July 20, 2005
Don't forget the binding verbal handshake
After many interviews, a boss decides to hire "person
A" and verbally promises the job. Soon afterwards, "person
B" appears and turns out to be many times more qualified
than "person A." Should the manager keep the
verbal promise to person A or hire person B instead?
An offer can be binding. In some circumstances (please
consult legal advice) a verbal commitment is a contract.
Morally, the deal is the deal. The hiring person may
have promised to hire what turned out to be the less
qualified person. But the second person (more qualified)
may also deserve the position. So the person doing the
hiring must wrestle what is the right thing to do for
the individuals involved, the company and the long-term
impact of behaving precipitously, regardless of how this
complicated situation is resolved.
The principle of a verbal commitment - a "verbal
handshake" - is embodied in some work that our organization
has done with leaders in the Salinas Valley agribusiness
community. Ag leaders' continued belief in that principle
was discussed in an article published Aug. 6, 2003, in
the The Salinas Californian. Below is an excerpt:
"Salinas Valley agricultural executives heralded
the moral legacy of those who established the local produce
industry in the 1920s and '30s.
Today, the multibillion-dollar sector - led by many
of their descendants - directly or indirectly employs
more than 30 percent of Monterey County's work force.
"One concept emphasized ... is that of a 'verbal
handshake' - the mutual trust that permits quick transactions
under the deadlines of a perishable commodity. Also emphasized
is the idea of giving back to the community, which participants
say is still reflected in the civic generosity of many
ag companies in such causes as Relay For Life, the annual
fund-raiser for cancer research."
One of the eight key values of the Salinas Valley Agribusiness
Integrity-Centered Leadership Program is character, and
its definition was adopted by a committee of 16 leaders
of valley agricultural companies. Character means: "Business
is transacted with a phone call or a handshake, and even
though much of agribusiness today involves contracts,
it is clear that contracts are formalities ... ."
One's personal "verbal handshake" is the real
deal. So, what should an integrity-centered leader, with