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Employer and employee relationships

The consequences of breaching the unwritten employment agreement

Employer and Employee Relationships 

There are two agreements between an employer and an employee?

The written agreement, which both parties sign, includes hours of work, rules and regulations, compliance requirements, etc. This is the legal agreement that you as an employer have up your sleeve in case something goes awry in the first 90 days of employment.

The unwritten agreement is not signed. This is where you, the employer, agree to pay for the talents of the employee and to provide a good working environment, resources (computers and the like), a place to have morning tea and lunch and (sometimes,) the luxury of a car park. In return, the employee agrees to share their experience and expertise and their knowledge and skills which can be put to good use to help the company grow, increase profits and so on. The outcome is mutually beneficial for both employee and employer.

The unwritten agreement means that both parties ‘should’ get along well with each other, fellow workers, customers and suppliers and the work ‘should’ be interesting, satisfying and fruitful. A feeling of goodwill exists. There is an environment of fairness and understanding on both sides. The boss expects the employee to demonstrate a good work ethic and to be reliable and the employee expects that they will be treated with respect for who they are as well as for what they do.

The written agreement is black and white. The unwritten agreement is a kaleidoscope of things, some of which are hard to define or even to write down.

Why do most people leave jobs?

If I was to say that most employee-employer relationships fail not because of the written agreement but because of the unwritten one, would you be surprised?

It’s true. Most people leave jobs, lose interest or are let go not because of lack of skill or knowledge, or breaches of the written agreement. Most problems arise from breaches of the unwritten agreement: dissatisfaction with others on the team; the boss and employee do not see eye to eye; the employee feels they are not treated as worthy; the employee has doubts about job choice, etc. There are many other reasons which can be accurately diagnosed with the right expertise.

So if most people leave jobs because of breaches of the unwritten agreement, why do we place so much emphasis on the written agreement?

Making the right employment choice

Selection of the right person for the right job is the primary goal for both employer and employee, is it not?  So, with such a predicted shortage of talent and the potential cost associated with lost opportunities, doesn’t it make sense to spend much more time on the unwritten agreement during the selection and interview process?

Employers may need to consider that what attracts people to their business is, in fact, driven by more than just the pay packet and the job.

Employees may need to find out a great deal more about the working environment and not focus so much on money considerations.
So for both employee and employer, knowing what is attractive about a job or workplace  is more important than the written contract. Each person will have their own ideas about what is important to them and tapping into these things, right from the start, will save a lot of time and trouble down the track.

The recruitment minefield

As an employer, hoping you can ‘read’ a person during an interview is a recipe for failure. To begin with you can count on 4 types of people who could turn up at an interview: decisive types; interactive types; stabilising types and cautious types.

If you were wondering about the chances of coming across the 4 types at an interview, here are some numbers for you.

  • people with decisive tendencies (10 - 15% of the workforce);
  • people with interactive tendencies (25 - 30% of the workforce);
  • people  with stabilising tendencies (45 - 50% of the workforce);
  • people with cautious tendencies (20 - 30% of the workforce).

And of course there are an infinite number of combinations of all of these. You do the math.

In addition, each person has 7 primary motivators that drive their need to work. Taking all the possible combinations, that’s possibly 39,000,000 different personal/types/styles.

Taking into account individual objectives and differing personal styles, and how a person interacts in different environments, there is another layer of factors that have a major influence on whether the employer - employee relationship will be a successful one or not.

Those who say good work ethic and hard work attitude are enough and  are the factors you should look for in an employee have a point, but this view is over simplified. Anyway, at selection stage, how do you know?

Choosing the right person is simply a matter of odds.
So the odds of successfully second-guessing who is going to be a good fit for a job or company are very, very small at the selection stage. I for one would not want to take the risk.

If you are an employer there are some things that you should know about the different types of people you are definitely going to meet at an interview. Here are some of those differences. The key question is: what attracts these types of people to work for you?

  • People who focus on results and winning: these people like challenges, they will go for jobs that are cutting edge. They revel in being first.
  • People who focus on challenges but with more people involvement. These people want challenges but they also want social proof. Show them others in your organisation who have been successful in pushing the boundaries.
  • People who like people, and enjoy friendship but with more stability and participation. These people will join the organisation once they know stability exists. They are the behind-the-scenes types who don’t want to be too close to the front line battles. They like to minimise risk.
  • People who enjoy friendship and have a need to contribute. These people need to be certain that what they are doing is right.  Don’t push too early with these guys. Ensure that they are comfortable and that there is certainty and security in the role.
  • People who require quality, accuracy and evidence. These people need proof - data and facts. Do not be ‘wishy washy’ or unrealistic with these people; don’t make promises that cannot be substantiated or say”I don’t know”.

Reduce the odds of a bad decision

Getting the right information about the job and the potential of employees at the start, rather than waiting, is not worth a debate any more. Gut feel is important, when supported by accurate evidence.

We are teaching our clients that to make a hiring decision taking into consideration all of the nuances of the unwritten contract does not have to be left to guesswork anymore. It makes no sense to wait the 90 days, to leave questions raised in the unwritten contract to chance, when you can greatly reduce the odds with proper diagnosis right at the start.

If you want to know more, contact us today.

Carl Davies Zeteo.co.nz

Carl Davies
People Selection and Human Performance Specialist