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Don't make promises you can't keep

It is common, when hiring people, to offer incentives above and beyond an hourly wage. Potential employees want to know what's in it for them. Can they expect paid holidays for example, and if so, which ones and how many? They want to know if you offer vacations or health benefits or profit sharing and so on. If the candidate is someone that you want to hire, you might be tempted to offer more than you can really afford, thinking that you will have the resources you will need by the time you need them. This can be a big mistake. If you can't deliver what you promised, a disgruntled employee is virtually guaranteed. 

I once took a job as a shop manager for a large cabinet making shop. The owner wanted me to work on salary rather than by the hour. I expressed a concern about how overtime would be handled. Don't ask my why, but I had a feeling that this job was going to require somewhat more than a forty hour work week. Since I was to be on salary, time and a half was not going to be an option. Instead, the owner promised me "comp time", meaning that for every overtime hour I worked, I would be entitled to a paid hour off at some future date.

As it turned out, this job required me to put in sixty to seventy hour weeks. I pretty quickly racked up a lot of comp time. But when I began to ask for the time off, the owner kept telling me that this was not a good time and I would postpone taking my comp time. As time went on and the discrepancy grew, it became clear to me that the shop simply could not afford to pay me for anywhere's near the hours I had accumulated. The owner deflected every attempt I made to discuss the situation and I realized that there was no way I could press the issue without him having to lose face. Needless to say, this created a less than warm and fuzzy feeling between the owner and myself, and try as I might, I could not help feeling that I had been taken advantage of.

It would have been much better if the owner had been more realistic when he made this promise to me. It may have affected my decision to take or not take the job but I probably would have taken it anyway and simply asked for a higher salary that would be at least some compensation for the extra hours I knew I was going to have to put in. But one way or the other, we would not have had this awkward situation on the table.

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