Sunday, July 06, 2008


Finding a new job, a job for which your talents and your temperament fit, can be challenging. To help make a match, executive-search professionals often work hard to help prospective employees find the best possible professional home.

Because the process of finding a new job through an executive-search firm can take time, it isn't unusual for an executive-search pro to become friendly both with the candidate and with those who are seeking to fill the job. A reader from the Midwest who runs an executive-search firm tells me that this has been his experience recently.

"Within the past year," he writes, "I placed a candidate with a firm. Both the candidate and the manager at the firm are my `clients,' but are also my friends."

Now, however, the candidate is questioning whether his move to the new firm was the right one for him. The client firm, on the other hand, is "absolutely enamored" with the hire.

While the client firm pays for his services, my reader needs both client firms and prospective employees to keep his business thriving. Given that he knows the new employee seems not to be satisfied with the current position into which he's been placed, he asks: "What should I say, and to whom?"

He wonders, that is, whether he has an obligation to let the current employer know that the employee is not overjoyed with his new job.

Similarly, if the employer had confided in my reader that the employee wasn't all he had hoped for, should he say something to the employee?

Ah, to get stuck in the middle of two friends, regardless of the situation. In the seventh grade, when one friend tells another about something concerning a third, what to do, what to do?

Judging from my reader's question, he seems inclined to say something to the employer. He just isn't sure when or what to say.

My advice to him, however, is that, unless the employee has asked him to relay a message of dissatisfaction to his new employer, he should not pass on the news.

The fact that he helped bring together job and job seeker does not make him a permanent intermediary between the parties, nor does it ethically obligate him to resolve future problems that may arise.

The right thing, both as a friend and as the person who recruited him, is to listen to the employee and see if he can offer any advice on how to make his new job a better fit.

If the situation becomes unpleasant at work, he would be wise to advise the employee to talk to his supervisors to see if they can rectify the situation. If it becomes unbearable, the employee should consider seeking employment elsewhere once he meets any short-term commitments on the new job.

My reader will retain the employee's trust and, in the process, he will learn valuable information about the employer in case he plans to place future candidates there who might be a better fit.

c.2008 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)


Anonymous said...

Interesting dilemma-- employer is happy, enmployee is UNhappy... why?

The question of ethics here, if any, arises out of the fact that the "head hunter" was paid by the employer and so has an incentive, and possibly a duty, to make sure the "match" is, indeed a good one.

But practically, the ony workable approach is to find out why the employee is unhappy with employers who think s/he is great- and have the 'ee seek resolution. if the employer truly wishes to retain the 'ee they will (or should) welome the opportunity to work things out.

Anonymous said...

The man you discussed in your column in today's (7-7-08) OC Register is a "headhunter," not the Director of Human Resources (HR) at one friend's company where he placed another friend.

Otherwise, where do his responsibilities end? What if one or the other of the friends was having financial, alcohol or marital problems that was affecting the working relationship? Should be become involved then?

He's done his job. Let the two friends sort it out by themselves and remain quiet.

Burl Estes
Mission Viejo, CA

Anonymous said...

I concur! You've got it right: "Unless the employee has asked him to relay a message of dissatisfaction to his new employer, he should not pass on the news." His job is done! Besides, his friend might have told him that info as a friend and not as a client...