A New Job But Broken Promises

A New Job But Broken Promises

I don't know about you, but I have experienced broken promises made by an employer only to have me think back to the day I was offered the contract and I wondered...would I still have taken it? It is a tactic that has been used by individuals, businesses, human resources and recruitment agencies to get you over the line, the undocumented promise. It is where the conditions in your contract are not quite what you expected, wanted or require you to do something you feel is excessive and a promise is made to create hope for the future. My favourite promise is when a contract offer is a bit lower than expected and a promise is made to review it at the end of the probation period...to date this "review" has never happened for anyone who has been promised it that I know.

The tactic was used extensively by many companies when employment opportunities were tight knowing that you want to leave your current employer and to give you hope in order to have you sign their contract. The most common promises are for reviews, promotion consideration, the promise of adjusting hours, short term inconveniences that end up long term, a project you are never assigned to and the list goes on. Essentially the promise is something that is not necessarily contractually binding and while on occasion, genuine, it has been used to keep new employees on long enough to consider just knuckling under and staying on. The reality is that an unfulfilled promise can often become a tear in the relationship between you and your employer which likely remains unrepaired for the duration of your employment. What should be noted is that a verbal agreement is an agreement whereby there is no "might", "maybe" or hedging and as long as it can be proven it is binding but often not worth taking to court. The first issue to consider as a potential employee is whether the employer has the authority to deliver what they have promised? Very large multinational / international companies, for example, often do not review your pay separate to other employees at a specific time of year and so if a review took place it would likely result in no adjustment making the review effectively an empty promise.

It is important to understand that employers are not evil people who just make promises only to get you to sign a contract, sometimes these promises are entirely genuine. An important factor here is that often promises are made by a soon to be supervisor or manager, someone who may have the ability to influence decisions but who may not be able to guarantee a specific outcome depending on the company size. A promise for a pay increase or a promotion will still be subject to oversight and approval. A business or company can experience changes in economic circumstance and let's not forget that external factors are outside the employer's control. The reality is that a promise is not a commitment, it is a proposal subject to various factors including whether there was any intention to do what was promised. This is completely outside your control as an employee so, it is your responsibility to assess the importance of a promise that isn't in your contract and remember, just because it is in your contract doesn't mean that the business or company will comply...that's right contracts are recommended in Australia but they are not necessarily going to protect you. The Fair Work Ombudsman will tell you that as long as a contract meets or exceeds their minimum requirements then any issue you have is a civil matter and you'll be on your own to seek legal advice and action. So, what now because seeking damages whilst working for an employer is not ideal?

Promises are non-contractual and something written is not necessarily going to help too much unless it is in the contract itself or it is before the contract so your position is very simple. Your employer deserves to know what you expect and you deserve to know what they expect which is why they provide you with a contract. If promises are made to you then consider the consequences to you if the promises are not fulfilled, are they tolerable and if not, then would you continue working for this employer. If the answer is no, then determine your action plan, i.e. continue applying for jobs if they have promised a review of your pay in three (3) months but don't adjust your pay, now encouraging you to pursue an employer who can offer you what you are after. I recommend speaking with your employer about the promises they have made so you understand their position rather than jumping to conclusions as this makes the process fair to both parties. I do not advise telling an employer that if they do not fulfil their promises that you will leave as this is generally seen to be a threat rather than an explanation of what will occur. In my particular case, when I communicated my leaving being a consequence of not fulfilling their promise to my manager, he actually thought I was just trying to get a raise from the company rather than seeing it as honesty. I left the company not two (2) months later, leaving him shocked that I was serious and I feel that if I had approached the situation differently maybe I could have gotten a better result.

Promises should be thought of as being made to be broken when you are an employee and you should prepare for that to be the case and hope for the best. As an employer, promising employees something that you cannot 100% guarantee is a bad idea as this can often impact on your trust and could lead to legal action if the employee can prove it. Employees need to remember to discuss what has been promised if it is important to them and not just wait for the promise not to be kept or broken. The employer deserves to know that this is something you have taken seriously and something they must address. I hope you feel like you have a better understanding of how to handle promises and I hope this leads to a better employee / employer relationship as we could all do with harmonious workplaces. If you are looking for some help to find an employer who can deliver on promises or to help guide you through the recruitment process then ActsIntitively can help. If you are interested in finding out more about what we can do for you then please feel free to visit our main website or contact us. Thank you for your time, for reading our blog post and it would be great if you feel the need to share or like our articles via one of our social media platforms with the @ActsIntuitively tag as applies.

Brent Webster
Technical Services Manager

Bunbury, Western Australia

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Outbound Links:

  1. Inc.com - When Your Employer Breaks Its Promises to You

  2. McDonald Murholme - What To Do If Promises Made In Person Are Not In Your Contract?

  3. Brands Law - The Heavy Price To Pay When Employers Engage In Misleading Or Deceptive Conduct

  4. Dynamic Business - When Do Verbal Promises Become Legally Binding?