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Bad Boss of the Week: Lying in the Job Description

You may think it's important to get that critical position filled, but you don't want to fill it with someone who doesn't want to be there.
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Being the owner of a small business, you have a responsibility not only to your company's success but to the employees you hire. Some of you are great at this and some of you, well, stink. I received this email this week.

I took a new job with the understanding that I would be an in-house subject matter expert and travel infrequently. There was work in the local area, but I was not given any of it. I have been 100 percent travel since January 13, 2014, and was 50 percent travel for five months before that. Travel means go to the client site (out of state with 4 to 5 hours travel each way from my airport to client site) on either Sunday night or Monday morning, with 40 hours of client on site time. No comp time and PTO required for any time off (even an hour). I was just told this was going to be my role for the organization. High turnover at my level and one level less experience. Small privately owned business with nearly 75% turnover per year. I love what I do, but hate the way I am treated.

This is a classic, textbook example of a bad boss. The boss wanted to get this particular person on board, so he told the (then) candidate that it would require minimal travel. The boss probably assumed that fewer people would want a heavy travel job, so he didn't mention that part. I suppose it's possible that things changed after this guy started work, but given the 75 percent turnover, I'm guessing it's not true.

I would advise this person to begin looking for a new job. Even though he loves the work aspect, even if the boss stops the travel, the boss is still going to be a lying, manipulative jerk.

And so are you if you find yourself lying in job interviews to get the person you want on board. Sometimes this is done subconsciously--you just say what you have to say in order to get the person on board, figuring that you'll work out the details later. Though there is always some give and take in responsibilities--especially at senior levels--you should never throw this level of deception at a job candidate.

What can you do so you don't blurt out, "We can do that!" when you can't? Your top-level candidate will negotiate every aspect of a job, as she well should, and you need to be prepared for that. Well, first, have a written job description in front of you and in front of the candidate. When she says, "I don't want to travel," and you know the job will require travel, you'll have to make a plan. For instance, you need to figure out who will do that travel or if it can be done via phone calls or videoconferencing.

If you just think that you can promise now and make changes later, legally, you can. (Unless you have a signed contract, you can pretty much adjust job descriptions at will.) But, you will end up losing the people you desperately wanted to bring on board. And not only that, but while they are there, they won't want to be. There are people who love travel. Hire one of those people for a heavy travel job.

Whatever you do, don't lie in the job description and don't promise what you can't deliver.

If you've had (or been) a bad boss, send me an email at EvilHRLady@gmail.com.

Last updated: Aug 1, 2014

SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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