Tuesday, August 21, 2012

To be or Not to be

Here's an interesting topic of conversation from a case study I recently read in school.

Imagine a recent acquisition's core team leaves the company at the same time.  You are then plugged in as the program manager with the primary job of keeping the "boat afloat" by retaining whomever is left and then re-staffing the team while convincing customers that it will be alright if not better.

Then imagine you actually got that done.  Key employees were convinced to stay, not with simply money or promotions, but true inspiration about their jobs' importanance in the grand scheme of the world.  Even better, you hire an employee who's a "walk on water" engineer.  And then it comes down to the results.  Customers are not alarmed but actually confident in you and your abilities.  The financials for the team are soaring, exceeding last year's total sales by the second quarter of the current year.  This is a pretty good start at being the "boss."

In the next month, management decides to have a significant re-org and divides each of the software groups into subgroups of marketing, development, deployment, and support, much like the industry standard.  You get assigned the marketing and product development teams because of your keen insight into market trends and competitor SWOT.  You are now the Product Manager, the CEO of the product.  A colleague takes over the deployment and support teams and formally becomes the Program Manager.  He's more adept at keeping customers happy and manages with a military regiment.  It sounds like a good framework to have specialization and firmly accelerate the business to rival commercial competitors.

Then 45 days later, the director tells you, "Nope.  I think this re-org is too 'hard' to do and we will revert back to the previous organization until we attain a critical mass to naturally transition to the new org structure."  Whatever "critical mass" means in this sense; I don't know.  But, you, who steadied the "ship", do not get assigned the Program Manager job, but now are simply the marketing "guy" and find out later that my previous work as Program Manager was only at an interim basis.  Then later you learn your colleague has been in the director's ear while you were managing the turn-around.  

In this role of the marketer, you go from managing 25 persons to yourself.  You get handed powerpoint slides to update and when you question strategic assumptions, you got told, "We're doing this.  There's no need to discuss any further."  What do you do now?  

Multiple thoughts run through your head.  First, you vowed never to use political chicanery to get a job.  You want to earn it.  Secondly, does the boss even understand what a marketer brings to the table besides promotional skills?  You wonder how this all transpired so fast while you were trying to do the right thing for the business.  Then the director tells you, besides marketing for all his software products, that you are also responsible for being the "back-up" manager when the Program Manager is out.  You think in your head, "I worked to get more responsibility but no authority, but everyone else I've seen in this business received their authority via political channels.  Am I playing the corporate ladder all wrong?  Did all those notions of effective work culture from business school just vaporize when executives walk back in the door while I held to them like a pollyanna?"  

Then you ask yourself, "Is it even worth it anymore if my work hard is not earning what I feel I deserve?"  You start divorcing yourself from the day-to-day operations and essentially do not make yourself a resource to your colleague.  He's on his own.  Employees still come to you, instead of him, because they feel like he doesn't listen.  You turn them away because it's not your job to talk to their boss for them.  

Are you doing the wrong thing now?  Are you simply being a "sore loser"?  Will taking the passive-aggressive approach (protest) just simply undermine your credibility when it comes to supporting the business?  Or is it time to simply walk away and find a new place to work?


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