United States: Billions Spotlights Boomerang Employee Trend

Even with the seemingly endless amount of TV shows to watch, finding a series to view with one's significant other can sometimes prove a difficult task for a couple. After watching eight seasons of The Office together, it was challenging for me and my wife to find a show that fell somewhere in between Real Housewives of Orange County and Band of Brothers. There were several failed attempts to strike the correct balance. For example, after watching two full seasons of Breaking Bad, my wife informed me that the show had become too violent and we would not be continuing to watch it together. Similarly, after one depressing episode of A Handmaid's Tale, I decided the search must go on. Finally, we landed on Billions.

Billions is a Showtime series that features Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis), the charismatic hedge fund manager of Axe Capital, and Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who is tasked with investigating Axe Capital for a myriad of shady activity. Chuck's wife, Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff), works as a motivational coach and psychologist at Axe Capital. Wendy loves her work and gets professional satisfaction in helping the employees at Axe Cap reach their full potential as investors.

As you may guess, Chuck's investigation into Wendy's company, and boss, puts a serious strain on their marital relationship and her work. At the end of the first season, the fierce battle between Bobby and Chuck came to a head, and Wendy's job got caught in the crosshairs. Specifically, in a rare moment of vulnerability during a therapy session, Bobby mentioned he paid off the police to protect one of his employees. The next day, Chuck added a bribery claim to his case against Bobby. Naturally, Bobby assumed Wendy sold him out by telling her husband about the incriminating and confidential information.

In reality, Chuck had surreptitiously accessed Wendy's therapy session notes and used them to build his case against Bobby. In retaliation, Bobby blackmailed Wendy by threatening to disclose lewd photos of her and her husband, who participate in Fifty Shades of Gray-esque activities throughout the show. In the finale of Season 1, Wendy quit her job. After her departure, she had brief stints of employment elsewhere. She was hired for speaking engagements, entertained the idea of working for other hedge funds, and even hung out her own shingle for a short period of time. Ultimately, though, the show was more interesting when Wendy worked at Axe Capital, and in Season 2, Episode 6, she returned.

More Ex-Employees Are Returning

Wendy can accurately be characterized as a boomerang employee—an employee who leaves a company only to return to work for the company sometime later. There are a number of reasons why an employee may temporarily leave work. An employee may decide to pursue her dream job, only to realize that the job isn’t so "dreamy." An employee may receive an offer with a higher salary, only to realize she doesn’t want to work the extra hours that accompanied the pay raise. According to recent studies, it’s becoming more common for employees to boomerang back to their previous employer. Moreover, employers are becoming more accepting of hiring boomerang employees than they were in the past.

An employee with previous experience with the company can often bring many positives from a human resources perspective. First, the onboarding costs associated with rehires are significantly less than new hires. Second, the employee is already familiar with the job duties and expectations, since she previously performed them. Lastly, there is a high likelihood the person fits into the company culture because she was exposed to it in the past and is willing to come back.

Before deciding to hire a boomerang employee, however, HR professionals should consider the following questions–the answers to which may indicate the person is no longer a good fit at the company:

  • What were the circumstances surrounding the employee's previous departure?
  • How much time has passed since the employee was last employed at the company? Has there been a major change to management or company policies in that time frame?
  • Is an opening available in the individual's previous position? If not, would she be a good fit in a new position that is available?

The answer to the first question is easier to pinpoint when the company maintains a practice of conducting exit interviews. In an exit interview, HR professionals should always ask for the reason behind the employee's departure. That way, if the person ever returns seeking to be rehired, the employer need only look at the notes of the exit interview to answer the question.

Lastly, if a potential boomerang employee is one of multiple applicants for a position, hiring managers and HR professionals should ensure that all of the candidates are equally evaluated on their merits.

Bottom Line for Employers

Employers should weigh the pros and cons before deciding whether to employ boomerang employees. They may hit the ground running with valuable new perspectives and skills learned while away. On the other hand, they may have left on a bad foot, and it may not be worth risking that history will repeat itself. Alternatively, although the individual may have been a perfectly good employee before, managerial or organizational changes may have occurred in her absence that make it less likely the individual would still be a good fit.

Originally published in HR Daily Advisor

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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