December 18, 2000, 4:38 PM — Q At what level is it appropriate for a company to require an employee to sign a noncompete agreement? And is it appropriate for a company to require that a noncompete agreement be signed without offering a contract package?
A A noncompete agreement, in which an employee agrees to not work for a competing company for a specified period of time after leaving his or her current employer, is, by definition, part of a contract between the employee and the current employer. These agreements are made in return for consideration, such as the employment contract package itself, which will typically provide for an employment period or other employment-guarantee terms, a severance provision, some increased compensation factors, or very commonly an equity or stock options grant.
Such contracts are becoming more common, and while usually encountered at the CIO level, they are moving down the food chain of all types of management. Make sure the consideration is worth the restriction, and if you don't think that you could obtain employment outside your company's circle of competitors, then it's probably best not to sign and time to move on to a less restrictive and possibly less lucrative situation. In any case, you must consult legal counsel, even if the contract you are offered seems routine.
SEEKING STRATEGIC SKILLS
Q I am currently an assistant vice president of IT in a Fortune 500 company. Can you recommend any one-week programs to help develop the organizational and strategic thinking skills to get to the next level?
A There are several options to consider. Look at the professional development and training-oriented organizations such as the American Management Association (www.amanet.org) that have long lists of available publications, books and seminars. And many of the top name university business schools run one-week seminars during the summer and other school break periods, as well as long-weekend seminars during the school year. A few of them advertise regularly in The Wall Street Journal-like New York University's Stern School, Dartmouth College's Tuck School and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, and you can find others by using a good internet search engine. I like Yahoo's higher education page (dir.yahoo.com/Education/ Higher_Education) for its flexible search capabilities. And don't overlook the rapidly growing number of educational possibilities available via distance learning in which you can access excellent learning opportunities remotely and in the comfort of your home via the web.