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Submitted by MattCain on


 Hello Managers,

I don't believe I can succeed in my current management role at the organization I have worked for over the past year. I have strong technical abilities that the company needs and am contemplating approaching my manager to see if I can be re-assigned to a position where I can be more effective. The reality is I likely won't be fulfilled in the technical position either but it will allow me to continue to contribute value while the company finds a managerial replacement and I find a suitable professional home. And the actuality is that I may be the only one in the country who really has the skill and experience to handle the responsibility. 

About a year ago the company I worked for was purchased by a large competitor. It was a privately owned business and the company that bought us basically did it because they wanted one of our customers. I had worked there almost 15 years and had grown from a production planning and logistics role to become a VP and take a seat on the Board of Directors. The last few years were some of the most profitable the business had ever had. It is the experience against which I benchmark all opportunities.

After the purchase I was asked by the new company to move to a new site they were starting up and take over a lead role in bringing the facility online. The strategy is ambitious and I happen to be uniquely suited to help the site succeed given my overall knowledge of the business and my in-depth understanding of the manufacturing process.

Here's the issue for me. There's no passion for the business with this new company. There are processes on top of processes and guidelines and rules for everything. There are clearly defined required behaviors but there is no sense of ownership in the business. My manager and his manager clearly aren't believers in the process, only in defending their positions/salaries.

I'm used to running the business, not being run by it. I don't know how to work in an environment where I don't have input into strategy or direction. These things were promised but they aren't actually delivered. I'm a wrench now, not a mechanic. Due to the circumstances, I was never really interviewed, but I feel like I have a job that I never would have applied for had I known the details of the employment.

What to do? 

TomW's picture
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I was in that same position myself. The new company never really viewed me as anything more than an acquired asset which they could move around as they saw fit. I left two years ago and never looked back.

jhack's picture

 Our small company was acquired 5 years ago, and many of the same dynamics were in place.  They were over 100 times our size, had lots of processes and rules.  Decisions that I could make on my own now took a series of meetings by teams of people.  And of course, my relative power was diluted.

However, this company is very successful.  I wanted to understand why and how. So I was patient.  It took a year to find a role where I could contribute.  It took a couple more years to figure out how the system worked, and how to succeed within it.  My team delivered an innovative new product to market (long story with a twist at the end). 

I've got a new role this year, more influence, and very happy where I've landed.  A few things helped: 

- The company leadership is good: good people who want all stakeholders to succeed (a culture of 1:1's, for example).

- A strategy that makes sense.

- There is a passion for the business and a commitment to customers. 

My recommendation:  look for what this company does well.  It is likely to be different from what your (now-acquired) firm did well.  Is that something you can embrace?  Is the leadership team one that you can align with (cultural, style, etc)?  Do you still love the business itself - that is, do you believe in the value your products bring to customers?   Can you achieve results in a new way?  

In any case, focus on delivering your commitments (not so suggest you're not).  Make sure your resume is up to date.  Make sure your network is healthy. 

Finally, if what you really desire is general management responsibility, and you can't see a path to it, then maybe you need to spread the word within your network. 

John Hack

naraa's picture
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From your post I cannot tell which kind of business you are in and where in the world it is, so what I can tell you here may not apply to your business situation as yours may be different than mine.  Nevertheless  i will give it a shot as it may help.  I work in south america (economic activity is really good and has been for some time, yes we were impacted by the crisis but not as much, and there is a shortage of qualified professionals).  I work in engineering projects.  In this business if a bigger company buys another by no means your statement:

 "It was a privately owned business and the company that bought us basically did it because they wanted one of our customers. "

would not be the whole thruth.  Of course the company purchasing would want the customers and the business, but mostly they would be looking into retaining the key people to actually get the work done.  Your sentence:

"And the actuality is that I amy be the only one in the country who really has the skill and experience to handle the responsibility."

Tells me you are that person.  Looking from the purchasing company perspective it would really be a shame if you were to go.

Now, that doesn´t mean the purchasing company is doing everything right, it is probably more likely the opposite.  But that may have nothing to do with their intentions.  What I have experience is that the difference between the corporate board strategy and thinking and that of the people actually running the company can be huge especially if there has been a lot of recent adquisitions.  What I mean here is that the lack of commitment and strategy you sense from your managers may have nothing to do with a lack of strategy from above.  The fact that your were put on a site to lead a new investment and a challenging one, may mean that they actually are desperate for people like you.

When you say:

"There are processes on top of processes and guidelines and rules for everything. There are clearly defined required behaviors but there is no sense of ownership in the business. "

That is a generalisation.  Try to be specific and you may be less critical of it.  This sentence you use to me indicates more a frustration from you in dealing with the difference between a smaller and a bigger company rather than a actual fact of too many processes, controls, and burocracy.  I cannot be certain, but I have been in a situation where I was feeling too much control and it had nothing to with something external, but all to do with me being stressed out and not being able to handle control at that point in time (I have a natural tendency to perceive freedom and independence positively and control negatively).  What I found out was that when I was able to decrease my stress level I could handle the same or even more levels of control without it affecting my performance.

My guiding steps for you would be:

1 - Embrace reality.  You are in this situation now and don´t think about the past or the fact that you didn´t ask to be put in this situation and you had no saying it it.  Accept it, embrace it, and see if you can get the most of it.

2 - Understand that what took you here won´t take you there.  What took you from production planning to VP in the purchased company will not take you ahead in this company.  Try to understand how you can adjust, what you need to change, what you can learn to be as successful as you were in the other company also in this new company.  Look at this as a challenge, as an experience, and you seem to be someone that likes one, so look if there are things you can accomplish here.

3 - Analyse whether you are not stressed out and what you are seeing as external issues are perhaps internal problems you may be facing.  If that is the case, take steps to be less anxious.  The changes you have been through in the last year, and the work you have put into the prior 15 years have picked and you maybe in a valley right now, quite loss, without knowing how to get out.  Unless you are in a really terrible condition, I would suggest you should accept to take it slower and easier for some time.  Bigger companies are slower than smaller ones, the things they promise may still come, and the strategy maybe there, but it is harder for you to see it. 

4 - I believe that once you are able to clearly see your situation and that of the company as a blank page, erasing all the history that got you to this point, you will be able to take the decision by yourself, and without doubt whether to stay or go.  Like TomW says, he left and never looked back or like John says he stayed and it worked out.  Only you can see that and are able to make this decision.    Can you leave now and not look back, or you will wonder whether you tried hard enough, and you missed a good chance?  If you can answer that question I believe you have your answer.



MattCain's picture
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 Thanks for the perspective, especially Nara, I'm not sure I love how much you were able to read from what I wrote but well done!

I'm a DISC 7-1-1-5 achievement oriented, naturally paranoid and used to the sheltered environment I was in. The net result is that I've been completely stressed out trying to get the site to the level of performance that I demand. The company would love that level of performance but is probably more realistic than me and knows it will take some time to get there.

Flash forward two months and my boss at the new place has been fired. My new boss now is my old boss (the owner) from the company that was bought out. He's even more out of place in the new organization but the old company continues to pump out profits even when the rest of the organization is struggling. This buys us some breathing room and gives us some credibility at the conference table. The company has grown through acquisition, mostly within the last 6 years, so it turns out that the "corporate mind share" is really a bunch of guys with very different opinions based on their unique, individual past experiences. One-on-one most of them are very reasonable.

It's still a struggle but it's becoming a struggle on my terms. I'm looking for other opportunities but I'm also trying to make this work. Remembering that "how I feel is my fault" goes a long way toward keeping me on the path of getting things done as opposed to feeling done over.

The next few months will likely be very interesting...

naraa's picture
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 Sarc, keep us posted on how it goes for you.  The merit is on you being able to understand what I wrote you.  Not everyone would accept the perspective. Thanks for letting me know it helped, it is good to know.  I will keep that sentence in mind for myself too: "how I feel is my fault".

I haven't been in the same situation as you, but I work in a company that double in size three times in the past 8 years.  Things have changed rather fast and I can relate well with your sentence of "is really a bunch of guys with very different opinions based on their unique, individual past experience".   I have learned to accept that now, and we just make the effort to agree on the big issues, and let everyone else, or subgroups within the company, go about their business on the smaller ones.

Listen about the 150 rule podcast, which explains what the tricks are going from small to bigger organization.  Above 150, and I think is lower than that, one cannot get unity across the whole company, so the trick is to create subgroups that have an identify.  That is what I have now in the company I work for.  I get the satisfaction I need working with the groups I share more common interests with, lead these groups towards the level of performance I want within the time frame we need, and accept a lower, or better said, different, progression within the groups that do affect the overall company performance but that depend less directly on my leadership.  Every now and then I do see signals that we as a team are maturing towards a more "unified corporate mind share", that we all working towards the same goals in the end.  Small signals, but I have learned to look at those rather than at the divergences.