An interesting situation occurred this week – a consultant who had been put through an uncommonly difficult and unnecessarily arduous background process was really pissed off. For almost a month after she was offered the position by our client, she was held in limbo as to if and when she would start due to series of various steps in the approval process of the background check. (Background checks are required for employment by most investment banks as part of SEC regulations and to ensure their is no history of dishonest behavior.) During this time other recruiters were calling with choice positions, which she dutifully turned away since she had accepted and was awaiting start of the assignment. But after multiple back and forth through the final step in the approval process, the situation came to a breaking point, “If this doesn’t start tomorrow… I’m walking.” She reported.
In the end, we were able to get the start date she was demanding and all was good.
However, the story doesn’t end there.
The candidate was left with a really bad taste in her mouth. Because we were her main point of contact throughout the mishigas, we became the scapegoat and It quickly became clear that she was thinking of walking away from the job even after she had started working. As you can imagine, her walking away after starting the assignment would be very bad for Wall Street Services – damaging the relationship we have with the client and any opportunities for current and future consultants of ours in the clients organization.
It would be very easy to get upset, to try to cajole her or influence her into staying. She agreed to the terms of the assignment when offered and we did quite a bit of work to have her be successful during the interview process and get placed in the position. On top of that, we pulled out all the stops to resolve the background check issues. But that approach, convincing her to stay against what is in her best interest, has no place in the way we recruit. Our product is people but we will never treat people as product. However much I want, need or feel she should stay and however justified or well-reasoned my arguments are, they have no merit if this candidate decides that what is best for her is to leave the job. Any such attempt to convince her to stay would come across as a manipulation and further entrench her negative opinion.
So, what did we do?
Staying true to our core values, we spoke to her with a commitment to do whatever it takes to support her career, even if it means she is going to go in a direction that would not benefit Wall Street Services. If we come from a place in which we recognize that her most important priority is to herself and her career and that we will support those priorities no matter what, at least we get to dialogue with her about her decision.
Now, this cannot be a tactic to mollify upset people – it will backfire. This has to be a values centered approach to be used in all situations. If we really make our decisions from a place of benefitting the careers of our employees (even if it doesn’t benefit us ) we will win out in the long run. This communication and authenticity is the key steps to building a lasting and meaningful relationship. What is even better, we will have a lot of happy people supporting us.
What do you think? How would you of handled the situation? Do you agree that creating an open dialogue and building trust are key factors in any successful relationship?
By Peter Laughter, Wall Street Services’ CEO