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Executive Leadership: Don't Be A Jerk When It Comes To Perks
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Executive Leadership: Don't Be A Jerk When It Comes To Perks - Executive Leadership Articles

Executive Leadership: Don't Be A Jerk When It Comes To Perks

Executive Leadership Articles

Executive Leadership: Don't Be A Jerk When It Comes To Perks

Among the more shameful flotsam and jetsam that floated to the surface in the wake of the subprime mortgage shipwreck were executive perks that seemed to make a mockery of the government bailouts and consumers' broken faith. Executives were given pink slips in the same metaphorical envelopes as comically garish bonuses or severances for being at the helm as companies went under, even while details of mismanagement and law-skirting were brought to light.

In times of enormous corporate distress, being caught with sexy executive perks can be like being photographed unknowingly with one's pants down--and then seeing the pictures on the front pages of newspapers around the world. Yet nobody denies that a company striving for excellence needs good leadership, and good leadership is worth the cost of a company car, a corner office, and a few other niceties. The issue then becomes one of balance and reason: how to compensate competitively without potentially embarrassing everyone in the organization.

In general, your candidate should never be in a position to demand his or her perks, and your compensation committee should decide what's reasonable and appropriate, but if there's some room for negotiation, here are a few things to keep in mind that will keep a good candidate happy while protecting everyone against future bad press.

First, avoid the potential to embarrass the candidate, the company and its stakeholders, or anyone's family. In public companies, details are released anyway, but whether your compensation package is likely to be made public or not, play the game as if there were a million spectators. Even if you're not required to disclose a thing, bring this thing to a close as if you were.

Next, consider perks that help others, not in place of the candidate's generosity, but in conjunction with it. If your company already has a charitable division, add to its roster of beneficiaries an organization close to your candidate's heart, then agree to match some or all of the candidate's contributions. Keep in mind the need to be judicious and selective; some charitable organizations are seen more favorably by the public than others. Allow the candidate, for example, to make her own gifts to her college sorority, but agree to match contributions to environmental or relief agencies.

Perks that are extensions of those given regular employees are reasonable and relatable, especially if they're connected to the health of families and communities. If managers get a week's worth of discretionary days for family-related activity, offer your candidate two weeks' worth. Perks that show the company off in a positive way can also be great, especially if all employees receive some similar benefit. Discounts or freebies on goods and services offered by your company can be great for company morale, and if your executive candidate receives perks in this realm, there can be a sense of joint ownership all around.

There will always be perks that help your candidate do his or her job better, in ways beneficial to the whole company, and many of these will not immediately be understood by people not privy to the details of the job. A company car with a driver can seem excessive to some, but if it enables better productivity for an executive who spends a lot of time moving from meeting to meeting, it's in everyone's best interest to make it work. Similarly, travel by private jet, while ostentatiously expensive, can mean less time wasted, more flexibility, and better energy for those executives who use it without abusing it. In such cases, even company insiders might not understand, so make sure the rank-and-file is in on the whats and the whys, and at least within your own building, there will be no potential embarrassment.

If this weren't clear in the business climate a few years ago, it should be clear now: bonuses tied to performance should come with escape clauses for the company, if (heaven forbid) the company is publicly shamed. The wording can be tricky, but find a way to articulate matters such that your candidate, in the unlikely event of some horrible misbehavior, cannot profit by his or her deeds and make the company appear foolish.

Depending on how you measure things (and whom you ask), executive perks are either being reduced in number and scale or continuing the way they once were. Whatever your organization's approach, it can and should find a way to hold onto the best talent while protecting itself from bad feelings within and bad press without.


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Executive Leadership: Don't Be A Jerk When It Comes To Perks - Executive Leadership Articles

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