Gumption – How to avoid being cannibalized in your dream job?

When a long drawn dream is achieved, does it feel absolute or does it create a sudden vacuum? Just as the coveted prize is received why does the world change into what we never imagined it to be. It drags into a situation, where the jubilation of achieving it is lost in the struggle for existence. The business world opens up challenges trailing advancement and heaves up a plethora of opportunities. How does this contribute, to an individual’s development? Especially when these challenges question the existence of the individual in the organization, how does it work out? Cannibalization at a dream job is the worst nightmare. How does one survive if it is inevitable?

Here’s a case of a business manager of a fast growing multinational, who lands the dream job,  and then stumbles upon this dilemma. Let us discuss, how does a sudden hit and gumption work for him?

Employee I: There’s a reshuffling of roles and responsibilities in my company. The management team is adding more people from different teams and reshuffling authorities and tasks. I was wondering if there is anything I can read on that? I know I should be focusing on my work but I am afraid of my work being taken away! This is my second month in this company. It’s a new company. I know I have to learn  but I need to know where and how.

Employee II: This sounds interesting tell me in detail what happened?

Employee I: I joined as a Business Development here in a mobile internet company. A new team was formed which led to a change in my responsibilities from what I had earlier.  There is someone with whom I earlier had a tough time and is now working ‘WITH’ me. He’s quite experienced. I’m afraid that he’ll eat up my job. My boss who reports to the CEO of this company reaffirmed,  nothing will happen and I should keep delivering. But I am anxious. My profile is that of an Assistant Business Development Manager

Employee II: This is a classic case. Look at it from your manager’s point of view.  You were hired before the changes were even announced. Just a question, do you have a cue why these changes were being made. Don’t worry it if you don’t have a direct answer. What you have known so far, will get accentuated as you observe these people around you.  The ‘peer’ whom you have to work with now, observe him. Is he an influencer to any power center?

Employee I: I am sure these changes were planned long time back. My boss knew that we have to add the guy to the group. He was supposed to head one portion of the work.  However, it’s a smaller task for the guy who’s being added to the team.  When he was being  introduced, I noticed my boss addressed him as Business Development. When I questioned if I am going to report to the ‘peer’? He said “No’.

Employee II: What is that ‘peer’s’ status with the reporting managers? What is his status with the CEO and other decision makers? How much can he impact them ?

Employee I: My boss is reporting to the CEO . That guy was previously working almost as a Manager. However, now he’s not in that position. Though he wants to be there.

Employee II: I get it . He must have been promised the moon all this time. Now suddenly there are changes which makes him uneasy. How long has he been working here ?

Employee I: He is working here since the last 6 months. Long time back, he worked here, for almost 2 years. He was working as a  manager before rejoining this company. He used to consider my boss an equal and me a junior. Though , with this reshuffling, he’s being put along with me and reports to my boss. Its kind of weird. This is a new venture so he obviously wants the bigger part of the cake. Earlier, he was in a separate team which is part of us now.

Case facts :

  • An employee joins an organization which reshuffled, the existing roles.
  • The Sr. Manager hired this employee with a specific requirement.
  • The peer was a potential candidate for a Manager’s role. Consequently is likely to be a manager in the making.
  • The new employee feels shadowed to the extent of being extinct!
  • There have been disagreements between the new employee and the peer.

This case of landing the dream job and then finding oneself in a questionable situation is similar to “Thomas Green: Power, Office Politics and a Career in Crisis’ by W. Earl Sasser Jr., Heather Beckham, as published on May 01, 2008. That case had a young executive who made way to the top position, found himself caught up in the office politics after resuming office. Here we share our suggestions, to this employee .

Style of working: Identify the style of working as discussed below:

  • Content orientation: Every professional has a different style of working. Some work towards the goal , for others , every step is as important as the goal. Such as, a manager may prefer written communication for every change made in the process and a weekly report drilling down to every activity. This may not be micro managing to him , rather ensuring that everything is going right. Whereas others might just look at the end result and not require an update on every activity.
  • Goal orientation: The goal to each task would be different, other than its completion. Check for the areas for measuring work and their perception of productivity. Suppose the KPI may be  the number of leads generated or customers retained. Whereas the manager may measure the employee on the communications made including every single area that leads to the performance.
  • Process orientation: Check how much does the boss require you to follow the processes. Identify the difference between the process orientation of the peer and the boss. Align your deliveries to it. It can be challenging if the boss is methodical and the peer loves free-wheeling. Follow the processes set by the boss. At the same time , allow the peer to free wheel on his part.

Leaderships and environment : Create a bond of trust and mentoring with the ones who hired you. Identify the power centre among the leaders. It would be the one who makes the ultimate decisions , whereas an Influencer would be the one whose inputs are taken before making a decision. It could even be someone who knows how to be obnoxious enough to be cared. Never make an enemy out of any of these employees. Identify the personal agendas.

Power play: There are different kinds of power play which come into being.

  • Expert power : The knowledge about the upcoming projects would hold the competitive advantage. Planning to build on this competitive edge would prove beneficial.
  • Referent Power: The connection with the leader who hired you, is your first stepping stone to intra-organizational networking. Maintain complete confidence with the leaders around you and keep building on the relationship further. Keep them posted about the advances you make. Share your experiences and learning and listen to them.
  • Legitimate Power: The boss and the peer are old employees in the company. They will have greater degree of influence. Acknowledge that by accepting their decisions. Suggest your ideas, only when it will make them stronger and better.
  • Coercive Power: You have already disagreed with that peer in earlier discussions. Now expect him to keep that in mind while interacting with you. But don’t let him hold that for long. Ensure to allow him, protect his turf, until and unless it is directed. Its great to be a self starter. Working across different territories seamlessly, goes hand in hand with this. But if you ever end up finishing a task which was in his quiver and he was eying it, you would make you vulnerable. Suppose there was a client presentation, which he wanted to make. When he starts with the presentation, it shows little preparation and you are about to lose your client. Step in , but to complement and not to steal the show. He is not likely to trust you for supporting him. Its just that you need to build your capabilities. Your preparedness will be noticed.
  • Reward Power: Create both tangible and intangible rewards to acknowledge the behaviors you are aiming to build in him. Complement his success and efforts equally. Give credit and acknowledge accurately, who has done what. This might look tactical, but stay clear and keep your head off the water.

Constructive Conflict Resolutions :

  1. Understand his position. He has been a senior, hence might have better access to information and understanding about the organization. If he ever attacks, he would attack to defend himself. Respond to that by acknowledging his position , but remaining firm in your effort.
  2. In situations, when you need to report something which is the need of the hour, make sure to present data. Avoid making any personal comment. Offer him breathing space after this incident. Its not going to be easy for him, stay prepared for any potential back biting.
  3. If you have to disagree on certain areas, present your ideas to him and listen to what he says. If you are confident of him being inaccurate, please remain firm but respectful. Strengthen his weakness and don’t attack them. Once you are done with the discussion, put the discussion in silver bullets and email it to him, appreciating his effort throughout the discussion. Offer him your best support through your work. Make sure you build the relationship stronger, with each conflict.
  4. Never badmouth him to anyone in the company. Understand that the situations can get very tempting and giving in to back biting is easy.
  5. When you hear rumors about your work and behavior from the grapevine. Identify the data and the emotions. Address the data , such as , you hear a comment that your presentation skills are low. Assess your situation and identify any training program or mentoring you may need in that area. Initiate trainings for yourself, if required. Speak to your boss, request his views  and share how you have planned for this training. If you hear something really disturbing about you, speak to a mentor within the firm. Seek guidance, but avoid complaining or cribbing about your situation.
Points to ponder :
  1. Stay clear about the KRA : Focus on  the deliverables, beyond what is formally declared.
  2. Respect and stay professional. The other employee is a senior. He knows and has more experience. Its best to learn from him, yet disagree judicially, if it requires to.
  3. Cut corners with communication as straight as an arrow. In case you have overlapping responsibilities, email, your manager what you are doing and what you have achieved so far.
  4. Focus on building synergies, but know that any lose-end that you leave , might get reported. Take it with a pinch of salt and improve. Stay focussed on your development. Avoid giving in to any rounds of  seeking revenge. You would completely lose your focus and be driven the way, your peer wants you to.
  5. As a new employee, aim for dependability initially. Let being a ‘genius’ , be a natural progression for you.
  6. Document every thing you are being trained on.  You might receive a lot of ‘hands-off training’. Mention every information shared during such session and post it in an open domain such as the intranet. Professional secrecy need not be obscure. Consequently, you cannot rule out any foul play during training where, you might be not be trained on the quintessential areas so that you fail. When these gaps are identified, refer to the process documents that you have made. This may not save the outage , but saves you from being victimized.
  7. Acknowledge and accept your errors before any one reports it. Work to provide solution to every escalation that may rise from it. This would build credibility in the long run.
  8. Remember these are your strategies. He need not reciprocate it. Hold your self back , with the least expectation from him.
Understanding others might not be very easy. Decoding the corporate strategies about its talent, takes time. The best way out, is to manage our selves. The judgement of right or wrong  is best rationalized with time. As managers to business houses we face such  competition endlessly, and find our ways to surmount or tackle them. Sometimes we might get washed off , at times, we take them over !