What do you say when one of your star performers appears sheepishly at your office door, holding in his hand an offer from a dot.com for 20% over his current salary -- plus equity? (Hint: Answering instantly with the phrase "Do they have a job for me, too?" is undignified. Wait at least five minutes.) At most firms, the response is either (a) a lame counteroffer without equity, politely rejected, or (b) stunned silence, followed by an envious whispering campaign. How could he be so disloyal, Boss Doom will say, especially after all we've done for him? He's making a big mistake, Boss Gloom will agree. All these Internet companies are going to burst like cheap balloons. I say: Whatever happened to "Congratulations"? Why, Doom and Gloom will harrumph, should we bother being polite to a traitor? Because in an increasingly interconnected economy, you never know when today's departing employee -- even if he's headed to a competitor -- will become tomorrow's strategic partner. And the first time you face your former employee across a negotiating table, won't you wish you'd been nicer as he walked out your door? Even more important is the little-known fact that sometimes the best way to keep an employee happy is to help him out the door. Smart bosses recognize that each employee has his own complex (and often conflicting) set of career needs and aspirations. No single company -- not even yours -- can possibly satisfy all those needs, regardless of how loyal a given employee might be. These savvy managers understand that by discussing career opportunities openly with their employees - including opportunities outside the company - they can guarantee four things:
- That the employee will make an informed career decision.
- That the employee will understand how valuable he is, and where he fits into the company's future.
- That the manager will know well ahead of time when the employee is likely to leave.
- That if the employee does leave and becomes fantastically successful, he'll think kindly of his wise mentor, perhaps even kindly enough to one day offer the old guy a 20% raise -- plus equity.