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  • Writer's pictureCorporate Gaslighting

When Employers Think A Job Is Ownership.

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

I just moved to a new country for political reasons. While I'm not technically a refugee - as I have a proper visa that allows me to move to this country - I consider myself as being forced to leave my home. I can still go back to my home freely though. So I'm not in exile either!

Long story short...


I found a new job which I should be happy about but I'm not because I feel I've been forced to take it due to circumstances, despite being disrespected by the Founder and how the company are treating me!

I have known this Founder since our Holdings-Company-owned-agency days.


The Founder was the Head of this Country (where I have moved to) while I was a small potato in another market office. We crossed paths several times as there were quite a number of global accounts we collaborated on but we all did our own things because the regions were separately managed by our clients.

A decade later...we have both left our previous employer. The Founder has founded his current agency while I have moved to this country. I approached the Founder to ask him for an introduction to good recruiters and/or contacts who may be hiring. The Founder asked me if I wanted to explore working at his agency so I said yes.

I have only spoken with the Founder once and the rest of our conversations were via the MD ... who also used to work for the same Holdings Company-owned agency.


At the first and only video call with the Founder, he said something casually which made me feel awkward but his true objective behind saying those words only became clear when he disclosed how much he wanted to pay me.

He said, "For this role, I expect the person to be able to handle a project independently. And I have not seen that in you" . He said this in the sense that he has never directly managed me nor seen my performance (because I used to work in another market/office) rather than saying I wasn't able to do it.


Fast forward...

After about 2 more video calls with the MD (beyond the one I also had with the founder), the MD sent me a job description of the role. This was not an offer but more of a starting point for further discussions.


The title they put forward was an Associate Director role - at least one level lower than what I would normally be able to obtain in the market. But I'm ok with that because I believe different companies have different structures and thus different title designations.


The starting salary was what shocked me the most! They've asked me for my expected salary and I told them the ranges that the recruiters suggested. Their starting salary was at least 20% lower than the low end of the ranges suggested by recruiters ... and was for people with 5-8 years of experience according to several salary surveys published by different recruiters. Moreover, their starting salary was my salary more than a decade ago!


I told them the above and asked for the starting salary to be increased. They did and increased it to the lower end of the range. I could/can accept this due to my self-awareness of my lack of local market experience.


It was then that I realised the casual remark said by the Founder earlier was meant to pave the way for giving me a lowball "offer" (note: they have not made an official offer yet as it's just a starting point for further discussions).


After several more video calls and a trip to their office, they finally made a conditional offer (pending reference checks) and then an official offer.


Then the employment contract...

It included the normal non-solicitation and non-poaching clauses, as well as a non-compete clause that would forbid me from working as a director, investor, joint venturer, employee or shareholder owning more than 5% shares of a competing business anywhere in the world for a period of six months after the termination of my contract. This would include situations where the employer terminates my contract!


I pushed back and asked for the word "employee" to be removed and the MD's reply shocked me even more:


“The main purpose of clause 2.2 is to prevent you leaving XXX and going to work for a direct competitor. The term ‘employee’ is therefore integral to the purpose of the clause. But please note all the business protection clauses are caveated with the terms ‘without the prior written consent of the Company’. These are standard non-compete clauses that provide us with protection depending on your future plans, but of course we would consider carefully any reasonable appeal to waive these clauses.”

How mean were they! But there's more...

They would not even allow me to take my garden leave concurrently with the above restrictive period! Meaning that I would be put on garden leave PLUS six months of not being able to obtain my rightful and legitimate work!

I asked the MD how I would feed myself? Her reply angered me to a point that I almost told her to f*ck off, "The clause would not stop you from gaining employment. It will only stop you from working for a competitor..."


This must be the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard someone say and I was so shocked that she even had the face to say it so eloquently! I retorted that I would only be able to find jobs for which I have experience in and that would necessarily mean a competing business to your company. While the clause does not ban me from gaining employment entirely, it will effectively bar me from gaining employment because of its restrictions on me from working for a competitor!"


I stood firm and also told them that:


1) Such a non-compete clause is not common in our industry. I have asked other agency people based in the country and they all told me it is out of the ordinary to forbid someone to work for a competing agency after they leave the company.


At the very most, such a term only appears in C-suite executives' employment contracts and will be taken together with garden leave.


2) My right to obtain employment and my freedom of movement between jobs and my freedom of choice cannot be dependent on discretion and goodwill.


3) The other restrictive covenant clauses (non-solicitation and non-poaching) already protects legitimate business interests so 'prevention of competition' is a restraint of trade. (the MD also told me the industry is so competitive that they needed the non-compete clause to protect them).


4) I suggested signing an additional non-disclosure agreement for a year (that's six months longer than the restrictive period in the contract) during which I could not disclose nor use any knowledge, proprietary methodologies or trade secrets gained during my employment. The MD refused and said the non-disclosure agreement was already covered by other parts of the contract and they had to ban me from working for their competitor in order to protect their business interests.


5) I asked them to put a limit of the geographical coverage for the various restrictive covenant clauses so that they would not cover the entire world because it's a Country/Region role. The MD said they intended for me to help them expand globally so it's not a Country/Region role.

I am due to speak with the MD soon and am prepared to walk out... I feel they are taking advantage of the fact that I am new to the country and need stable employment because I have told them that without stable employment, I won't even be able to rent a flat, no matter how much cash I have in my bank account!


Thank you for your attention!


Best regards,

A very unhappy person who should be happy for having found a new job in a new country!


UPDATE:


Just had a call with the MD and they refused to budge and I refused to sign the non-compete clause without removing the word "employee". They said at their company, Associate Director is considered a senior management position, even though it is not in 99% of the agency world and they wanted to reassure me that they would not unnecessarily bar me from gaining employment after leaving.


They just wanted me to tell them my plans after leaving and then they would decide whether to let me work for my new employer. Wow.

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