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Get it in Writing

I've seen several posts lately where the advice is "get it in writing" - whether its a job offer, a promise of a promotion, a negotiation over a benefit, etc.

My question is, what good does that really do?

A couple of threads back, "passed over" lamented being promised a new job within the company, only to have it go to someone else.  Someone suggested that he should have gotten it in writing.

Let's say he did.  How does that change his options?  He still didn't get the job.  He still knows his manager is a putz.  He still knows the company doesn't value him like he thought.

Has anyone ever really used a written promise from the boss to their advantage?

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

For some things, the writing is there for a contract dispute or appeal to higher ups in the company.  If you have a letter with the appropriate signatures offering a bonus for doing such and such, then it's much easier to get them to follow through.

At the minumum, when people put it in writing they feel more obligated to honor the promise.  Like it's more real.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Also, just asking for written confirmation of something can be revealing. If they resist writing down what they say, in most cases that's a sign that you should decline the project/alleged 'promotion' to chief sanitation engineer/whatever.

Fernanda Stickpot
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Good advice from .. Stickpot.

Also... it avoids misunderstandings.

Did you hear and understand what they said?
Did they say what they meant?

A document provides an objective, external reference that you can both look at.

Also, the though required to WRITE makes you think about it just a bit more.

The LEGAL protection mentioned above is a LAST RESORT. If you work with people with integrity who you can trust, then the only issue is really misunderstandings, thus no need for legal action (it's overkill).

And... if you simply don't trust them (thus needing legal recourse) then DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH THEM.

The purpose of a written agreement is to come to a 'meeting of the minds'. Legal enforcement is really just secondary. Once you go to court, you've both already lost. Only the lawyers win.

Mr.Analogy (ISV owner)
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Helps in negating the 'I said, they said' arguments.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Hasn't anyone ever worked for a boss that had their own worldview and when presented evidence to the contrary just got pissed off?

Having it in writing with a boss like that is no benefit. He/she will deny the evidence exists and make up some excuse for it not meaning what it clearly says it means.

Getting something in writing is only usefull if there is a third party judging the situation.

Miles Archer
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I think the poster who didn't get the job made a different sort of mistake.

He should have been checking in with his boss on the DBA job periodically. One conversation does not make a done deal.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

One concern I would have is this:

You have a boss who is offering some good opportunity, or a promotion, or a raise/bonus, etc.  Lets say you are good at your job, but the good work you have done is still just part of your job, with no contractual obligation to have a reward beyond the pay.  At this point, is asking them to put it in writing kind of like asking your fiance to sigh a pre-nuptual agreement?  If you have a good relationship, and they are offering something to you in good faith, is there a danger of offending and damaging the relationship by essentially telling them you don't trust them (requiring it in writing)?

I agree that most employers are probably NOT trustworthy in that regard, but it seems like asking for it in writing has the potential to cause trouble for, to demonstrate an aggressive defensiveness about you (which many employers will not take kindly to, and probably look to replace you).

Clay Whipkey
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

There's different types of 'get it in writing'. It doesn't necessarily mean a signed contract.

The 'notes' mechanism works well... if you have a status meeting with someone, anyone (someone you work for or who works for you, customer, whatever), send notes.

Notes from this week's meetings:
. Reviewed froboz project. Only two major bugs remain, they will be fixed by Tuesday.
. Action item: buy new sound card to test customer reported playback bug.
. Discussed future change of role to DBA.

Then when you talk to your boss about it, you can say "remember on (whatever) when we discussed my future role, what's the status of that".

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I just put all my verbal agreements and understandings in email, usually as a follow-up ("Just to verify, I will be adding feature X which will extend the deadline to August 20th"). Then when it gets to "but you said it would only take a day to put it in" I just forward the mail. It's not so you can be a pedantic asshole about things, it's just that busy people truly forget what they verbally agreed on, so it's helpful both sides.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Getting it in writing is useful in situations where a promise or commitment has been made, presumably in return for something else.

It reveals whether the promise is genuine, by seeing whether the promise-maker will commit it to writing. It helps prevent reneging, since the promise-maker knows there's a written commitment, and it protects you in the event of management disputes.

It serves to prevent problems ever arising.

Management material
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

It's sometimes threatening or annoying to get a request to 'put in writing' something that might be seen as a minor issue.

The time-honored diplomatic solution to this conundrum is called the 'memorandum of understanding', or 'memo'. This is a note that YOU send THEM outlining what you understand them to say. It's 'just a memo', so it seems nonthreatening to them since you are 'only clarifying our fine talk'. But it does lay down a paper trail.

Do not use email - send an actual printed memo.*&q=memorandum

Dennis Atkins
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Let me tell you a little story...
I have lost money I thought I was owed, because I "didn't get it in writing".  I have lost resources and time promised.  I have run into countless snags, unpaid work extensions, and numerous other pitfalls.

The moral is, if you do get it in writing, you don't have to hear, "well, you didn't get it in writing".  While I'm not sure I would have pursued any of those times legally, I don't think I would've had to.  The point of getting it in writing is to say, "well, if you think I don't have it in writing, I do, and if you think you'd win in court, you won't, so just give me what you promised in writing."  Otherwise, it's just "well, if I had it in writing, you'd do it, but since I don't, you're allowed to do whatever, and there's not a lot I can do about it". 

Keep in mind that in the US, if you sign a document and you're under 18, it probably doesn't count!  That might help you get out of a sticky situation where you didn't get something in writing, but if what you signed was while you were a minor, you have an ace in the hole, so to speak.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

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