I am on track to receive a job offer any day now for my first time as a manager. I have been a team lead and project lead  for 15 years and have been wanting to get into more of a management role. I was recently laid off from a job that I loved and have had several interviews. 

My last position was for a large professional company over 6000 employees. This new opportunity is quite the opposite, small family led company less than 50 employees. I am open as this would be a great chance for me to break into the role and learn a lot. I do have some concerns that have worried me to a degree. After 3 in person interviews with the CEO and all of the other managers, I found out I am the only candidate they are interviewing (bonus for me). Yesterday I was able to come in and work with the departing manager in this role (leaving for a great opportunity in a large company) and do a technical test. This was the first time I was able to see everyone in their natural environment. I was almost shocked to where I wanted to withdrawal from moving further. I felt as if I walked into a middle school locker room. Now keep in mind they knew I was coming in, and I still saw all of this going on. There were conversations that would make a sailor blush, employees walking around shooting each other with nerf guns, and yelling across the room to each other. This is all in a client facing IT environement, like a help desk. I felt like there was a lawsuit waiting to happen on the grounds of hostile woprk environment, or harassment. They are a small company with people that have been there for many years and a mix of younger employees too.

Am I too uptight after working in larger environments? Is this something I can take as a challenge to come in start to right the ship eventually? I feel this needs to come from the top down and not from someone new coming in. I do feel that the CEO is open to my opinion and suggestions. Should I inform the CEO when an offer is presented, or not even worry about it? Should I just politely decline, state my reasons why and move on?




JonathanGiglio's picture
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I know this won't be the Manager Tools answer and not even the PC answer, but it's the truth. The world isn't bubble wrapped. Corporate America and social media has gone way too far in making us overly sensitive to everyone's "feelings". Look how much criticism Mark sometimes gets for being brutally honest during the podcasts.

That said - your cultural experiences may be incompatible for the environment you're about to enter. You need to be in a place where you can be most effective. I believe people can thrive wherever they choose - but that doesn't mean you don't want to play to your strengths as well.

Culture and fit and attitude can be even more important than skills and talent. Will your internal gut checks prevent you from being effective with your new colleagues? If you think it's hard to bring MT thinking to Corporate America, small unprofessional environments could pose a bigger challenge.

I've worked both sides (although even my small company work experience was in highly professional environments). There's pros and cons to both. For me - small companies lack resources, but allow for creativiity and more autonomy.

One last thing - does the owner want to grow or is he comfortable? Is he willing to make the changes necessary to get him to the next level or does he just like his nice house and nice life?

What does your gut tell you?

Hope that provides some food for thought.

lightweight75's picture

I do feel the CEO would be open to change that would allow growth. A VP there asked me "what are some things that I feel are necessary for growth and getting to the "next level" as a business."  How and when do I bring it up? I would be a new person into this tight knit group.

I understand there are limitations in a smaller company, but I feel some things are fundamental to success. I see the environment as one that would detract from individuals wanting to be a part of it. Do I say these things now? I do feel my biggest challenge in this role would now be adapting and biting my tongue for a while until I can "fit in" and get a lay of the land.

ashdenver's picture

For whatever it's worth, I moved from a company of 45,000 employees to a company of 45 employees some 1,300 miles away from where I considered "home" and it is also a family-owned company.  Sole proprietorships are very, very different from Corporate America. As you've already expressed, the level of professionalism just isn't the same. That said, the level of flexibility and agility can be quite liberating.  Many sole proprietorships will intentionally seek candidates with Corporate America (or whatever country) experience with the goal of helping shape their own organizations into more professional, more efficient, more accountable places.

Unless I've overlooked something, you do not yet have an offer.  As Jonathan pointed out, you should spend some time (be focused, don't waste or use a lot of the owner's time) to get to know the owner a bit better before diving in head-first. What are they looking for from you? Ask an open ended question about their environment - is it the current state exactly where they want it to be, do they want to go less professional, are they looking to make things more corporate? Or are they looking for you to just carry-out their orders?

Where Jonathan indicated that smaller organizations often lack resources and allow creativity and autonomy - I'd argue those things are company-specific. The family business I'm with now is rolling in cash which is a far cry from what the behemoth previous employer operated in. That said, the family business is run more capriciously and decisiosn appear to be made on whims of the owners whereas the behemoth organization was much slower moving in their decision making but also very deliberate, strategic and growth-oriented.

Rather than informing the CEO of anything when you speak about the offer, I would have a list of clarifying questions about the role and the expectations associated with you taking the job.

Lastly, if you're currently unemployed, I'm not sure how rejection of an employment offer is viewed by your state's unemployment division; that may lead to the cessation of benefits even if you're still unemployed. If you're really not feeling it, there are ways to talk yourself out of getting a job offer.

lightweight75's picture

Some great points, I just received a call from the CEO and have a call scheduled tomorrow morning, assuming an offer....Will make a list of those points to bring up. THank you so much. Should I accept, what are some things I can do to make a positive impact in an environment like that?'s picture

Are there current productivity/results concerns? Is work not being accomplished? Are you coming in as the HR manager? Is there an HR manager? Are there team leads that will report to you, and then 'manage' the individual workers? Did the outgoing manager express concerns over the behavior or make remarks about needing change? What are you being hired to do?

While the language you experienced may be beyond my experiences, I manage a couple of teams with very loose atmospheres. By the employee's choices, they have build a culture that supports their working style. I rely on their team leads - my direct reports - to keep each team engaged and productive. I attempt to control the extremes and ensure no one individual is harassed or feels uncomfortable - but the general atmosphere is far from buttoned-up. And it works for us.

You will be coming in as the outsider. Make sure you understand the lay of the land before making changes. If you take the role, are you going to create a me vs them condition. How much change would you insist on - how much would they accept? There is a reason Manager Tools guidance is "90 days before making changes".

lightweight75's picture

well just got off of 1 hour phone call and have a headache of how low the offer was. Starting at about 12k below my last position, this new role would be about 2 times as much work and after hours, way more expensive benefits, rough work environment, expect me to get additional training ASAP out of my own pocket (but tied to bonus) my face was red hot.

I explaned calmly that I would need to see all of the bonus structure numbers and timelines he proposed, as well as the benefits cost for insurance before I could give an answer. We are pretty far apart in our thinking salary wise, although I am willing to come in at a low number to start so I can prove myself and work towards a nice incentive. It would be a great break through position for me to learn, but not sure if the outlay of what I would be bringing to the table matches up. 

ashdenver's picture

You mentioned that the offer was $12k below your last position but I'm guessing it's still far above your current income, correct? (You mentioned having been laid off.)

After I was laid off in 2002, I started my own business and after about 18 mos, I was ready to get back into the workforce - benefits were nice, after all!  I applied at a company and when I talked to the HR rep for the phone interview, I said that I thought the position was probably paying around $25-$30k per year. When I met with the hiring manager, I said that I was thinking the salary for the position would be about $30-$35k per year. When I met with the EVP, I said that I was aiming for $40-$45k per year. The offer I got was $42k - in 2003.  When I finally left the company over ten years later, I making 80% more than my starting pay.

For me, the lower start was worth it to get into a good solid company with excellent benefits and to get the experience I needed to land the job I currently have - which is pretty fantastic (especially salary-wise.)

I don't think I saw the outcome of your list of environment / culture / role expectation questions - were those areas of concern addressed to your satisfaction and the last bit is the salary issue?  Or is the salary issue being added to the outstanding areas of concern?  (If the former, I'd probably go for it - but I'm not you.  If the latter, I'd politely decline and keep looking. If there are culture-fit issues combined with murky expectations and low pay, you're setting yourself up for a miserable experience.  That said, it's generally easier to get a job when you have a job so you may ultimately be able to leverage the situation for something much better later.)