A reader writes:
I’m a content marketer with a good amount of experience launching new programs successfully.
At the beginning of this year, I connected with a VP of marketing at a start-up. Shortly after, “George” contacted me and said he needed someone to launch a content marketing program and thought I would be a tremendous fit. We had two good calls and were planning for a third with people on his team. Everything seemed to align to what I want next in my career.
After a month of radio silence, today at 2 am, George sent two follow-up emails apologizing for the delay. He also included the job description. Some of the language is troubling:
1) Lives up to verbal and written agreements, regardless of personal cost
2) Social needs met outside work (does not need an office full of coworkers to fill this need)
I’ve managed and suffered through unreasonable expectations at another company, so #1 raises serious concerns about work/life balance and boundaries.
As for #2, while I have a full life, I also like camaraderie with coworkers. Having worked remotely for the last 14 months and in another role some years back, I know what works and what’s possible when it comes to bonding with teammates.
I asked for clarification and some context, but I’m inclined to bow out of further consideration. Either George means what he wrote (scary!) or lacks the empathy and insight to write a more welcoming and respectful job description. It also makes me wonder what the culture is really like. I’d appreciate your thoughts.
Run for the hills!
These are both troubling in different ways, and taken together they add up to a big flashing danger sign that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
Let’s take #1 first. “Lives up to verbal and written agreements” is such a basic expectation of any job that it’s weird that he feels he needs to include it. Usually when you see something so basic in a job description, it’s there because the manager had employees previously who didn’t do it … and “regardless of personal costs” gives us a big clue as to why. Of course any conscientious employee will try to live up to verbal and written agreements. But sometimes things come up that mean those agreements need to change — someone gets sick so they can’t meet a deadline, or they have a family emergency so they can’t staff an event they’d planned to be at, or they realize that fulfilling the original agreement will require them working 60-hour weeks and they’re not up for doing that so they want to revisit what’s realistic.
Someone who thinks “you must do what you agree to, regardless of personal cost” is someone who lacks a basic understanding of how humans work and how life works, and who doesn’t even realize he’s advertising that he’ll be a nightmare to work for. He feels that “regardless of personal cost” is reasonable. (In fact, if I know this type, he probably thinks he should take pride in his high standards for others.)
Then there’s #2: “Social needs met outside work (does not need an office full of coworkers to fill this need).” This is another one that sounds like it was born from an experience he didn’t like — like that he had an employee who was overly social at the expense of their job or other people’s work. And that happens! But a reasonable manager trusts themselves to handle that effectively if it comes up again, by talking to the person about the issue and helping them recalibrate their lines between “normal human warmth” and “behavior that’s disrupting the office.”
Or maybe I’m interpreting it wrong and it just means “you won’t be around other people in this job, so you have to be okay with that.” But if that’s what he means, there are far more straightforward ways to say that, ones that don’t sound like he’s implicitly criticizing people who appreciate having some degree of human connection with their colleagues. I’d be interested to know what he says about it in response to your questions! I’m more willing to believe this one is just artless wording than I am with #1, but when you take the two in combination together, it doesn’t paint a great picture.
Ultimately, I think you’re exactly right: Either he means precisely what he wrote, or he lacks the empathy to understand why his framing would be off-putting. My guess is both. Either way, you’re getting valuable info about what it would be like to work for him.
Read an update to this letter here.
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