THE STORY SO FAR
Nirav Mehta’s company, Magnet, loses two programmers to L10NBridge, both of whom leave without serving any notice period. His HR calls Lionbridge HR to protest about this, only to be told that it’s Magnet’s problem to retain their employees, and to be given a lecture on the harsh realities of life after threatening that Lionbridge would poach the rest of their QA team as well.
Neeraj writes that firstly, he expected the employees to not sell their soul for money. And that secondly, Lionbridge shouldn’t be encouraging unethical behaviour, by forcing employees to break their contracts.
Lots of comments on the post…ranging from the usual “employees are not human resources” to “sue the ex-employees” to “you must be at fault for not being able to retain your people”.
Responding to the above post, Vulturo writes from the perspective of a recruiting manager, and makes some good points:
…when it comes to a company wanting its new hires to join at a short notice, the issue is purely between the new hires and the company. The existing employer of the new hires is nowhere in the picture. If the company is open to allow its hires to join work without submitting proper relieving documents, it is a risk which it chooses to take as a part of its business strategy. If another company made your employees quit their jobs and leave at a short notice, it didn’t exactly do anything “unethical” to you. It is your employees who were willing to quit. The other company did not enter into business to look after your company’s welfare. It entered into business to make profits
Deepak points to the ethical dilemma that any thinking employee would face w.r.t. serving out the notice period. On one hand, it’s the right thing to do. On the other hand, there are always a few rogue employers who will make life miserable during this period, delay the relieving letter, not pay the dues or create arbitrary hurdles. (And if you think your employer isn’t one of those, wait till you try to quit!). He also makes one good point w.r.t. the recruiting employer:
…should the new company be wary of have-not-properly-exited hires? They should, but even they are aware of the “asshole employers” concept. Also, HR targets are to get the best people as soon as possible, and that links directly to rewards.
I can appreciate both aspects. I think employees should serve out the notice period that they signed up to, and the contracts should be legally enforced. I also think employers should be held to account when they let go of an employee to pay the dues within a certain time, and issue the necessary paperwork.
I do agree with both Deepak & Vulturo when they say that it is not the recruiting company’s problem, or even their job, to enforce your notice period. They might be in a steep ramp up mode, and/or might be facing the same situation (of someone leaving without serving notice period). However, it is also true that most recruiters believe in recruiting people at the last possible minute. And when they recruit they want the person to join “yesterday”, but when the guy leaves, they want to enforce notice periods. You can’t have it both ways!
I have also heard some very senior managers say that the notice period can’t/shouldn’t be bought out by the employee because they need the time to manage a smooth transition. However, there are two points that bear mentioning in this regard. Firstly, the notice periods tend to be ridiculously arbitrary, ranging from 1-3 months for fairly junior positions. (refer cartoon in yesterday’s post). Secondly, most of the time required for notice, is typically wasted. I have myself served out a 3-month notice period, where the handover was done in all of 1 week, at the very end.
Deepak makes another interesting point about open discussions regarding employees’ intention to leave. I do not think it’s that easy. The employee-employer relationship is fraught with distrust. Companies typically ignore all issues & concerns their people have. Companies belive in taking without giving. And to some extent this colours the perspective of all employees, even in companies that do not behave in this way.
There was a time employers & employees had a long-term relationship. There used to be a social contract. Work wasn’t just a place you went to earn your bread. It was a also a place you met friends, developed your interests. Your employer took care of you, and promised to do it typically for the rest of your life. The employee in return committed to giving his all, for the rest of his life. When companies chose to forgo this path (late 80’s in USA; mid-90’s in India), they did not foresee their actions coming back to haunt them. They did not think the balance of power would shift to the employees. Well, guess what! It did. Life is not a one-way street. What you give comes back!
And now even the enlightened, friendly, ethical employers pay the price. And to a large extent it is every company’s fault, and problem.
I’d actually advice Nirav to forget the errant employees. Suing them won’t make the problem go away. It’ll further vitiate the atmosphere for those who remain. Talk about the issue within the company. Say you don’t like it! Ask your employees for suggestions on how you can change things, as well as what needs to be done in such situations. Ask also how you can build a place they will be proud of calling their company, a place they would love to come to every morning. I know it sounds both cliched & heartless, but try it. You might be surprised!