How to Negotiate a Better Employment Contract Than Conan O'Brien

conanIt looks like Conan O'Brien may have reached a settlement with NBC and his last night as host of The Tonight Show will be on January 22. It's a shame when you realize that perhaps the whole fiasco could have been avoided if Conan had negotiated a more precise contract.

When Conan signed his contract, he never imagined that NBC would consider changing the time slot of a show that has been synonymous with the 11:35 slot for close to 60 years. But when it comes to contracts, no one should ever assume anything.

While you probably don't have the army of agents and lawyers that Conan might have at your disposal, you can certainly do some due diligence to ensure that the next time you negotiate an employment offer, you walk away with a package that protects you and guarantees everything you negotiated for during the interview process. Here are some things to keep in mind.

1. Get everything you negotiate for in writing. Any item that you negotiate for should be documented in writing. Standard employment agreements generally won't include everything you may have negotiated for and if you agree on something based on a handshake, you may have a hard time collecting on the goods later on, especially if the person who you originally negotiated with is no longer in the picture. If you get any push back after requesting that the terms of your employment be spelled out in writing, let the hiring manager know that you think it would be best for all involved if they were. If the company does not routinely use offer letters or employment contracts, document everything you have negotiated for in a letter to the hiring manager and ask him to sign it and keep it in your employment file.

2. Review non-compete clauses carefully. A non-compete clause is a contractual agreement where employees promise not to share trade secrets or work for direct competitors for a certain period of time. The problem with some non-competes is that they are so broad that they can make it extremely difficult to find employment in the same industry or geography within a reasonable period of time. Review your non-compete clause carefully if you have one and negotiate for something more narrow in terms of the employer's definition of direct competitors, location, or time frames to make sure you are not severely limiting your future opportunities should your employment be terminated.

3. Make sure the obvious is obvious. If you negotiated for specific work hours, additional vacation time, an earlier salary review, etc. make sure all the numbers, times, and dates are formalized. I wonder how much grief it would have saved Conan O'Brien if his lawyers had only done that!

Of course it's not all bad for Conan. He stands to make $30M in severance by walking away from The Tonight Show...not bad for a job he held for less than eight months!

See Also:

-- Should you be stealing office supplies like Conan?

-- Conan O'Brien and Career Management

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O'Brien = great guy!
Leno = great guy!

NBC needed to pick the one who could kick Letterman's ass and Leno had stronger ratings in the 11:30 time slot.

January 23 2010 at 11:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sorry Conan, but your show never got even close to Leno. I say go back to the late late night show and then maybe. Sorry it had to end this way, but it just happened.

January 21 2010 at 12:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John Gordon

Conan is a slapstick no talent that has brought slapstick to a Long History of this great show and I'm glag he's gone! He's no Johnny Carson and Def not a Jay Leno or Steve , Man on the Street,Allen In my opinion he's a no talent that some how got his way into a huge show that he couldn't handle and lost a huge audience He thinks with his Hair style and three stooges comedy he could make it ! He can't hold an interview and just goes back to slapstick with a bad haircut to think he's funny and he's not !!!!!!!!!!!

January 20 2010 at 11:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When the news came that this change would happen many shared the opinion that it was the greatest mistake NBC would make.
We all agreed Conan would bomb and Jay would also at the new time slot. Every one agreed but NBC. Conan had bullied NBC that if he did not get the shot he would quit. They should have let him go. It would have been cheaper and we would not have been subjected to Conan's dribbles. Some people don't learn.

January 20 2010 at 9:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
thomass beeker


January 20 2010 at 9:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The shaft that Conan gave to Jay just turned around and stuck him in the ass.Conan is gutless coward.

January 20 2010 at 8:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey Bozobrien, you can always apply with Ringling Bros!!

January 20 2010 at 8:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I can't figure how in the hell these people keep posting their irritating deadbeat crap. It's on damn near every posting section I go to but let me post one thing inappropriate and I'm busted. I don't get it but I'm DAMN sure sick of seeing it.

January 20 2010 at 8:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
buddy chan

all this could have been avoided if conan had just been funny, Is it so hard for you conan?

January 20 2010 at 8:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jay does not suck he was # 1 and he will be again. Conan on the other hand was never funny.......and now he paying the price for it.

January 20 2010 at 8:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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