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The Art of Breaking Non-Solicitations to Recruit: Lessons from Mastercard vs Nike...

I see you.

You think you're cute when you change companies.  But I know the truth.  

It's like one of my favorite scenes from Fight Club, where Ed Norton (known as the Narrator) meets Tyler Durden for the first time, and Tyler reacts to Norton talking about his single-serving friends on the road: Clever

Narrator: Tyler, you are by far the most interesting single-serving friend I've ever met... see I have this thing: everything on a plane is single-serving... 
Tyler Durden: Oh I get it, it's very clever. 
Narrator: Thank you. 
Tyler Durden: How's that working out for you? 
Narrator: What? 
Tyler Durden: Being clever. 
Narrator: Great. 
Tyler Durden: Keep it up then... Right up.  

You think you're clever when you change companies and in order to not violate your signed non-solicitation agreement, you tell someone else in your new company who the best people are that they should recruit.  Hell, if those people just elect to apply, how could you be held accountable, right?

Well, my friends, it's all just a mirage.  The only protection you have in that circumstance related to non-solicitation agreements you signed is avoiding pissing someone off. 

Recently, Nike pissed Mastercard off, and it undoubtedly will have some ramifications in big companies you work for.  More from Venture Beat:

"MasterCard’s decision to go to federal court last week and sue Nike for $5 million because it hired away several IT security people may force the courts to remap the boundaries of corporate recruiting.

At issue are so-called non-solicitation agreements, which are routinely included today in hiring letters. These agreements try to prohibit someone from recruiting fellow employees when they leave the company.

In the MasterCard case, some former employees left to join Nike and help improve its security operations. The rub involves what constitutes “recruiting” and, most critically, how one defines “indirect recruiting,” which is what the MasterCard letter banned.

The topic gets complicated when it’s not an issue of the executive calling former colleagues and asking them to join, nor when it involves instructing someone else to make such calls on his behalf. (Those are clearly banned under non-solicitation agreements.) The issue is when the action is limited to telling a new boss about who some of the best security talent in the industry is — and offering general ranges of salary needed to attract such talent.

Does such behavior constitute indirect recruiting? And if so, is it practical to try and prohibit such behavior?

One thing I learned a long time ago related to non-competes and non-solicitations is that you can think they don't apply all you want, but at the end of the day, if a big company with money to spend wants to go after you, they can make your life hell and at some point, the adults in the company come in and say, "what the hell went on here?"

More from the MasterCard/Nike rumble:

"The lawsuit that MasterCard filed (.pdf) was vague as to exactly how the former MasterCard executives were supposed to have recruited their former colleagues. (Nike has yet to respond in court, but it told the Wall Street Journal yesterday that it regards the lawsuit as “without merit.”) Those execs — William E. Dennings, former MasterCard Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), and Ryan Fusselman, former senior business leader at the payment card company’s IS department, “in charge of security engineering” — apparently recruited at least one employee through LinkedIn, the filing said, but it’s unclear if it was a generic message sent to all of the execs’ LinkedIn followers or something much more specific.

The lawsuit said that Nike hired “at least seven additional” MasterCard managers or employees, beyond Dennings and Fusselman, within six months, all to build out Nike’s security IT department.

In an apparent attempt to suggest that the two former execs knew they were doing something wrong, the filing said that employees were asked to lie to MasterCard about why they were quitting.

An example of the lies told to MasterCard, according to MasterCard? One employee “claimed that she was resigning to relax and to focus on her family and health.” Fusselman himself said, according to the lawsuit, “that he was accepting a job with an aerospace company in California.”-solicitation agreements altogether."

So go ahead and say that those non-competes and non-solicitation agreements aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

You're right, until you try to get clever and you piss someone off with power and budget to do something about it.

At which point someone in your company will ask you: "How's that working out for you?"  (what?)  "Being Clever.

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