Wednesday, October 27, 2010

High Salary + Wrong Job = Failed Offer

Truly, that’s one mathematical equation which never fails. It’s stood the test of time and has come out winning each time.

Often I get questions around whether one should take an offer which they aren’t convinced is good enough for them on the work front. But the compensation was so high that they were forced (by their own mind) to reconsider the offer. Only to realize that six months later, they’re stuck with a job which they were better off not taking up. What went wrong?

Should you even worry if you got paid an exorbitant amount of salary that was way above others in the market?

Well, anything in the extreme spectrum (too good or too bad) is often unbalanced. Maybe, just maybe, there a good chance that you were the best there is for the role. Really. It’s possible. However, an employer might tend to pay high since they couldn’t find anyone to join them for a particular role. They then met a person (you) who came closest to matching their requirements. They went all out to get you onboard. The high price definitely had its own pull.

Either that happened, or the role might not have enough meat in it to attract top-notch talent. And keep them motivated.

This might sound fascinating or even confusing for people reading this, how could one not be happy in a job that pays so well? To be honest, that’s really the short-term plan kicking-in. Ever wondered what would happen if you were to look for another job? First, your current compensation will be way above what other employers can pay for a similar skill. You could really just scare them away! Second, your resume will have a quick job change listed on it, possibly weakening it a bit.

So, what should one do if confronted with this situation?

You could ask to tweak the compensation structure, if possible/allowed. The structure could help you keep the salary just about competitive enough to beat the market. While the remaining part of the compensation can be used for other benefits, such as, bonuses, stock options, travel/book/car/fuel allowance or work from home benefits with necessary equipment for the home-office.

Finally, if salary is the ONLY deciding factor in an offer, you may want to think again. Keep your options open and you could get a well-balanced offer in your hands. Most importantly, you’ll need an offer that wouldn't jeopardize your long-term plans.

Good luck!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Guest Post: Remote management and telecommuting with a global team

Author: Balaji

Several years back when I first visited the US, I heard about the concept of remote management and telecommuting. Not to sound all cheesy, but the first picture I got, was from the movie - Johnny Mnemonic ( My initial reaction was, how can you work like that? You do not have any direct interaction with your team, you do not have someone breathing down your neck (literally) and yet, you’ve got to get work done while you’re seated at a remote location!

Well, several years forward, this is exactly what I'm doing. With several innovations in technology, that’s cheaper, faster, better internet and telecom access, with client locations all over the globe and with supervisors not interested in shelling out for "relocation"; telecommuting has become the new mantra for cost savings. Think about it, rather than having a manager for every location, have the team/s report to one manager, globally. Let the manager remote manage the teams and travel only when needed - for high level meetings, client interaction, quarterly/yearly all-hands meeting, etc. Daily discussions and updates can be done via teleconference calls and video conference calls. Give the manager an incentive to work from home (or typically known as telecommuting) and you have a winner.

Here is what the company gets in return:

No more wasted office property on one more person - this equates to a big number. Reason - electricity, infrastructure, cubicle (office space), parking (majority of companies share office spaces and have to pay for the parking), office space, coffee, snacks, transport.... you name it! All of which is additional expense, sometimes ranging in big bucks, is a pretty tempting lure to the office to tempt the office worker to work remotely!

I have personally seen instances where companies have offered monetary incentives to employee(s) who were not required to be present in the office, to work from home! And believe me when I say this - the office was a ghost town the next month and the company successfully released three floors from their office building, back to the owner. Talk about savings!

What’s in it for you?
  • Work @ your own pace - as long as you deliver to the deadlines!
  • The only person you have breathing over your neck is you!
  • It increases job satisfaction and reduces stress, since you get enough time to manage work-life balance.
  • You pollute less. No driving/riding to the office. Contribute to a greener environment.
  • Reduces commuting costs to and from work.
However, there is a flip side to this.
  • Identifying which program allows a person to telecommute is a big decision.
  • Setting up a home-office that’s equipped to handle your work assignments, might prove to be a challenge.
  • Telecommuting would mean that you work alone. So getting immediate help from team members might not be as easy as walking up to their cubicle. Dependency on call or mail could take away valuable work time.
  • There is a high risk of losing the edge on interpersonal communication.
  • Most often, telecommuters spend longer hours at work, since they are dependent mostly on calls and emails to get notifications/news from the office. It might prove to be stressful.
  • If you do not have the motivation to work remotely, you might end up needing a new wardrobe in the plus size!
  • Finally, you may never want to move back into an office!
Well, when it comes to telecommuting and managing teams, I’ve been there done that. I’ve been managing my team remotely for well over two years now. It’s possible, as long as we can clearly identify the circumstances which allow for telecommuting and when you really need to be at the office. Setting expectations with the manager and the management is just as critical.

For now, I’m ready to move back into an office, back into my cabin. Well, of course, like all addicts, quoting the withdrawal syndrome.

About the author:

Balaji is a seasoned manager with global experience in the IT industry, spanning multiple service & business lines. He has worked with several multinational companies and is currently working in the PMO office of a global equipment pooling organization.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to resign?

From a reader:

Do I have a one-on-one with the manager and then send the resignation letter or just send the resignation letter straight away? What the best way to manage the resignation process?

Typically, as much as we don’t like it, this a situation that can be best managed when it’s done in-person. I would suggest that you set up a time for the discussion, before sending the resignation letter. On the other hand, if you’re working remotely, ask your manager some time for a video-conference or Skype or even a telephonic discussion, to tell him about your decision. No manager wants to be surprised by finding a mail informing him about the resignation.

However, before you get there you need to decide if you’re a 100% sure that you want out. If you have any doubts, rethink about your decision and then start the process. Since the first question from the manager would start with a “Why?” You don’t necessarily need to give him a reason, but it would seem awkward if you aren’t sure. There’s a possibility that you’re manager might take it well or act like a jerk. If he takes it well, state the actual reason tactfully. You’ll need him as a reference for future jobs. More importantly, if he was a good manager, his guidance might be valuable throughout your career! Really. If he ends up acting like a jerk, you can stick to standard replies, “I’m moving since I’ve got an excellent opportunity.” or “I’m looking for newer challenges.” or “The next job gives me more responsibilities, coupled with a better pay package.”

You’ll need to serve out your notice period. For sure. A good manager or not, serving out your notice period will help strengthen your relationship your team members/manager. No one wants to be left high and dry, especially if a project is at a critical stage. It’s a small world out there and you both could end up either working with each other or even hiring each other for a future employer! Don’t burn bridges.

It’s not your obligation, but do try and help the employer find a suitable replacement for your role. If you can, be willing to help them out for a few days even after you’ve left.

Good luck!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Should I ask for a better pay package?

From a reader:

I recently stumbled upon your blog. You have an interesting and informative blog. Keep up the good work!

I want your opinion on a situation that my friend is currently in.

My friend has about 7 years of IT experience and has worked with the same services based MNC companies for this entire period. He is hard working and very good at his work. He has always been a good performer and has always got a great rating in his appraisals. The delayed hike has finally come through this month and his salary has undergone a change too.

He has recently cleared technical interviews in another services based MNC company, and during salary negotiation in the HR round, he quoted a percentage hike when asked for his comp expectations. The HR said it was too high for what he was already currently getting. They asked him what was it that would get him to join them. He quoted a percentage lesser than the initial comp expectation. They again asked him if he would not be ready to take up an offer lesser than this and he said no. They said if he was ready for an offer lesser than the already reduced expectation, they would call him on the phone and discuss the offer before issuing the offer letter. They also asked him if he had any other offers etc, and kind of kept on giving him the feeling that he was expecting too much.

Now, what should he do in a position like this? We feel that his expectations were only reasonable, while taking into account his years experience, as we know that the industry standards are clearly above this.

I work for a product company and clearly the salary levels in our company are way above.

So what are we missing here? Why do companies, try to close the deal because they get them cheap? Why is there no policy to bring them up to the industry standard band? Or is there one?

Please provide you inputs. Your time is much appreciated.

Interesting question! This question comes up ever so frequently in my interactions with friends. Here’s my take on this one.

First, compensation planning works almost similar to the market. Really. Hear me out on this one. In any industry/domain, there will be a significant set of players (Read: Employers) who will dictate the compensation guidelines, so as to not create an indifference in parity in the talent pool (and make it harder for themselves) nor make it an uneven playing field. That’s typically one of the reasons to conduct annual salary surveys among competitors. Now, those are guidelines and not necessary written in stone. Some companies choose to follow them and some just plain don’t. So, typically the industry standard is a variable. It’s becomes even more skewed when you have data from only a few people (or friends) with varied backgrounds. To maintain sanity, there's also the salary survey that maps competitors on an annual basis.

Second, it works differently at a product based company and for a services based firm. In a product based set-up, it’s a lot easier to link one’s skill-set, technology, experience, performance, etc. and their impact on a product that’s getting built and it’s earning potential in the market. This in turn helps companies to give a higher incentive to the best performing individual. Although, the top performer could have the same skill-set and years of experience, competency levels are a big differentiator.

This works almost the same in the services based firm. The only change is the fact that the services companies are dependent on the money they make from servicing their client’s needs. So, effectively they would pay for skills, based on the billable amount with the client and the availability of that skill in the talent pool. Net-net, their salary bands are effectively then dictated by the amount of money they make from their clients. So, if ‘Company A’ & ‘Company B’ are catering to the same client, it boils down to which company is ready to let go of their profit margins to hire talent. And then again, there are guidelines, so the difference in pay between them wouldn’t be drastically different. You get it?

Now, let’s get to your friend’s situation.

Though the company is unwilling to give him a hike that he’s asking, are there other benefits that could make up for low comp? Other benefits could be either onsite/client visits opportunities, flexible salary structure, benefits & perks, work from home options, etc. Understandably compensation does play a significant role; but it shouldn’t necessarily become the single-most important factor to determine a job offer.

Finally, when it comes to salary/comp, there are 2 types of companies: one that chooses to give a hike based on the current salary/compensation and the second type that chooses to give a compensation package based purely on competency and the way it fits within the existing group/organization. It’s ok to ask them for their stand. And obviously, your best bet would be to go with the second type.

As for the industry standard, I’m not really sure if this helps, but you can try this website to get a better understanding of the industry standards in salary. Hope it’s helpful. (Note: I’m not getting paid to promote the website. Though I wish I would get paid!)

Good luck to your friend!