Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Job Nervous II

Last week I had written about the fact that I was getting this sort of unspoken sixth sense about my job situation undergoing a change.  I would argue that I am not particularly prescient in such matters, but a change in how things functioned has already manifested itself twice in the last week.

In the first case, a project which I am on in which the project manager role has had for the responsibility for being the main point of contact, I was very politely informed that in the future, this responsibility would be transferring to an operational role.  My place in this structure would be transforming into a more of a role of communication of information and finisher of the sorts of paperwork that make things happen (and, of course, no-one else really wants to ever do).

In the second case, a year long project which in theory was supposed to be close to a decision has suddenly been put back into play as, in the last week, new individuals are introduced into the process and new considerations need to be made - all for the good, I am sure, but quite upsetting the process that has been built up to this point based on those earlier assumptions.

Neither of things indicate any sort of "End Of The World" scenario of course: in both cases there is still a role to be played for my position, I still have work to do, and the prospect of any sort of personnel disruption has not been mentioned.  At the same time, it is a noticeable change.

What it portends, I realized, is that we are undergoing yet another change of corporate culture.

Corporate culture change, if you have never lived through one in your past life, is the process by which a corporation not only changes what it believes but how it functions.  Corporate cultures of larger companies can often be stronger simply because they have the weight of size (and often years of existence) on their side; corporate cultures of smaller companies can be fluid as they are still in the process of deciding what they want to be.

Over time, if a corporate culture is not firmly defined, it will begin to take on the shape and form of key leaders as they come into the company.  If the key leaders share particular experiences, such as all working at larger companies or multiple leaders all having worked at a single large company, the new corporate culture can come to reflect those experiences.  Which is not surprising, I suppose - after all, they are large because they are successful, and they were hired to drive success.

Still, it makes it awkward to live through it.

One of the biggest changes at my level as these processes continue - I have been through more than one  - always seems to be the continual shrinking of responsibility and scope of action.

Again, it makes a sort of logical sense:  as companies get larger, job roles become more specialized as more people are able to focus more intensely on particular areas.  And as that focus comes, so comes the change in job responsibility and authority.  The power to make decisions as changes as well and - no matter how much companies try to devolve it lower - it almost always seems to settle back up at the upper levels.

As a result, a position like mine continues to see its span lessen in terms of decision making and authority and increase in the areas of minute documentation execution and information transactions, often the sorts of things that need to be done but not by those setting policy and course.

In the end, of course, I suppose it makes little difference:  I am still paid for my work and there seems to be corporate stability.  At the same time, the fact that we never talk about these changes - they just happen - always leave one with a slightly concerned taste in one's mouth.  There is nothing worse than be dependent on black boxes that sometimes seem to change expectations and proposed outcomes in midstream. 

16 comments:

  1. Anonymous2:37 AM

    As a fellow PM, my advice is 'trust your gut' If you think there is a problem - there is one. Update your resume and start looking on the job boards, just in case.

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    1. Anonymous, I very much appreciate the advice. It was in my mind to do so as well, but yours is a welcome reinforcement. As I tell folks, there is no harm in talking to people.

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  2. Anonymous3:47 AM

    COVID has really forced corporations and their employees into new operating functions. Working remotely and teleconferencing is much more common now, and the lessening need for 'working in the cubicles' has changed us dramatically. If COVID had been a 'two weeks", this would not have happened but today, we are faced with the same position we were at the beginning of 2019. Pandemic is still here and risk of infection (despite over half of us innoculated) appears to be as high as ever. Every day, schools report infection rate rising (remember when it was thought the younger were going to spared - now it appears it is targeted towards them).

    A lot of uncertainty here. Not the time to be spending friviously - time to gather your acorns and ready ourselves for some hard times. I just heard that due to high use of test kits with Delta D, there is now a shortage of those home test kits.

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    1. Anonymous - I think it is a very reasonable thing to say that The Plague has definitely changed the work environment in meaningful ways, like the adoption of the desk computer in the 1980's-1990's or the shift from industrial to service industry. The fact that we (used generally, of course) are still laboring under the assumption that this is still only a temporary measure is interesting and I think betrays our normalcy bias. Those companies that adopt more quickly will be more successful in the long run of course; those that keep trying to get back to January 2020 will fail.

      And yes - given the uncertainty, marshalling resources is a very wise idea. In point of fact more and more items are becoming scarce or delayed just due to the supply chain issues.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. I have a very rough theory that over time business accumulate marginally incompetent employees because those employees never leave.
    Over time the business loses focus on whatever service they provide, or the product they are making, and instead focus more and more on managing their marginally incompetent employees, and in doing so the business ignores, or marginalizes those competent employees who are the backbone of the business.

    I don't think this is a case of The Peter Principle, as that theory speaks to those employees who are competent at many levels until they are promoted beyond what they can successfully deal with.

    Depending on the audience, I use an analogy and suggest that every septic systems works well in the beginning, but over time fills with, well, you see where I'm going.

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    1. John, you are not wrong. I have observed long ago as well that if you simply stay at a company long enough, you will tend to move up in the system just because you are there long enough and have the knowledge.

      I do think that on the whole, companies may spend a great deal of time and energy on management of personnel (which can be important to retaining skilled employees), some of which might be usefully employed on the improvement of products, etc. Those 20% of the employees that produce 80% of the results will eventually find a home somewhere else.

      I do like your analogy and intend to use it as septic systems are something I know a bit about.

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  4. I’m with a Startup that was recently acquired by an enormous (~20bil/yr) co. The culture clash has been delayed for over a year, but now it has arrived and *everything legal must be on Corporate paper approved by Corporate lawyers. As a consequence, all transactions have slowed down by weeks or months, and numerous prospective Customers have simply punted and gone with a less bureaucratic competitor.
    401k is very healthy but sales are lagging. Good luck with your transition!

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    1. CG4M - You are in exactly the same position as we find ourselves - the "confidential notice in e-mails" came last year, and decision making for signatures on things like contracts has drifted very high up the chain. It does tend to slow things down from actually getting work done, does it not?

      Being a customer of some of those sorts of businesses - yes, it does cause you to look elsewhere. Customers want speed of execution as well as technical expertise, and two months to get a contract in place will not help that.

      Good news on your 401K and sounds likes you are aware of the waters around you. Good luck to you as well and thanks for stopping by!

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  5. My company bought another in the early 2000's. They never adopted the new culture, and finally, the umbrella org had to gut their management and salt them through different opco's or get rid of them entirely to break their culture that didn't mesh with the org. Even took the old name away and changed the logo completely.

    I see your point on reading the wind, but from my perspective. I'm juggling about all the balls I can right now, and one like that would be like adding a bowling ball to the mix. Something would have to give. I sure hope you have the bandwidth to adjust to this new 'disturbance in the force.' I'll be praying you manage it perfectly.

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    1. STxAR, it is a bit of a bowling ball here as well as effectively I am in the middle of not really being able to easily adjust - a year or two from now would be ideal, but we never really get to choose such things. For now, even though there is this back current, I am still employed and in a position where I need to keep the job, so we will make a go of it.

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  6. Hi TB, I'm very late on answering questions on my blog...but wanted to make sure I got to yours about the cheese cave. I use a small fridge (got it at a big box store for about $150) as my cheese cave. I set it to minimum so that it stays around 10-12 Celcius. I have a hygrometer that I leave in the fridge to make sure it doesn't get any colder. I don't have to worry about humidity because I seal my hard cheeses and I have ripening boxes for the ones that need more humidity (like my Cams). If you have any questions or need any advice, send me a message, I have that contact form on my right side bar!

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    1. Rain, thank you so very much for following up - You have more than had your hands full this week.

      Thank you for the info. I had not thought of a small refrigerator per se but will definitely look into in (maybe at Christmas. People always ask for ideas). And thank you for offering more advice!

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  7. I'm assuming it is still an employee market out there, even among project management type. With everyone looking for more talent, I think I would update my resume and cast a few lines out to see what bites. Something better might come along.

    When I started my last job, I was one of a group of less than 50 people who owned the business. It was a family and very fluid. When I left, we had bought about seven other businesses and really had an huge identity crisis on our hands. There was the legacy owners which I belonged too, new partial owners with very small pieces of the total pie and a huge group of employees with no pie at all. There was a lot of resentment, backstabbing, butt kissing, etc, which is why I am happy to no longer work there and have since cashed out all my shares into a much diverse set of stock in other companies.

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    1. Ed, I think it still is an employer's market. The one thing that makes it a bit difficult is it would be better if we could make it here until 2023 and my industry is a bit scarce in this area. Still, no reason not to try.

      The situation you describe sounds like a mess. I cannot imagine how they maneuvered themselves into that ownership position but it completely sounds unworkable. Glad you go out.

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  8. Although others here have suggested you look elsewhere, I can’t tell if that’s what you really want to do or not, or if you even know. And that’s fine. In the world of employment, you have to look out for yourself, and when you can leave or stay on your terms, you are winning the game. I’m a few years ahead of you, pushing up on my mid-60s now, working for a mid-sized company. My goal is survival — to ride it out as long as I can and eventually leave (retire) on my terms. I’ve also seen a narrowing of my responsibilities, and at times I get stressed about it, but it’s also nice to be where I am, not worrying about an upward trajectory and putting as much as I can into the 401(k) and Health Savings Account. And getting to work from home at this stage of the game is a big plus. Good luck with it all, TB. Keep us posted.

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    1. Bob, I am not necessarily sure either. There are pretty good reasons to stay here for at least two years to finish out school. And frankly, we met with our retirement person today and the advice was if I can keep working until at least 65, that would be amazing (70, of course, would be better).

      To be fair, I am really past the point of worrying about an upward trajectory at this point and frankly, if I never have a direct report again I will be a happy man. Given the nature of my industry, I do not even know if I could stay here another lengthy period of time (the industry is well known for its mergers and companies simply going away).

      And certainly yes - working from home is a great benefit I do not know I would have everywhere.

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