As the Corporate World Turns

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Sometimes you can see into the future and see what is inevitable but it is still crushing when it becomes a reality. The writing has been on the wall for a long time. We are in a competitive market with price pressures meaning less in sales which means less for R&D. Top management wants to take the division in a different direction thinking they can find new solutions to bring in the cash and make the stockholders happy. The new stuff requires a different skill set than the old stuff. We are still heavily staffed for making the old stuff.

Even before we heard about secret meetings to discuss staff reductions, it was obvious something had to happen. Well, today it became a reality. We have a town hall for all of R&D tomorrow and they called a meeting today with all of us managers. Of course, this is never a good thing because it just means they want to brief us on the bad stuff so when they tell the people “if you have questions, talk to your manager”, we won’t be staring blankly going “I know nothing”

Of course, other than telling us that the head chief in charge will announce that we will be doing further restructuring and downsizing, there aren’t any more details to be provided. Size of the cut? Haven’t decided. Timing of the cut? Haven’t decided. Path forward? Still being worked out. So they will just drop a large anxiety bomb on everyone tomorrow with vague descriptions of the next steps and perhaps empty promises about keeping everyone informed.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be too cynical. Just because they went silent running on the last one doesn’t mean that will be the case here. Then again, past actions are usually the best predictor of future behaviors.

I accept this as an unfortunate but common fact of working in the corporate world. Things change and bad management decisions eventually catch up to you. The problem is always that the hammer always falls on the people who have the least ability to influence corporate direction.

There are two predictable side effects of this which will turn the environment toxic. First, is the office politics. Everyone in a manager position will attempt to argue that their people are indispensable and that everyone else is expendable. They’ll look for those who “fit” into the new culture even if they are just those who are the best at acting like they’ve embraced whatever new culture they want. It is not a time to be authentic because that isn’t always valued.

The second is fear driven among the potentially impacted. Everyone is in a different place in their lives and losing a job is not easy but there are those who would consider it the end of the world. This usually leads to two sets of bad behavior. The first is the push to show that they are valuable and can’t be dismissed. So it is jumping around doing tasks (perhaps of limited value) to “prove” their worth. The second is to then run down others to show that they are less valuable. Making sure to name and point out every little mistake made by someone else. I already have seen some signs of this happening and I know it is just going to get worse.

Perhaps that works on some managers. To me, it just makes the person look petty and small and it is more negative than positive.

I was having a discussion with one of my top performers. She is good friends with someone higher up who kind of told her she should be looking for another job and we were talking about that. It is a fine line because I couldn’t reveal what I knew and I don’t want to sound like I’m pushing her out but there are good reasons to be exploring other options. But we were talking about some of these same themes. With the reduce project load, there has already been some increase in competition and it will just get worse.

For those of us who prefer to work in a more collaborative atmosphere, this will make the workplace much more toxic.

After finding out, I was chatting with the team just knowing that come tomorrow morning, the news would be out and their world will be different. I really hope that it is a wake up call for those with families who have another 20-30 years left to work. Even if they survive this round, it is unlikely that our division has that type of long term future.

Would losing my job be that bad? Well, it would be a change. My current retirement plan was just a couple of years away and I think we’d be fine. It could have some negative impact on my dancing – it might be harder to spend that money if I don’t have any coming in. But, if it is meant to happen, then it will happen.

So tomorrow is not shaping up to be a good day.


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