Did you get that in writing?

“Did you get that in writing?” That’s what I always ask my friends, family, acquaintances or colleagues when they tell me that they were disappointed with how things went at a new job or position.

You know what I’m talking about. You took a new position with a company, based on your conversation with the hiring manager. Then when you go to work for the company, and shortly afterward, the hiring manager is gone. There is no written documentation of your original conversation, and you find out that you don’t have the benefits you thought you had, you don’t have the vacation time you were promised and your “great new job” turns sour.

Here is the advice I have given dozens (maybe hundreds) of times:

1. When you are considering a new position, ask for the offer in writing. They shouldn’t be offended that you ask for this. Actually, at my company, I began doing this years ago, after I heard horror stories (some within my own company) of misunderstandings. If the company or hiring manager is not willing to put their offer in writing, I would reconsider whether I want to work with/for that company.

2. If you had a conversation, and want written confirmation, send a “confirming email.” Something like: “I just want to confirm my understanding of our recent conversation about the potential position we discussed.” In bullet points, list what your understanding is, and then ask for them to reply with any corrections.

3. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for this. It’s business — it’s not personal.

Even consider using this in your personal relationships. If you have a high school or college student who has agreed to achieve or complete certain items, in exchange for getting their driver’s license or a trip, put that agreement in writing. It’s amazing how it changes performance.