Wednesday, September 16, 2009

When a past employee violates their agreements

Employment Contracts Today

Ok, this seems to push a big button with my clients. When an employee joins an organization there are different "contracts" that are in place. There are social contracts and then of course paper type agreements/contracts.

Social Contracts
As an employer, you agree to bring a new person into your organization, train them in the area that they have been hired, provide them a comfortable work environment, tools needed to do their work, pay them fair wages for what they deliver, grow them, etc. In return the employee is expected to do their best each day, continue to learn what you train them on, show up on time, do as requested and honor the agreements in place. This is apart of the social contract that is created between adn employee and employer. Both parties know what is expected and so long as you each are honoring your side, years go by with both benefiting.

Written Contracts
There are the written contracts/agreements that we encourage employers to put in place that are written and include agreements not to solicit employees or customers for a period of time, not to use confidential information, etc. These are more formal and written agreements that are put in place to reinforce the expectations that the employer has of the employee after they are no longer an employee. These are agreements typicaly signed and agreed to during the course of employment. These are enforceable by law.

When an employee violates the policies, procedures or even the social contracts, it creates a divide between the employee and the employer. The width and depth of the divide depends on how the employee reacts and choices he or she makes to correct that divide. Some times that divide is such that it requires the two parties to part ways.

When an employee is no longer apart of an organization, you then are dependent on that past employee having the integrity to honor both the social and written agreements that have been in place. For most employees all that is needed not to solicit and target your clients, use the information that you trained them on, leverage relationships that they only had as a result of working for you - is their personal character and moral fortitude.

However, there are those past employees who are somehow lacking in this area and feel that it is ok to pillage the company that they learned from, taking advantage of confidential information they never would have had access to unless they not worked for that firm. Be reassured that when a past employee does this - it confirms that their departure from your organization was the right decision. With employees, there is no grey area with regards to integrity and moral fortitude. Life is too short to surround yourselves with those that do not have either. So rejoice that you no longer have these employees within your organization.

Taking Action
There have been many an employee who has left an organization and never released client data. There are even those employees who go and work for a competitor and never share the client list or information about their prior employer. They honor the social contract in addition to the actual agreements they may have signed. These are the past employees you should thank and stay in touch with.

So what if you are the employer who had the past employee who solicits your clients, uses confidential information to their betterment, etc. You can exercise your rights under the employment non-solicit, non-compete agreements. You can also share with your existing client base that this activity is going on and you wanted them to be aware that if they are approached that they should realize this person is violating the company's agreements. You should also reach out to their current employer and let them know that you intend to enforce the agreement that the past employee had signed and it could involve them if they brought on such clients and participated in the violation.

If you are ever approached by a past employee of a customer, have the same integrity level that you would expect of your own team and do not take the bait. To purchase from that person, no matter the price, reinforces the past employees very poor choices. Instead, reach out to your client and let them know this is occurring. I would also encourage you to share with the past employee that you are surprised that they would do this to a Company that helped them along their career path.

Keep the faith - there are those employees who are honorable and will honor both the social and the written agreements you put in place. Those are the ones we want to reward, grow and encourage throughout their careers.


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