The First Lie You Hear in HR

Many of you are now aware that Peyton Manning, All Pro NFL Quarterback, was released by the Indianapolis Colts (I wrote about here).  Long story short – he was injured, he’s the back side of his career, he was due a boatload of money – Indianapolis made a business decision to let him go.  There was this really heartfelt press conference with the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, Jim Irsay, and Peyton the day he was released where they both cried and talked about how much they loved and respected each other.  But within all that – there was one Giant lie – one we hear all the time in HR.

Jim Irsay stood at the podium and said – This is not about money.

Boom!  Liar!

It’s always about money – and this was about money.  If Irsay would have kept Peyton on 1 more day – it would have cost his organization $28M.  It was about and is about money – you don’t know if he’s going to perform at the level he has over the past 14 years, and you aren’t willing to risk $28M on that decision to keep him.

I can’t tell you how many times in HR I’ve hear this statement from employees who are leaving for another company – and 99.9% of the time they are flat out lying to your face!  “Tim, I’m putting in my two weeks notice” “What can we do to keep you?” “Nothing – it’s not about the money – I’m looking for that next phase in my career” “So, you won’t stay if we pay you $100K more!”  “Well, wait a minute – you would pay me $100K more?!” “No! I just wanted to show you it is about money – now go – I don’t like to work with Liars!”

That’s exactly how you do it – HR Newbies!  When someone tells you it’s not about money – start negotiating and find that price – you’ll get to it pretty quickly.  “But Tim, it isn’t about money – I want to spend more time with my kids – I need balance.”  “I’ll give you a 50% increase” “You know my kids will sure like going to private schools, much more than public schools.”   Everyone has a price – just some prices are more expensive than others – but never let anyone tell you – It’s not about the money – it is.

If Peyton would have went to Irsay and said – “Look Jimmy (I assume he calls him Jimmy) I want to do right by the Colts – I’ll accept the league minimum to stay hear” “Peyton, you got yourself a deal!” would have been the entire conversation.  But Peyton is smart – he knows his value – as does Jimmy – so they cut him loose.  We do this all the time with our employees.  Mary from IT just came in and said she got a new job paying her 20% more – and we calculate how much that will cost to raise up Mary, and everyone else in her same position.  We then look at Mary, shake her hand and tell her good luck.  It’s about the money.


6 thoughts on “The First Lie You Hear in HR

  1. Of course money is a factor, but I think it is wise to add that rarely is it ONLY about money.

    I’m curious though.. in the scenario where an employee backpedals on their decision when you offer them $100k more is now branded a liar. What does that make you, the person offering an increase that you have no intention of honouring?

  2. I wholeheartedly disagree – it’s rarely about the money. If someone feels they are paid fairly, then it’s almost always about something else that causes them to look elsewhere. No chance for advancement, a poor boss, etc. I ALWAYS advise against a counter offer because it doesn’t fix the root problem and only puts those handcuffs on an already unhappy individual who will be stewing about why they weren’t “worth it” before someone else was interested in them.

  3. I think you’re talking about 2 different things here – an organization’s decision to RIF an employee usually *is* about money. “We need to cut next year’s budget by 10%, so we need your salary to help us reach that goal….see ya’!” Clearly Peyton Manning was released because of money and it’s ridiculous for the Colts to say otherwise (and expect us to believe it).

    On the other hand, if you’re talking about why an employee leaves an organization, I think it’s rarely about money. I, personally, have left organizations I couldn’t stand working for anymore – and have taken either the same or less money in some cases. My last employer offered to match my new salary to keep me – but I was done with that place and really was looking for the next step in my career, so I moved on.

    One thing I have found working in HR is that when we have an employee leaving for more money and we offer to match the new salary to keep him….and the employee actually stays, it usually isn’t for long. Conversely, I have seen over and over where an employee leaves for more money, realizes the grass isn’t greener, and wants to come back. Our favorite saying here is “money covers a multitude of sins”. People find out quickly that yes, they can make a lot more money elsewhere…but have to work more hours, have less flexibility, fewer benefits, crappy boss etc. and then want to come right back.

  4. I don’t know if it is always starts about the money but it probably always becomes about money.

    I believe the trigger to look for a new job is rarely money. Or if it is, they are lying to themselves because most organizations are pretty good at taking care of people they value the most.

    Once you start talking with folks and you find other companies willing to give you the red carpet treatment (20% raise, no problem! you have a clawback of your training dollars, here’s a sign on problem! Onsite day care? no problem!) the employee puts that front and center. Some of that is the subconscious ego boost of being loved by someone else and some is simple conflict aversion. It is much easier to tell your boss you got a 20% raise than it is to say you are leaving b/c he is a jerk who takes credit for the work you do.

    Then that manager goes to his boss and says its all about the money. HR might not have the trust or engagement to ferret out the real story or have the time to do so. And *poof* its all about the money.

    I read a good article recently – I think it was from Daniel Pink – about how money actually pushes us to make bad decisions. I’ve seen that in action – disgruntled, un-self-aware employees quit for a contract gig b/c it pays more in the short term. You sit with them and talk it through with them and they’ve missed out on half a dozen points that diminish the value of that contract they are so excited about. oops.

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