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Tough Call: Employee benefits and the sales rockstar

Your existing team members learned about the outsized benefits package given to a new hire. They feel snubbed and want what the new guy negotiated. What would you do?

HAVING BUILT YOUR BUSINESS from the ground up back in 1998, you’ve had some success attracting and retaining top people. Your secret: finding out what competing jobs pay in terms of salary and benefits, then offering just a little more. You’ve found that once people join your company, they tend to enjoy the work, their coworkers, and the fact that you treat them with respect, which has kept your turnover rate very low.

While you don’t lose many people, you found yourself in a jam when your top salesperson and his family moved out of state for a new opportunity. There was no shortage of candidates interested in the job, but after going through interview after interview, it was clear you were going to have to pay more to get the right person.

Having little success using your tried-and-true methods of recruiting (primarily “Help Wanted” ads and employee referrals), you decided to engage with a search firm that specializes in the LBM industry. As it turns out, they had a candidate who checked all the boxes—likeable, a proven record of success, and a good fit for your company culture. In addition, this candidate had the one thing you never dreamed you’d find: an existing book of business with leading local builders.

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This dream candidate spent the past 15 years working for a local competitor. When that company was acquired and the new owners started taking away from employees in order to boost the bottom line, he decided it was time to go. As the top salesperson at that company, he’d been rewarded handsomely with pay and benefits. Naturally, he wanted any new employer to match what he was accustomed to.

You had no problem matching the pay. After all, the commission structure he came from very closely matched your own. On the benefits side, his requirements closely matched what you currently offer, with one big exception: instead of starting with two weeks of paid time off like everyone else receives, he wanted four weeks. You thought about it for all of about 10 seconds, then shook hands and welcomed him aboard.

He immediately produced results, getting your yard business from some builders you’d been chasing for years. Plus, he got along well with the rest of your team, who welcomed him and his high levels of performance with open arms.

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All was well until this morning, when several of your longest tenured team members asked for a closed-door meeting. “We love the new guy,” they said. “He’s easy to get along with and is doing a great job for our company. But we don’t love that he started with four weeks of paid time off—which is something we have to work 10 years to earn. That’s not fair. What about us?”

What would you do?

–   Match it for all. It’s only fair that the members of your team who’ve been here for years receive the same amount of paid time off as the new guy. Four weeks all around.

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–   Explain it away. Let them know that his situation was unique. The only way to get him to come aboard was with the extra PTO. Ask them to understand and accept the exception.

–   Revisit your benefits. You don’t believe you can offer the sales rockstar-level benefits to everyone, but it’s been a while since you’ve updated your benefits package. Make some minor adjustments for all and hope that fixes it.

–   Get their input. Take a fresh look at your benefits package, and get everyone’s input. If they’re part of crafting the solution, they may agree that exceptions are sometimes okay.

What would you do?

If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to If we publish your reply, we’ll send you an LBM Journal mug.


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