Will Companies Ever Woo Again?


I remember my first “office” job. It was arranged through a temp agency, and I had auditioned for the role for a full two weeks before they practically begged me to come on permanently. I was young and nervous about my abilities. Some of the staff treated me like a “temp” for a very long time. Others welcomed me on board with enthusiasm, upscale dining, and the occasional gift certificate. My services helped keep a top-notch sales team running at peak efficiency, and I loved my job.

Down the street, my good friend was not so lucky. Her college degree had landed her a position with a company of equal size, where she was in charge of promotions and newsletters. Her skill set was wide, and she had the kind of attitude that could bring a kind of happy excitement to any bland environment. Every day they reminded her that there were dozens of others who had wanted her job, and that if she wasn’t fully committed to the company and its ideals, she could go elsewhere.

Is it the industry? It would be easy to say that I had it better because I was working in a niche market with very little competition and a wide open sky of possibilities within my company. There were no pressures to downsize, cut costs, or ramp up productivity (yet). My friend’s industry, however, was dime-a-dozen. Their eyes were on the enemy, watching the every move of the competitor, and rarely focusing on the employees that made it all go. It’s possible that the lack of “wooing” by my friend’s company had more to do with the kind of work being done, and not her personally.

On the same note, I once managed a fast-food restaurant. While I wanted every new employee to feel treasured and welcome, it was necessary to keep a continuing stream of “warm bodies” in the hiring pipeline to guarantee our operations. I was lucky if I could get each new employee a uniform that fit (or had at least been washed) and training was a luxury that only the most promising ever received.

Is it our culture? Some Americans are experiencing less perks than ever (a reduction in maternity leave and bereavement pay), while the India Times discusses a new trend of “heartbreak” leave for employees that have recently broken up with a partner and need time to cry it out. And while some may say that this is taking "perks" to the extreme, it may be another example of how the U.S. has fallen behind other countries in our treatment of some sectors of workers.

Is it the tenure of the employee? It is easy to say that new-hires will get more coddling and appreciation than those that have been around awhile, but this is also becoming a faux pas. Just recently, a close friend accepted a dream job, only to find that the real interviews came “after” he was hired. With no formal training in his new job, the expectations were grossly above his pay scale. Instead of the company trying to encourage him, they continually reminded him of the “perils” of the job, and questioned him time and again if he was making the right decision by working there (all of this within the first week.) It turns out that this was a regular practice of the company, and that they often tried to “psych” out new-hires to see if they were of the rigid material they supposedly needed.

On the other end of the scale, you may see new hires being promised the world. Or maybe that 20+ year employee gets everything he asks for (parking space, extra time off for family activities, etc.) It seems that there is no fast or hard rule for this behavior.

In a society where relationships rarely start out with dating (the style of the movie “Knocked-Up ” isn’t that uncommon), I guess we shouldn’t be surprised to see employees clawing their way into contention for jobs they already have. It saddens me that anyone would be made to feel like less than a person or treated as completely disposable by any employer. We laugh at the "Devil Wears Prada " mentality as a far-fetched exaggeration of the work world, but it does exist.

While there will always be strange anomalies in the workplace that prevent us from ever knowing if we will continue to be courted beyond our “new-hire” status (or at all), it is something that we must consider if we are looking for a long-term company partner. This excellent article by Work Happy Now lays out the rhyme and reason for wooing your employees (in case you didn’t already know that it is a good idea.) And while there are still companies willing to try something new to find and retain good employees, I would personally want something a bit more substantial than a sand volleyball court.

If you are being wooed at a new job (or you’re still in love with your steady, long-term work partner) please let us know! We’d love to hear your stories of company courtship.

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Guest's picture

I've now been in the big-girl (read: post-college) workforce for 11 or so years. I've been working since I was 16 (holy crap, that's 17 years!) and I think that it's pretty much relative where ever you go. It's going to depend on the HR person, the industry, the company, and its employees.

At my last company, I was the HR assistant and in charge of all the new-hire functions. I went out of my way to make sure every new employee was set up well, new desk set up nicely, welcome email (and subsequent lunch invite), etc. I introduced them to everyone and just basically wanted to make it a nice place to work. Why? Because none of that happened when I was hired.

My current company (big-4 accounting firm) still woos employees. (Note: I'm not an accountant.) We treat the interns like diplomats when they come in, taking them out for lunches, fun game nights, etc. Throughout the year, my company will periodically send out gifts to all the employees' homes. I've gotten bags, portfolios, ice cream packages, omaha steaks, days off.... The company I work for is very focused on making our workplace one that we actually WANT to be in--they want to be the kind of company that people don't want to leave! (It works. We're on the top Forbes top 100 companies to work for each year.)

While I'm not in HR with this company, I do process most of the new team members who come on to my team. I do the same thing with them, as well as whatever it takes to make my team happy. (I'll bring in cookies, do secret gift exchanges, send out notes, etc.) I do it because keeping them happy makes me happy and makes my job easier.

I really think it's just relative to the company's mission and to the people who are working in said company. Unfortunately, I think there are more boogerheads out there than fun people.

Linsey Knerl's picture

I'll be using that one from now on.  It's much more G-rated than some of the other things I've been hearing!  Thanks for sharing your experiences.  As my husband would say, "It is what it is."

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture

"We laugh at the "Devil Wears Prada" mentality as a far-fetched exaggeration of the work world, but it does exist."

it does, and i used to work for her!

I LOVE my new boss though. (now self employeed.)

Guest's picture

Great Post! Oh, i was wooed in the beginning of my job hunt..then...i was like your friend who had all the 'real interviews' after the job...that and i had a Devil Wears Prada experience there as well..all within the first month. it was horrible and i left after 9 months- after my boss telling me i 'lied' on my resume and that 'any pea-brain could do my job' i knew all the wooing beforehand was to hire me quickly in a job with a shrew no one wanted to work with...not so much that my skills were in demand. now i'm temping again and up for a marketing admin job (even tho my skills are in writing and marketing) but i have been networking like crazy within the company, and many people like me, so i may have to take a step back before i take a step up. it seems each place has it's own set of rules!

Guest's picture

I've been at my present company for over 11 years. I've been with the same boss for 20+ years. He decided to take a sabbatical about 2 years ago. The boogerhead that took the boss's place treats all the long term people like idiots. (He seems to think we're dumb for staying in one place and not jumping every 2 years?) He has rubbed our noses in how much more he's paying his new hires than he pays us "dinosaurs." I laughed my a$$ off when the IT department all walked within days of each other, until the boogerhead called me into his office and told me that since I had managed IT 5 years ago, he would be demoting me back down to that position until they could hire new people, oh, and no guarantee that I'll get my current position back. I'm now making what I made in 2002 and definitely searching for a different job even though the old boss gets back next month.

Guest's picture

Denmark has a name for work happiness and India has loss of a relationship leave. America used to be at the forefront of wooing our employees and I believe we are falling behind. Ford paid his employees 4 times the national average back when the model T was in it's beginning stages.

Hopefully we recognize this trend and the companies, not the government, see the potential in making work happy and fun.

Great article and thanks for the link love.

Guest's picture

With a Master's degree and very high GPA, the most wooing I ever got was a flight out to interview and being put up in a hotel room. Then it turned out I was being wooed to take over a job nobody wanted. Go figure...
I too am now self-employed and I love it. My clients are wonderful, even if they don't send me care packages at home, and I get to avoid many of the parts of office life that I didn't like. I think that, for me, self-employment has been the better of the job experiences because when I worked for someone else I was always being boogerheaded around.


Guest's picture

where is the love ???? all the love is in my converse shoes ;)