Career coaches and consultants regularly deal with clients who have had a disappointing, perhaps painful experience with their employment situation. While it is not always practical to prevent such difficulties, there is a simple formula available which can help to significantly decrease the likelihood of this happening.
Put another way, the premise of this article is based on the general desirability of an employment relationship being genuinely enabling to the employee and a serious value-add to the employer, not the employee exploiting the employer or vice versa. The “Six Yeses” formula can provide a radical reduction in the probability of pain to both parties and can provide an increase in the probability of a mutually rewarding and successful engagement over the medium to long term.
While it is true that the needs and interests of an employer are not the same and can be in conflict with the needs and interests of an applicant, the questions both parties have in common include the quality of fit between them and the sense to both that the longer term relationship will be satisfactory or better to both parties.
This formula is deceptively simple. When it is described to a client or employer, its value is appreciated almost immediately. As if by magic, the client and the employer have a new tool for self-protection and assurance that when they agree to enter a new employment relationship, it has all the markers of being highly beneficial for both parties. Or, if the decision is made to proceed in offering or accepting a job offer with less than six yeses, both parties are much more aware of the risk issues, and have the opportunity to manage and mitigate them so they do not blossom into really bad news in the future.
Employers, during the recruiting and interview process typically ask many questions. Reducing all these questions into three categories, the employer needs to be satisfied about each applicant:
It is generally understood that more often than not, if a dysfunctional relationship develops between an employee and his/her immediate manager, the employee may resign, may slip into “presenteeism” (at their desk but not actually working) or may become disruptive.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP) practice and research inform us that an unhappy/distracted/disengaged employee generally becomes a significant problem for his/her boss, colleagues, subordinates and others who rely on their successful performance. Therefore prior to making the hiring decision, employers have an obligation to ensure, if possible, that the manager and the prospective employee will get along well and will develop a mutually enabling relationship.
From the employer’s perspective: The employer has at least three methods of gathering information about the answers to the above questions: They can ask their questions during the interviews, can do their due diligence, including taking up references supplied by the applicant, and can conduct a broader search -- social media, information gathering from the employer’s network, and checking around without declaring it to the applicant.
The employer should be cautious about making a job offer until they are satisfied that the applicant has the skills to do the work, is sufficiently motivated, enthusiastic and keen to actually do the work, and that the applicant, if hired, will work well with their new manager and align themself with the employer’s general themes, mission and priorities. In brief, once the employer has three yeses, it is reasonable for them to make the job offer.
From the applicant’s perspective: The applicant likewise asks similar questions from his/her point of view, although in my experience, it is common for these questions to be bypassed substantially if not completely, since many job seekers are anxious to become employed, even if the fit with the new job, manager and employer is marginal.
Some of the answers to these questions may be revealed in the interviews, but other information may be missing. The alert applicant needs to recognize that despite his or her best social sense in “reading between the lines”, what happens in an interview is frequently influenced by the employer’s interest in attracting and recruiting the applicant, not necessarily in talking about things that may be difficult to explain.
Missing information may include the immediate manager’s actual managerial style, crisis response style, record of anger management, adherence to ethical practices, accessibility and responsiveness to the new employee’s requests for information, decisions and advice.
Employers can be highly reassuring and apparently sincere in interviews, and it is the applicant’s responsibility to come to an understanding about what the true situation is. The prospective manager may be one of the best, or perhaps not. If the applicant has taken the boss’ comments at face value, he or she is at risk of believing the manager’s story line about what a wonderful manager he/she is, when it may not be entirely true.
Therefore there is an obligation on the applicant to do his or her own “due diligence,” checking about the prospective manager’s behaviour in the workplace and the general reputation of the employer from individuals who have worked there or had meaningful interaction with the organization.
Unfortunately, many, perhaps most applicants stop themselves from making the due diligence calls and this is a strategic mistake. Not investigating means that the applicant has incomplete information about their next and most important reporting relationship and is relying entirely on what was perceived, assumed, learned and inferred from the face-to-face interviews. This represents a massive gap in the applicant’s analysis.
Once the applicant is satisfied that he/she has the skills required, and is motivated and keen to do the work, questions one and two are answered positively. Assuming that the applicant has done the appropriate due diligence and has gathered opinions and facts about the corporate culture and how the manager actually behaves on the job, and has found that the reports are not troublesome, the third question becomes answered in the affirmative. Once the applicant has three yeses, he or she can be as confident as possible that acceptance of the offer will lead to a mutually rewarding, productive and stable employment experience.
At this point, the employer has arrived at three yeses, and makes the employment offer. The applicant has three yeses and is fully ready to negotiate and accept the offer. While nothing is certain, and situations can change, the likelihood is strong that the applicant, now the new employee, will be using the skills they have, will have high motivation to work hard and smart, and has accepted a new manager who will be delighted to have found a new employee. This is the win-win conclusion that most of us would wish.
In summary, this deceptively simple formula provides a framework enabling wise decisions to be made by the employer and the applicant, which work to the advantage of both parties, and to the disadvantage of neither.
Donald M. Smith, M.S.W., CMF
Secretary of Ontario Association of Career Management
Career Coach & Consultant