Monday, January 12, 2015

New Employee Promoted Over Seniority

I just read an article about whether it was fair or legal for a company to promote a new employee over longer term employees. The article does a good job of explaining how to overcome this and does overlap with my ideology (albeit admittedly also not perfect) on how to manage my own life. I will be discussing more on the side of knowledge-skilled labor. Some could probably apply to other skilled labor or unskilled labor, but I am sure the dynamics would be slightly different.

In my experience and highly in my opinion, I find that companies typically promote an unqualified manager whether you choose to review their credentials or experience. This is the most demoralized feeling for the group.

I definitely know my share of people who have been in the role for a while who seek management promotions. Like the article states, there are some that just would not make good managers in general and others that would not be good for that company's culture.

I think the most common mistake is that company's tend to look at either the management skills or their technical skills. Here I use "technical" meaning specialized knowledge of the field (ie engineering, secretarial, waste management, accounting, etc.). Rarely, do they seek for both. Even rarer do they even bother reviewing their own employees of different talents that typically are not needed in the technical field.

I keep a reserve of people in my mind that would make great managers. I do this in hopes that one day I will have the opportunity to provide a recommendation. Maybe because I am very science/logic oriented profession, our roles typically do not require us to display managerial skills. As you work with people, you do see some soft skills that I think are signs of better managers.

Unfortunately, most of my world does not really work that way. And bottom line, the managers do not make or break the company. Plenty of companies have been able to get by with below-par managers. I've seen managers gone weeks at a time. I have met acquaintances who are managers who proudly state that they do not do anything most of the time (which is also pretty obvious by the amount of non-work related things they do like posts, on-line shopping, even watching videos/movies during work hours).

For example, I once worked for a company where I've been for about a year and a half. Seniority-wise, I was the youngest in the group. I also had a different skill set than most of my team so I was pretty confident I would never be promoted in that group. Within a few weeks from when I started, the company had promoted a person from another group as a manager within our group. She has been with the company only for a couple months. We had worked with her and respected that change since she had good managerial skills. A group of about 10 people who are at least at par with their roles. Some of them have good traits.

To keep up with company growth, our group hired a few new undergraduates. After four months, one of the new hires was promoted to supervisor role. This had a major shift within the group. To most of the group, she appeared to be the least experienced and least likely to manage. 5 of the original 10 people either quit or transferred within a month or two. I left after my first ever negative review. My review was that I was unable to anticipate all the changes she was unable to decide on. Probably also for the first time in my life did I actually stood up for myself on the quality of my work by stating how it was logically possible to build software if she could not make up her mind and very wishy-washy about what she wanted. I could not get the favor our original manager who became director, the manager of my current supervisor. The director didn't even counter argue and just remained quiet. On top of that, my applications were mostly build on my ideas while most of her ideas did not pan out. At the end of the day, I continued to provide good quality of work with more emphasis with some of her suggestions which was just to focus on her requirements which I kept and stored.

I eventually left for better opportunity not long after my review. I heard within a couple weeks, most of the remaining people had also left the group. The supervisor eventually "quit." The role was not filled. One of the remaining people tried to apply for the role but was told they were not going to make the same mistake again.

I would like to say that this was a win for fairness, but this really had no impact on the company. Business went on. The director is doing well. The manager is also still doing well. I have nothing against them (I consider the poor review as a minor incident... whatever). And the company as a whole is still growing and doing well.

As for the quality of work, they tried to get me to work on some of my other ideas. They even tried to get me to work on it without pay... can you even believe that! They may have paid for the work but I just did not care to return so quoted 2-3 times the going contracting rate. I may have done it for regular rate if they considered apologizing (but then how can they apologize if they don't even know they did wrong in the first place?). On second thought, I do not think I want to work with those kind of people anyways.

So, what is the lesson here? If you want to become a supervisor or manager, there are at least two paths to take. First is the one suggested by the article to learn relevant skill-sets and working with your manager on how to move up. Second is to play the system because the impact of a manager has very little impact (just see how frequently they change coaches and CEOs who you would imagine is the biggest cogs in the wheel).

If you think that you are a big part of the company too, think again. I had worked for a different company where the sales team sold a solution that we didn't have (not a surprise). They had quoted 80 hours, but the amount of requirements was clearly more than that. I was only given two weeks to finish and I spent 80 hours both weeks to finish that project. No post-integration problems or issues. Who won? The client because they were not charged the 80 hours (weak sales team who I even told them before I left that the project would take longer). My employer because he sold a solution and since I was an employee no over-time pay. The sales team because they get commission. I lost 80 hours of my time over two weeks which does not even include the travel time, lack of sleep, and my personal health (which is only realized later in life). You think an employee like that would be pretty invaluable to the company.

Nope! They just hired three people to do my work. Even then lower quality, then hired a couple more to support the lower quality. My coworkers also benefited because they got raises because now the company couldn't afford to lose them. And the company is still doing well and succeeding. When I was there we managed the work with 5-6 engineers for 4 years, now they have almost 15 within 2 years leaving. A company I recently left, they had replaced myself and coworker who left within the same period of time with 6 others.

Sooo...... sadly, you are replaceable. Your replacement may not be better or even make the company more money than you. The company may even regret losing you, but it will only be a small stumble. I hope this will inspire you to see the world differently and eventually change the world for the better... hopefully taking the high road.


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