The firm I've worked for, for the last eight years, is facing a severe downturn in business and is eliminating all consultants who don't have a significant book of business. My role has been primarily in project design and client service delivery which is what I was hired to do. I was even told three years ago by the biggest producer and most senior partner of our firm that I was doing such an outstanding job for the firm’s two major clients. He said he wanted me to continue to focus on supporting these two clients and not to focus on building a book of business of my own. He told me that there would always be a role for me in the firm and that I was providing the highest caliber of work possible. Flash forward to March of this year when I was told that by the end of October, I would need to have found new employment since the work for these two major clients had diminished significantly and the firm could only afford to keep consultants who were earning their keep through having built a solid book of business.
Since March, I've poured myself into networking and job search and am fortunate, in this difficult job market, to have two excellent potential options to consider. The problem is that even though these were moving along at a parallel pace for a while, one of them has speeded up significantly and the other has slowed down quite a bit. My current employer has committed to keep me officially employed without announcing anything about my work coming to a close until the end of November. This is very helpful so that I can convey and demonstrate to these two potential new employers that I am employed and still working until then.
Here are some of the specifics of these two options:
A former colleague who heads up a consulting business in Chicago has asked me to open a satellite office for them in Atlanta. They have asked me to locate office space here in Atlanta which I have done and they have signed a lease starting in November on a monthly basis through an office-services executive suite provider.
This is a long shot and one I am extremely interested in. Rather than working as an external business management consultant, this is an internal strategic planning role for an established technology company. This is what I most want to do and feel that this could be a once in a career opportunity. Of course, I don't know if I will get the offer. The final round of interviews has been rescheduled twice and now won’t take place until the last week in November. I am one of only two final candidates who will be interviewed by the CEO and new General Manager.
I cannot risk being unemployed or being passed over right now and have chosen to move forward with the Chicago consulting firm until and unless I get the offer from the technology company. Prior to their signing the lease for me to have new office space, I felt that my communications were as they should be. Now, with every day that passes, I am feeling more and more uncomfortable. I've always had a strong ethical compass in all of my business dealings and want to make sure that's the basis for all of my decisions and actions right now during this extra challenging timeframe. It's very important to me to be direct and honest with people and my professional reputation is at stake here. Please help me figure out the best way to handle this dilemma.
I would like to postpone any official announcement of the new Atlanta office and my role in it as Managing Partner as well as postpone my official start day. If I accept the other offer in the next month to six weeks, I am so concerned about how all of these current communications will appear in retrospect. I have to put my professional and family security first. Is there any way to do that and still act with integrity?
Dear Tightrope Walker,
It sounds like you’re experiencing tremendous pressure and that this must be extremely stressful for you and your family. Let’s work toward adjusting your perspectives so you can be less stressed. And let’s also craft some best-case communications and strategies to carry you through this successfully.
Putting your own personal obligations and responsibilities first is an ethical decision. You are right to protect your own job security as your first priority. To gain some perspective, look back for a moment. When the partner told you then that you were highly valued, that you would always have a role in the firm and that you did not need to focus on building a book of business, he was speaking to you in good faith and was sincere about the current circumstances at that moment in time. When things changed, you were unexpectedly told something altogether different. You've actually been sincere and acting in good faith with the Chicago consulting firm. You don't have any other offer at the moment and don't have any guarantee that you will get one. So you are moving forward in an ethical and appropriate way based on the facts that are true right now.
Here’s another way of looking at this challenging situation. It’s possible that you could have accepted the new role with the Chicago-based consulting firm, could have set up their Atlanta office and could have begun diligently and whole heartedly working for them to establish their Atlanta presence, when, suddenly, six weeks into the commitment, you get a totally unexpected call to come in and interview for your dream job in your dream environment, resulting in an offer.
Additional remedy activities and choices you might want to provide at that future point of job offer, IF it occurs, might include these:
- Offer to reimburse the firm for their office rental expenses.
- Recommend other candidates to fill the managing partner role.
- Continue to provide client introductions and participate in business development activities.
- Make a commitment to bring your new technology company to the table as a potential client.
Here's the type of communication that may be very helpful for this situation:
“I have just received an offer for a job that is beyond any expectation I have ever had. This is exactly the kind of work I most want to do. I certainly was astonished to receive this offer at this point in time when I have just made such a significant and dedicated commitment to XYZ Consulting. This has definitely been one of the most difficult decisions and challenging crossroads of my professional life. I have accepted the offer and wanted to come to you immediately to inform you of this. I want to do everything possible to make this transition as smooth and successful for the firm as possible. I have put an outline together with important talking points for us to examine together. I want to partner with you in every way I can to ensure as much business and operating success for the firm as possible.”
It's also appropriate right now to find a very simple way to ask for the announcement to be made in December along with your official start date. That brief communication might sound like this:
"I've discussed my departure from my current role with the senior partners in my firm and we mutually agreed on December 1 as the official date for me to start a new job. There are some loose ends that are pending here and I think it makes sense to wait until all that is completed before beginning the new job officially and before making a formal announcement about the new Atlanta practice and my role as Managing Partner. I will continue to set up client calls and actively participate in marketing meetings in the interim. December 1 also makes a lot of sense because I have commitments and will be traveling over Thanksgiving and there will be continuity if my official start date follows that trip."
The best communications are direct, simple and respectful with integrity and honesty as the guiding underlying principles.
Until next time,
SPEAK EASY, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success