A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future. (Harris)
Mike’s expertise selling into FEMA was critical. Their product was more than an idea, but not a proven solution. Mike was already calling on FEMA contacts even though he wasn’t officially on payroll. The feds wanted their product. This would be a big win for everyone.
Mike had been unemployed for 8 months and was running out of money. This was juicy. If Mike quit or was fired the day after he started, he’d still get $250,000. The commissions would double that. Still, he was worried he wouldn’t get everything he deserved. The contract wasn’t tight enough. What about bonuses in year 4? He brought in the best lawyer he could find. The company balked at his demands, his lack of flexibility.
Then the lawyers and the dragging negotiations wounded Mike’s pride. A venture capitalist said the wrong thing. The CEO didn’t want to completely get rid of the non-compete agreement since there was a one year severance guarantee.
Mike quit the negotiations. The product was cancelled. The company was closed.
What hurt the most was that it took Mike six more months to get a different job. That job paid half as much with no commissions or bonuses. He had to clean out his savings accounts and sell his cars to survive. Mike told me, “My pride cost me $250,000. That was the best offer I ever had. What was I thinking?”
This was an extreme case. The problem was pride. When you know you are essential to a project, you want to be treated with respect. Sometimes that respect kindles the flame of overarching pride.
The job market is really heating up. I am seeing more examples of this destructive pride. A manager once told me his policy is, “If two people are absolutely critical to a project and they disagree violently and refuse to compromise or go down one of the two paths, FIRE THEM BOTH.”
Don’t forget, even if you are irreplaceable, the project can be cancelled. There are always alternatives for an employer.
Don’t let destructive pride make you expendable.