I Don’t Want You to be Poached

“Why do you think I fit for this Product Manager position?”

I was waiting for answer from my manager, after he offered me that position — expecting that he would rather sell that position — but I was disappointed.

The boss said:

“Well, part of it is that so people can’t poach you.”

“Poach me from what and how?”

There was no answer.

I was assuming that because I’ve been a designer for the most of my career timeline, and companies currently look for designers, putting that “designer” title on me would mean more exposures to me to the “wild” world and that “predator companies” would try to poach me.

That answer kind of made me both sad and happy. Sad, because the reality is that he was afraid of competition, happy because I think that’s a compliment for me as a designer.

However, poaching is really for animals, not for employees. David Heinemeier Hansson got it right, and this is such a punchline I always remember.

Many employers think they need to protect their employees like if there was a cage. The fact is, true, employees are the most precious resources you have in a company, but you don’t get their love forever without nurturing their love for you. In fact, there is no love. It’s all transactional. You pay them to do their job. Love is conditional, when you can provide the environment they want.

In the end, if an employee wants to leave, he will. No use in trying to try to make him stay, if his mind is solid. As an employer, you can’t dwell into an employee’s life twenty-four hours a day and encourage him to be happy. All employees have a life of their own, and their happiness outside the daily work hours are not yours to make sure. Even their happiness inside the work hours are not yours to make sure, too.

Yes, an employee can be wrong: he might have missed the big picture. But, it’s also an employer’s responsibility to talk with the employee continuously over the course of his employment. That is why performance review is not supposed to be conducted annually, but continuously. In fact, it’s not only about work — you ought to build relationship with the said employee over time. You can’t just leave him in the dark, especially when you have made commitments or even worse, promises.

A better way to look at it is that we treat each employee as an independent contributor working together in one roof. They bring their own set of expectations and path. Career path spans over many jobs and places, not in just one company. It’s about finding one’s compass. It can be daunting. It can be short jumps between companies, it can be long contemplation in one company, or it can be a painstakingly entrepreneurial process of working for your own. All in the name of shaping your career journey in life. There might not even be goal or a happy ending, but in the end, we all seek for experience that will make us say, “it’s all worth it.”