Doing The Right Thing, Just A Little Too Late.


September 10, 2009

I planned to write another post today, but I saw a story that keeps popping into my mind.

There was a story on MSNBC about a couple that decided to get married at their seven year old son’s funeral.  It is a tragic story out of Buffalo, NY of a little boy who was killed in an auto accident.  His wish all his life had been for his parents to marry.  So, they decided to go through with it (as a surprise) at his funeral.  Now, the point of my post is not to pass judgment on these parents either way.  What struck me about this story is, weren’t they doing too little, too late?

We’re all guilty of this at one time or another.  With our family, our friends, our career.  From a  HR stand point, there are numerous examples of this every day.  Do any of these scenerios ring true for you?

  • HR continuously encourages supervisors and managers to give feedback- we give them the tools, the coaching, examples they can use, and role playing and they still put it off.  They wait until it’s too late, when they are holding the resignation letter of a team member, to tell the employee how valuable they are.  It’s often too little, too late.
  • What about the team members who want training?  The manager does not send them because there isn’t enough time, enough money, or they don’t see the benefits the training will bring to the company.  Then, the employee leaves because they don’t feel that their development is valuable.  The manager scrambles and offers them training opportunities, but it’s too little, too late.
  • You’re a recruiter working with a hiring manager.  You find an outstanding candidate from a cold call or a good referral.  The interviews go well and it’s almost a unanimous recommendation to hire.  The hiring manager hems and haws over the role, the money, etc.  The candidate takes another offer.  Now the hiring manager is kicking himself (and you as the recruiter) for not moving fast enough.  It’s too little, too late.
  • The employee comes to Mr. Supervisor to ask for a raise.  The employee understands that times are tough, but they have a good, solid case as to why they deserve the increase.  Mr. Supervisor has a million and one reasons why he can’t (or won’t) give the increase.  A month later, the employee has an offer in hand from a competitor.  Now the supervisor is scrambling to counter.  It’s too little, too late.

There are so many missed opportunities because we fail to act and do what we know is “right” or would be “best”.  Why?  Maybe because we fear having to go to bat for an employee, or because we don’t want to cash in our chips for that particular person, or because of our own fear or insecurity.  Don’t let opportunities go by.  When you do, you may not be able to recover.  It may be too little, too late.


  • Great Read today. It applies to all aspects of business and life. I find that people wait too long to forgive and ask for forgiveness- could lighten so many loads and free up minds in positive and productive ways!
    Great Message!

  • The last point about a counteroffer is one that always kills me. A company should rarely, if ever, have to provide a counteroffer to a person who might leave. I believe they should have been paying the person that much all along. A friend left our former employer, and they tried a counteroffer. She was torn, but I said, “Why didn’t they pay you that for the past year if that’s what you’re worth?” She left shortly after. 🙂

    Great post!

  • I dont do counteroffers, as an HR Pro for current employees or as a job seeker. I don’t buy looking for a job just based on pay, there are always other reasons behind it and those are the reasons they’ll keep looking. Same holds true when I’m a job seeker, I’ve left a job based soley on pay. People leave managers and its part of our job to make sure that doesnt happen.
    It’s full time job in and of itself trying to keep on top of managers to make sure its not too little too late. When I find a good hire and the manager sits on it; it bug the mess out of them until they make a decision (I’m annoying like that). Our managers hold daily meetings and the last question is always “Is there anything I can do to help you?”

  • What I find to be the hardest at my current company is the feedback and documenation aspect. No matter how hard I try, managers are still not doing it.

  • @Debbie- Great point about forgiveness. Often that is one major way we don’t do the right thing or we wait too long to do it.

    @Ben and April- You both bring up a good point about counter offers. Like you, I don’t believe in them. In my experience, any time I’ve seen an employee get one, they always still leave anyway. Employees usually don’t leave a job or stay in a job just because of the money. It’s a big factor, but there has to be more.

    @novice-hr- Thanks for commenting. I’m following you on Twitter and am happy to see you here. I feel your pain with the feedback issue. So many companies have this same problem. I’d like to see companies pick up on new technologies to help managers give feedback to employees. Something more real time but that could be collected into a larger portal.

  • Trish,

    While counteroffers send the wrong message, employees who bring an offer to their current employer are sending an equally conflicting message. Think about it… if one of my employees wanted to go elsewhere, why would they all of the sudden want to stay if I can match the proposed salary? As soon as another offer of more money comes their way, they’ll try to leave again.

    Research shows that 75% of all employees who accept a counter offer end up leaving within 12 months anyway. After all the same reasons that they were looking to leave in the first place remain (bad manager, poor culture, long commute, etc). The increase in $$$ only delays the inevitable.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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