true downsizing where people are being let go on a “no-fault, without work performance cause” basis.

Testing the waters early and offering to help others who you would network with if you stay and they leave, with a request for reciprocity of help if that situation is reversed, can help. If you wait until you are clearing out your desk, you have to assume that you will not be able to realize any opportunity to start such conversations then and there. And this holds as true if your dismissal in a downsizing at least seemingly came from nowhere and as if you were suddenly struck by lightning from a clear blue sky, as it does if that has been expected. That suddenness would most likely, in fact make anyone who you have been working with at least briefly wonder if there might be risk by association from talking with you now and if they are going to face this same thing themselves soon too.

What is the lesson that you can take from this? Start networking early, and I would suggest that you go further than that. Make it a basic part of your jobs and careers supportive approach to be actively engaged with your colleagues, and both where you work and beyond that circle of professional acquaintances so they are more than just acquaintances, and certainly more than just casual ones. I have highlighted the importance of this many times in this blog and certainly in postings and series of the type that I cited as references in Part 47. Way too many people let their business social networking leads and contacts fade away and drop off from a failure to ever reach out to reconnect or to maintain something of an ongoing connection. And then they suddenly get busy at that again and it can be as if they were making cold calls to complete strangers for many if not most of the people they find the names of in that dusty pile of old business cards that they have had shoved in a corner somewhere.

Actively engage and stay actively engaged and with your current workplace colleagues and beyond. And for your immediate colleagues, this means talking with them about more than just their immediate here-and-now tasks and work needs. Talk careers and longer term goals and aspirations too, and show interest in what they would want their careers to develop into too. And show interest in them as people too, and not just as employees of whatever level and position that they hold at work.

• Go to lunch with these people or share coffee with them at least occasionally where possible, and develop more than just here-and-now transactional relationships with them that can only hold meaning as specific transactions are entered into and that would evaporate as they reach completion.

This way, even if you do face that “struck by lightning out of a clear blue sky” scenario and they cannot talk with you then, they might very well be willing to reconnect later as the dust settles. And in this situation, offer to help them too, and as much as you can from your networking reach, if they get struck by that same lightning too.

• Plan and prepare.
• Be proactive wherever possible in how you develop and maintain your networking reach, treating that for what it is: potentially one of your most important and valuable career development tools.
• Always look for opportunity to share and reciprocate value.
• And always be sincere on this; mean it and do it.

I said in Part 47 that I would address the issues of finality, and of possible room to negotiate as that might still exist when you are facing an exit interview and a severance agreement directly, and I will do so in the next installment to this series where I will consider problematical severance agreements and related issues, where it would make sense to bring in your own legal counsel for advice and possibly for more direct action as well, as cited as a possibility in Part 45 and Part 46. Then I will step back to reconsider jobs and careers-oriented and supportive negotiations and negotiating processes as a whole, before switching directions to consider business negotiating from a business perspective – and what that even means.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 47 – the jobs and careers context 46

This is my 47th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-46.)

I began discussing severance agreements, and severance packages that would be offered to a departing employee as a consequence of signing them in Part 45 of this series. And I concluded an at-least basic orienting narrative on that topic in Part 46 by presenting and discussing an employment ending exit interview scenario in which all possible flexibility and accommodation has most likely already been lost, and certainly for most departing employees when faced with such a meeting.

I will return to that last point of detail and the issue of possible remaining room to negotiate, at least somewhat challenging the above-repeated presumption in my next installment to this series, where I will at least briefly consider, for example, the possibilities that might come from bringing an arguably questionable severance agreement to an attorney for review and challenge. But that noted, I add here that any such challenge is not in any way guaranteed to succeed, and even attempting such action is likely to prove a low probability of occurrence event for most any employer, or employee.

So if you find yourself in a Part 46 type of scenario and the type of meeting that it involves, your best chances for gaining more than the minimal generic value and benefits that would be contained in a standardized severance agreement, would most likely come from what you have done in preparation for that when an exit interview-like meeting would still only be a possible or impending occurrence.

I have discussed a range of possibilities for preparing for a potential unplanned-for job loss in this series, and certainly over the course of the last dozen or so postings leading up to this one. And the one point that those postings and their narratives have all had in common has been that they have all held a focus on retaining a job in the face of a possible downsizing as that might variously arise for an employer. I turn here to consider preparation that you can make in advance of any direct layoff threat, in the event that the types of effort on your part as discussed there, not succeed, and when a dismissal and for whatever reason has to be expected to take place.

I begin this phase of this overall discussion by noting a point that should be obvious, but that can still be difficult to face and particularly if you face losing a job that you really love, or that you really need or both:

• If you know that it is likely that you are going to have to move on professionally, a significant proportion of your efforts made in preparation for what is to come, should be focused on what you would do next and elsewhere. And this is just as important if you think that you have a good chance of staying on where you are now, as it is if you are certain that you will soon be out on the street and looking for a next job elsewhere.

There, the only real distinction between those two categorical possibilities should be in which of those two paths forward should be considered more likely and your Plan A context, and which of them would appear to be less likely, or even much less so with that serving as a basis for your Plan B efforts. Either way, it is vitally important that you always realistically consider the possibility of dismissal and that you at least begin laying the foundations for moving on, so as to create and enable the best possible next career move that you can and from your perspective.

Let’s begin addressing that by assuming that:

• You know that your employer, and for whatever reason, might be considering letting you go and either with declared cause or without any onus of fault on your part as would be expected in a true downsizing context as has been discussed here.
• And you have done your basic homework, bringing your own jobs and careers needs and preferences into clearer focus in your own mind, where all too often we all can tend to simply drift with the day-to-day when our work lives seem to be moving along smoothly.
• Have you discussed any of this with people who you do or have worked with, who you respect and who you see as being supportive of you, or at least inclined to be? This does not necessarily mean their actively helping you to either keep your current job or find a next one, though their helping you to network effectively to others who might be able and willing to do so should always be considered. Who do the people you know, know? And at least if not more importantly, who do their contacts know who you might be able to reach out to through your direct contacts?

I have written a number of times about good (and bad) business networking practices in this blog and do not intend to repeat that narrative here. So I bring those issues and topics into this discussion by citing some of the resources that I have already developed and offered here, that already address them, which I would suggest might offer value to a reader here and now too.

• And I begin that with a brief, four part series titled Jumpstart Your Networking, as can be found at the top of my first business networking directory page, above the numbered list of ongoing posting entries that I include there (see Social Networking and Business.)
• And also see Social Network Taxonomy and Social Networking Strategy and Social Networking – the what and where of business social network marketing, and
• The series Using Social Media as Job Search and Career Development Business Analysis Resources (as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 as its postings 397 and following.

That third bullet pointed resource aside, face to face networking with a colleague who still is an active current business contact, is always going to be more effective than after-the-fact networking back to a now-former colleague, after you have left and certainly if you did not bother to build a basis for that when you were both still working together at the same place.

So yes, avail yourself of every opportunity and make effective use of any networking resource and option – online definitely included. But if you see handwriting on the wall that is beginning to come into focus as a possible or likely severance agreement, start to more actively network at work and where possible from work too (doing so on your own time as for example during lunch breaks wherever possible, and discretely even then.)

• The idea here is that you build bridges that you can then use in finding a way forward to where you would best want to go in your jobs and careers path, and that you actively follow up on what you have started when and as you do leave that job and start looking for a next one.
• And with that noted, I do in fact repeat what is perhaps the single most important point that I offer regarding business oriented social networking per se: NEVER approach this as an exercise that is entirely focused on what you want and on what others can give to you or do for you. ALWAYS look for opportunities to network with others that can be developed as at-least potential sources of positive value to them too, and even if you are currently in a position where you would need more than you can offer – there and then.

I have seen way too many people scuttle their next job search and other business networking efforts because they come across as demanding from others of their time and effort and contacts, but without showing any interest in or appreciation of those potential sources of value: of those people as people. So those would-be networkers end up burning bridges and any potential foundations for building them rather than developing and enabling them as (mutual) sources of ongoing value.

I am going to continue and finish this phase of this overall narrative in the next installment to this series. And then after completing that, at least for purposes of this line of discussion as I have been developing it up to here, I will turn back to consider problematical severance agreements and related issues, where it would make sense to bring in your own legal counsel for advice and possibly for more direct action as well, as cited as a possibility in Part 45 and Part 46. Then I will step back to reconsider jobs and careers-oriented and supportive negotiations and negotiating processes as a whole, before switching directions to consider business negotiating from a business perspective – and what that even means.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 46 – the jobs and careers context 45

This is my 46th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-45.)

Let me set the stage for this posting’s and subsequent discussion to come. You have, for whatever reason, found yourself at a parting of the ways with an employer that you have worked for, and for long enough so as to have successfully passed through any new hire probationary period. I will assume for what follows that you have faced and successfully passed at least one annual performance review there too. So you have a track record as having worked there as a valued employee who according to more routine work performance standards, would most probably be retained on staff. In this, you might be a hands-on, non-managerial employee or you might be a manager: lower-level or mid-level. I only assume that you are not an employee who would be in a position to have a golden parachute waiting for you in the event that this type of day might arise. But it has and you are facing a meeting with a member of the Human Resources team at your place of work, who you have never met with before or that you at least have never met with under any circumstances like this.

• You walk into a small conference room and see them sitting at a table with a small stack of papers on it. And they ask you to sit down so they can go over all of that with you.
• In all probability, Information Technology has already been asked to close down your logins to your work computer and if you have and use an employing business owned laptop or tablet computer it is likely that your logins no longer works for them either. And your email and other online work accounts have been closed – not deleted but closed from active use.
• If you have an electronic entry key card, or a smart phone login app that you have been able to use with a wireless tap or by showing a two dimensional bar code to a scanner, or some comparable electronic access, they no longer work either.
• I could continue on from that to discuss biometric and related access logins and other points of connection into an employer’s systems but this should be enough to set the stage here. You are, as a practical matter, no longer an employee there and the meeting that you are walking into is simply a means of formalizing that and under terms that would meet your basic needs, so as to prevent any challenges from you on how you leave that business that might create problems for your employer. And yes, they might also see it as an obligation in keeping with their basic corporate culture and self-image that they leave you in a good position as you finish working with them too.
• Good businesses that genuinely value their employees can find themselves having to let some of them go too, and even when they have been positive and valued assets there (as I have been discussing in a downsizing context.) And good risk management and its legal side dictates that a dismissing employer always, a the very least refrain from in any way suggesting that a departing, now-former employee was anything less than valued and appreciated.
• But even then, if a possible loss of a job there becomes a realized one, you face this meeting more strictly from your own side of that table than you would if this was more of a collaborative workplace effort. And in all likelihood you do so facing what is probably more of a functionary who is not authorized to actually make any decisions that would fall outside of you’re signing those documents, shaking hands and leaving.
• By the time that a possible dismissal and loss of job has become a reality and with that playing out at this type of meeting, everything is intended, and certainly from the employer’s perspective, to be tightly choreographed and surprise free.

I just filtered out a wide range of alternative scenarios that I have at least held out as possibilities and certainly through the past dozen or so postings to this series. And I have done so with a simple goal: that of making this scenario-based discussion as simple and direct and clear-cut as possible. Jobs do not last forever. Sometimes they end before an employer, or an employee, or both would prefer and that can happen for reasons outside of the control of anyone caught up in this, and from either side of the table. Here, that possibility has arrived and you have a stack of papers in your hand, to review and sign.

• If you are confident that you know and understand the terms of separation from employment that are being offered to you and you find them acceptable, then at least consider signing them as-is. This possibility might hold, for example, if you know others who have faced and signed similar papers when being let go by that same employer (as for example in an earlier round of downsizing lay-offs) and they have discussed them and their consequences with you and in sufficient detail so as to address your questions and concerns.
• If, on the other hand, you find yourself facing doubts and concerns and need time to study and understand the documents that you are being asked to sign, then pursue that course of action – as raised in Part 45 of this series as a possibility when I first raised the topic of severance agreements per se.

What should you look for as immediate red flag warning signs? There are two possibilities there, that I feel safe to suggest and even as a legal layperson:

• Any indication that the documents facing you were cobbled together without a full and complete review by an attorney (where for example, some business manager without legal training has assembled and “customizing” their own severance agreement by jigsaw puzzle assembling one from generic legal documents as found online, that might be based on laws as they obtain in a different legal jurisdiction or even in a different country.)
• And any severance agreement, if verbal changes or emendations are offered to its written documents during an exit interview or similar meeting, that do not appear in them and certainly when the business representative in place is not willing to write them into those documents. First, you cannot assume that the person you are meeting with as a representative of that business, has the authority to make any such changes and certainly without explicit approval to do so and on a case by case basis. And secondly, undocumented means unsupported and unsustainable, as any issues arising from how or even if they are followed would reduce to an “I say” versus “they say” disagreement. You would have no proof to back up any claims that you might make in any such discussion.

Beyond that look to what you seek to achieve coming out of this type of meeting and look at the terms and benefits that you would be offered. And terms there can include negatives as well as positives, with non-compete agreements coming immediately to mind for that. Look for what you are being offered and for what you would lose too, in the perhaps fine print of these contractual agreements. And if you have any questions or doubts, raise them. Ask your questions. And be willing and able to pick up those papers to take with you, so you can show your own attorney what you have been offered.

I have heard of employees being told that they cannot take any of the papers they are being asked to sign, out of the room and certainly out of the building unless they sign them. Think of that and anything like it, as coming from a business representative in this type of meeting as the biggest red flag warning of them all, not to sign. If you hear that, simply state that you have to discuss all of this with your attorney and that they will contact the business for copies of all relevant documents. And then say thank you and leave and follow through as you have just said that you will.

I just began this phase of what at best is a challenging and emotionally charged process at its end and on a more dire note than most of us will ever see, and for a reason. I am holding this up here, in order to put my next installment to this series in clearer perspective. Turning back to the narrative progression that I at least intimated pursuing in Part 45 of this, I am going to turn back the clock here to when a layoff or dismissal was still just a possibility, and add business oriented social networking and related preparatory work that you can carry out, to this narrative and with a goal of both achieving what you want in a severance agreement and under amicable terms from all parties involved.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 45 – the jobs and careers context 44

This is my 45th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-44.)

I have been successively raising and discussing a series of workplace situations and contexts in this series that all call for effective communications and negotiating skills, ending that phase of this overall narrative with a progression of postings that all deal with the issues and challenges of downsizings (see Parts 32 through 44 for that.) And to repeat and at least briefly expand upon a set of points that I have variously made note of leading up to here:

• Many if not most circumstances that would call for jobs and careers oriented negotiating at least carry a potential for leaving you in need to find further employment elsewhere.
• So these negotiations, of necessity, have to be able to serve at least two diverging goals-oriented paths:
• You’re retaining a job with a current employer where that might or might not involve significant change for you,
• And you’re setting yourself up for taking as positive and constructive a next step forward elsewhere, as might be made possible.
• Downsizings, as discussed in some detail in this series, clearly fall into that dual (at least) goals pattern. And to repeat a crucially important point that I made in that context here, that will prove to be foundational to what is to follow too, negotiating in a jobs and careers context and negotiating per se too, is all about developing new possibilities that would benefit you, reframing possibilities that would not, and improving your odds of success – where absolute certainty going into that process is never going to be possible.

This is a posting about the other next step forward path that I have mostly just set aside from consideration, at least until now: negotiating the end of employment with a business, and terms therein. This means addressing the issues of severance agreements as mutually agreed-to contracts. But for purposes of this series and its narrative flow, and I add for purposes of effective jobs and careers planning in general, those contractual agreements should only be seen as representing one part of a larger crucially important puzzle that might have to be completed.

My goal here is to begin this discussion with severance agreements per se. And I will move on from there to put them into a larger communicating and negotiating, and business-oriented social networking context and with a goal of laying out a fuller range of options and resources that you can have at your disposal – if, that is, you know to cultivate and develop them so they can be available to you when needed.

Let’s begin addressing all of this with some background information – with you’re doing your due diligence in better understanding your workplace and the types of options that might be possible. And I couch this line of discussion to come by noting a point of detail that can almost be taken to be an immutable truth. Legally binding nondisclosure agreements are essentially always included in any severance package agreements, with signing them and agreeing to be bound by them essentially always included as an absolute requirement for you to be eligible for any benefits offered, except where automatic coverage would be mandated by law.

So if, for example, you work in a legal jurisdiction that requires employers to continue to offer employee-based healthcare insurance coverage for some minimum statutorily specified period of weeks or months, failure to fully honor a nondisclosure agreement signed there cannot eliminate that benefit. But if this soon to be former employer offers to add an additional period of such coverage in exchange for continued confidentiality and silence, and you break the terms of that nondisclosure agreement, then that additional coverage can and probably will evaporate with it.

I have seen business owners draft their own disclosure agreements on their own, modifying for example, standard boilerplate agreements that they find online or that they obtain from friends or colleagues. Smart business owners and executives bring in expert legal counsel for this and both to make sure that any severance agreement that would be used, is free of gaps and inconsistencies – and both within that document itself for how it is written, and for how it would be consistent with pertinent laws in place.

• I will assume at least for now that any severance agreement that you might face, is at least effectively legally framed and drafted, and according to the laws applicable where you face it. (I will at least briefly consider the alternative of that, later in this discussion.)
• I will also assume that unless you are a senior executive or otherwise positioned at a business so as to be deemed eligible for a golden parachute of some sort, any severance agreement that you see placed before you, at least initially, is going to be generic to that business and a standard vetted form as used there.
• And the primary goal of whoever you are meeting with, who has just handed this to you, is going to be to get you to sign it as quickly and as expeditiously as possible.

To be explicitly clear, you do have a right to read these often lengthy and legal jargon filled documents before you sign them. You do have a right to have legal counsel – your legal counsel read and review any such contractual agreement before you decide whether you would sign it or not. And it is as close to universally valid as those assertions, that it is illegal for an employer to put coercive pressure on a departing employee to sign and immediately. You have to be given a reasonable period of time to review any such documents and to get legal advice on whether it is the right document for you to agree to.

This is a posting about conversations that might start with you expressing appreciation for your now soon to be former employer, and active interest in finding mutual agreeable severance terms with them. But that voice of positive good feeling, of necessity should be accompanied by a very significant caveat to the effect that you will need time to read and think through the documents in front of you and that you would like to have someone you trust, review it with you too for their insight and expertise in such matters. These are legal documents that of necessity have long-term impact. You need legal expertise and advice to fully understand them, and with that coming from a third party source who would focus on your interests and needs in this – and not just from a manager or Human Resources agent who is in the employment of the business that you are now leaving and who would have to be considered as having employer-favoring biases.

You’re stating that and reaching out to pick up those papers to take with you, is a powerful first negotiating move in and of itself for securing better terms of separation as judged from your perspective. Actually following through on your asserted needs there, and the give and take conversations that would all but automatically follow, is the topic that I am leading into here with these opening more general thoughts.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, and will continue on as outlined above in discussing this general job-ending negotiating path. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

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