Screw You Guys, I AM GOING Home

Screw You Guys, I AM GOING Home

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Your boss and HR deliver the great news: the business adores and appreciates you. It wants to compensate you. Maybe they’re “giving” you a retention bonus, stock, options, or some other reward that sounds like a heap of money free of charge. But beware. It might be a Trojan Horse. If it sounds good to be true too, it could be really, really bad.

Lately, I’m seeing more and more so-called “rewards” in conjunction with noncompete agreements. What’s cause for termination? Sometimes the business will tell you that this agreement means you can only just be fired for cause. That they will need to pay you out for months or a year or more if they don’t have cause.

But does that really protect you? When you can be fired for “poor performance,” who chooses what is poor? Do you get written notice and an opportunity to improve? Is it subjective or objective? Whether it’s subjective, you are not protected much whatsoever. If “cause” is “violation of company policies,” that sounds reasonable, does it not?

But when is the last time you read those plans? I bet there’s a policy saying you can’t use the business email for personal use? Do you email your husband to state you’re running later or even to remind him to pick up the kids? You just broke policy. You can be fired without notice and get zippo. If you signed a noncompete contract, you may be bound by it even if you are fired without notice or severance.

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It’s better if you can negotiate “cause” that is real, such as if you’re fired for embezzlement, fraud, failing to perform specific duties, conviction of a crime concerning dishonesty or other measurable offenses. Exactly what does it say you can’t do after you leave? If it says you can’t contact suppliers after you leave, then you might not be allowed to shop at, say, Office Depot if they buy their paper from any office superstore. Can you buy a printing device or copier when you leave?

Maybe not if they do business with Canon or Ricoh. Can you fly on a plane? If they are doing plenty of corporate and business travel you might have to have a bus for a couple of years. Sure, this all sounds ridiculous. But I’ll tell you truly that there is no debate too ridiculous that your company couldn’t find some management-side lawyer to help make the debate if they wanted to offer you a hard time.

Try to discuss reasonable limitations before you sign. If there are key customers they don’t want you to call on, make an effort to have them detailed. In the event that you worked well in the industry for twenty years before you emerged to the business, be sure you aren’t putting your signature on over your right to call on your contacts.

Can you afford not to work in your industry for a year or two? Let’s say it says you can’t work for a competitor or a customer for a year or two. Which means you’re sitting out of the industry with a huge space in your application. Even if they provide to pay you to sit out that long, unless you’re getting ready to stop working that difference can hurt you way much longer than the noncompete period.