Thursday, April 12, 2007

Shell-Shocked: Clowns, Bears & Batman

Towards the end of my tenure at my first company (see post: Stalin and the KGB) I was recruited by a financial company in the Philadelphia area. I had posted my resume on and within weeks had gotten contacted by my soon to be new company. The HR representative from the company was extremely courteous which was encouraging. I was asked to visit the company for a formal interview with the VP of my future department.

When I arrived for the interview I was further encouraged by the professional surroundings and the approach of my interview. I was basically treated like a king as I was toured around the building and introduced to the various groups I would be managing. The VP would comment “This is our new Client Services Manger (referring to me)” following up with “He will bring tons of analytical skill, background, and professionalism to our company.” As the interview processes ended that day my VP left me with the comment “we’ll be looking forward to your input and ideas.”

“Wow”, I thought “This company really wants me.” I was offered and accepted the position shortly after the interview and was completely pumped to start with my new company. My offer was generous as my salary and benefits exceeded my expectations. As I drove in for my first day I felt that things couldn’t be better. I would be working for a first class company that respected me for my skills and abilities and compensated me to boot. I thought my new job was perfect, but unfortunately my thoughts of work utopia were to be dashed.

I began at my new company with only positive thoughts. I immediately worked hard at building relationships with my peers and subordinates. I listened to their concerns and problems and began to plan out projects that would address and correct issues. In particular I involved front line employees, because those people are the folks that really know what is going right or wrong.

After completing my first improvement project, I scheduled a meeting to present my results and recommendations to the VP and Directors of my department. I had sent out an agenda, complete with a detailed project summary document prior to the meeting. As I began to review my project and recommendations I hit the wall of indifference with the VP and Directors. Each of my recommendations got shot down with comments like “this is a nice idea, but…” or “this is something we should do, but now is not the time.”

I didn’t let the defeat of my first project stop me. I took on many other projects however they all ended with the same result as the first. I thought back to my interview when my VP commented about my “skills” and how he’d “be looking forward to my input and ideas.” I thought my ideas would count. Didn’t they were bringing me in to try and improve the company? Suddenly though I felt like I was the village idiot as all of my ideas were “nice” but not used.

The last straw came with reporting I was assigned to do weekly. After submitting the reports, I would follow up with my VP and Directors just to see their thoughts or answer any questions they had. They never really had anything to say and I began to become suspicious that they weren’t even reading them. I decided to insert some bold text in the beginning, middle and end of the report that said “If you read this line please contact me at extension 2175.” I sent out the report and did not receive a response from anyone. My reports were very informative and contained information that would help my peers understand what was going on in the department, yet they weren’t reading them. I next decided to insert photos instead of content in my reports to see if anyone would notice. Week after week my reports would contain pictures of clowns, bears, batman, etc (actually pics I used below). Still no response or comment from my peers.

I was brought into the company under the pretense that my skills, abilities and ideas would be taken into account, yet none of that held true. The VP and Directors of my department had no interest in actually improving things, they simply wanted to just come in and run things without having to listen to me or the front line employees. They were arrogant and un-involved.

Executive arrogance is extremely common in companies. Many executives feel that they attained their position for a reason and know the pulse of the company. The truth is that the further up the ladder the executives go the less connected they are to the employees that actually make the company successful. This arrogance prevents middle level managers, like me, from actually implementing improvements because the arrogant executive doesn’t think improvement is needed. The executives believe that if they didn’t think of the improvement than an improvement isn’t needed.

Be wary of companies that say they are bringing you in to help make change and implement your ideas. The arrogance of executive leadership somehow builds you up during the interview process but dumbs you down as you work for the company.

This was another major experience in my work life that led me to become a Work Turtle. I left that company and joined another company that touted me for my ideas and skill, yet fails to allow me to make any changes. Even when I have proven that my changes would save money, improve customer satisfaction or improve employee satisfaction I’m still ignored. Oh well, back to my shell for now.


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