I got a call from one of my clients today, a company that recently hired on a trial basis a new accountant. While not fully qualified as a staff accountant, the young recruit is bright, reasonably experienced and very motivated to do the job well and give the client what they want. At the same time, he is an aggressive negotiator for himself: more money, better title, sooner rather than later, etc., to the point of sending his boss copies of employment ads that supposedly support his position. Since he is the sole full-time accounting person for the moment, his on-site boss gets nervous that he might leave if he doesn’t get his wishes met.

If you’ve been in the market for good accounting people lately, you already know that they’re scarce, and if you got 20 resumes in response to your ad, it is likely that 15 of them are patently underqualified but won’t say so and 3 of them are marginal in one or more of your key areas but won’t admit it because they’re trying to be upwardly mobile. Of the remaining two, one or both of them will find other jobs before you discover how good they are.

“So, what to do?” asked my client.

Many young employees in an effort to take maximum advantage of this seller’s market will press like children to get all they can, often not because they believe they deserve it but because they might get it anyway. Remember: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” The problem of course is that you, the employer, end up paying more than you should to get less than you should, not a great deal for your bottom line. This is what I told my client:

If he wants to work for you, he will understand sound logic and value-for-value. If he is using your job to accelerate his pay rate for the next job, you need to find it out now. So offer him a modest increase consistent with his stronger-than-expected early performance, and set with him performance goals to be met in the next 90 to 180 days which, if met, will result in a nice additional raise (although not at the level he was lobbying for). Deny his rich title request, but give him the best title you can that is consistent with his job description. Explain why each of these actions is consistent with company policy and his current qualifications, and remind him of the potential that exists for him within the company as it grows.

The salary issue was settled easily as he accepted the increase offered. The rest of the plan is in motion now, and we’ll soon see if we have a long-term employee.

This is an example of the kind of guidance I provide to coaching and consulting clients, so that they can become better managers within finance and throughout the company.

Got a story of one that worked for you? Disagree with my approach? Tell us about it…

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