Hit them where it hurts

A coffee conversation last week with someone who asked to meet me, almost always an indication they’re looking for a job, which is fine by me.

Senior professional with nearly 30 years work experience, and in his current role for nearly 4, he was indeed looking to make a move soon, ideally to a similar sort of role.

‘What’s your timeline,’ I asked.

‘Not sure,’ he said, ‘As I’m still working, but not sure for how much longer.’

‘Budget cuts, re-org?’ I asked

‘No,’ he said, in a very matter-of-fact, low-keyed tone, ‘The woman I hired earlier in the year to work under me has just taken my job, and I now report to her. She told me the other day that she knew I would sabotage the projects we’re working on, and told me to just take a payout and go, although I’m not sure when that is.’ And gave me a weak smile..

‘?? Hang on.The woman that you hired, who reported to you, is now your boss? Did you see it coming?’

‘No, had no idea until my boss–my old boss, that is–called to tell me that X would now be my new boss here. Had no idea.’ Another weak smile.

‘How did that happen? There must have been some warning signs, no? Were you considered a marginal employee?’

‘No, far from it, my appraisals all say I am great, very very good appraisals, nothing like that.’

‘So who can you speak to, who’s in your corner? Who are your true supporters, your allies within the organisation?’

‘Well, the person who was my biggest supporter left last year, and there really isn’t anyone since then who is really in my corner–a couple sort of, but not much.’

‘What are going to do?’

‘Probably just go and get away from this place, not a good environment, obviously. I suppose I should have seen it coming–when I spoke to one of our old bosses (we worked together before, but not a reporting line like this) the old CEO told me she is fine as long as she is not with people, and another later told me she was a complete snake, so I guess I should have paid more attention to that. Oh well.’ Another polite smile. ‘My wife said it’s best not to rock the boat, just move on and forget about it.’

‘And what do YOU think you should do?’ (since this was now more a coaching session than talk about a job–which I didn’t have anyhow). ‘Walk away and take what is offered? Do the job and tough it out? Fight it?’

‘I think I should fight it,’ and that was the first time I thought maybe he actually had the fight in him to do it.

‘Good’ I said, ‘And line up your alliances. Don’t let her bully you, and two can play this game–if you do exit, make them pay for it, completely unfair dismissal.’ (assuming everything he said was true..)

I don’t know what happened, as I have not spoken to him since last week.

This stuff happens in business a lot, and in this case, he was a flyweight fighting a heavyweight; he didn’t see it coming, likely focused on his work than what was happening around him.

One chink in the armour; he said she is not physically well (but well enough to outmaneuver him), and I told him that if he really wanted to hit where it hurts, bamboozle her. Fluster, obfuscate. Does that make me sound like a cynic? Not at all–he has to re-create his presence, hit where it hurts and turn the tables–and he can do it if he wants…

Don’t let this happen to you, folks!! Spend more time building your alliances–especially at a senior level–and less time being a worker bee. It is a recipe for getting neutered..

Connect with Neal


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *