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Posted on: Sunday, 28 November 2010 by Rajiv Popat

When you hired Fred he was one of the few fairly productive employees you could lay your hands on.

There were a few minor glitches during the interview but then he seemed technically competent.

His demands were simple and very legitimate:

  1. Some autonomy and ownership over his own work.
  2. Good work with the latest technologies and frameworks out there.
  3. A pay package that does not insult his capabilities.

A couple of years in the organization and you can see clearly that the cost of keeping Fred happy and satisfied is increasing steadily. Fred now just wants to work with the European clients because he has never visited Europe and is expecting a nice little business trip there. All of a sudden he cares little about the technology this European client is using or the autonomy that he has in his work. His primary focus is a big extravagant business trip to Europe.

You Cringe.

Fred in the last couple of years has morphed from someone who was highly innovative and driven by intrinsic motivation into someone who is high maintenance, low productivity and highly calculative about extrinsic factors. 

Once the barrier for being low maintenance is broken, it is a slippery slope down the hill. Fred suddenly feels that he is underpaid and overworked. Autonomy and quality of work mean nothing for him. Oh and by the way,  Fred also expects a promotion in this year's appraisal, even though he did not do a lot of 'real work' this year.

He is a borderline case of venting his frustrations on the employees and the organization.

Like it or not, when these symptoms show up, chances are, that you are going to lose Fred.

And then one fine morning Fred knocks on your cubical to talk about his resignation.

Your instant impulse? To offer him a raise. Match the offer that he is getting in his new organization.

After all he was once a productive member of your team.

My advice: Don't even think about it.

You lost Fred, the day his productivity curve started going down. In fact, you lost Fred, the day he stopped working for intrinsic motivation and starting whining like a baby for that European trip.

You can either take my word for it or you can try and match Fred's salary. If you went the later route, chances are that within six months to a year, you are going to see Fred knocking at your cubical, wanting to talk about his resignation again, this time with a higher offer letter.

Instead of trying to get Fred to stay, you are much better off letting him move on and letting someone else in his team take up his responsibilities, even if Fred is your alpha geek.

As scary as it seems sometimes new faces and thoughts are good for your organization. Stop your negations with Fred, let someone else in the team take up his responsibility and  let life get back to normal. Or you can go hire but if you choose to do that, do it like your professional life depends on it.

Either way, I wish you good luck.

Oh and if you are sitting there negotiating with Fred you are just wasting your time and energy.