Five days before Christmas, a family member (a rising star Division Director of Engineering) told me he’d just been fired.
QUESTION: Why do so many American corporations eat their young?
MY ANSWER: Because beneath the veneer of all their “we’re so wonderful” PR, much of Corporate America is a “Shark Tank” of paranoia, deceit and jealousy, and anyone looking there for work should do so with their eyes open.
Applying for the job two years ago, the CEO saw his résumé, pronounced it “disruptive”, and demanded to meet the engineer behind it. Within a week he was hired.
The division he hired into was dysfunctional. To fix it, the CEO told him to “Be disruptive.” That meant: Demand performance. Don’t settle for the status quo. Don’t tolerate whiney excuses for not making budget or goals. Reestablish a sense of urgency. Resolve quality issues. Restore profitability.
Accepting his mandate, he charged ahead, stepping on toes. Some of the toes kicked back.
One example: A subordinate manager threw a heavy notebook at him in front of witnesses. Seeking guidance from HR, he was astonished when the best the HR Manager offered was, “Well. Boys will be boys” and did nothing.
A brilliant engineer with a scary-bright mind, his technical skills, courage, leadership and work ethic were just what the division needed. Knowing he needed management training, he requested it. Denied. No budget, nor could he use his own budget.
Blind to what now looked like the handwriting on the wall, he soldiered on, trusting his new manager of only a few months and the CEO’s mandate.
In two years he made major progress. In his first performance appraisal he was recognized for achieving a product turnaround that no one had been able to do in seven years.
Universally loved? No. Change agents aren’t.
Acknowledged, respected and valued company-wide as a breath of fresh air by those who recognized what he had done for the Division? Absolutely.
Chairing a staff meeting two days earlier, he didn’t handle it well when an employee refused to give him information he requested. The employee complained to HR.
The HR manager, rather than immediately meeting with them both, or suspending them both, suspended my relative pending the results of their “investigation.” No one asked him for his statement.
Trusting in the CEO’s support and believing his two-year record of achievement would compensate for having lost his cool for a few minutes, he expected he would be “counselled” when he met with his boss and HR, and was stunned to learn he was fired.
The CEO ignored his calls as the company closed ranks, but one tiny bit of truth did seep out.
Meeting with his staff after his unfair termination, the managing director let slip that she had planned on replacing him with her own person in 1Q14. She and the company took advantage of this “opportunity” to advance their timetable.
He’s an honorable man who plays by the rules. He believed that the reward for achieving the CEO’s goals would be advancement and recognition, not deceit and termination.
He learned a brutal lesson about life in the Shark Tank.
While I’m angry for him, I’m not worried about him. He has effectively documented his accomplishments and has a well-connected network of people who are pissed on his behalf and are helping him network .
And I’m the résumé strategist who helped him create the customized “disruptive” Professional Profile presenting him as an “Ideal Candidate.” We did it once; we’ll do it again.
The real issue
Why do so many American corporations callously screw their employees, strangle themselves with their own Catch-22, and then complain about lack of employee loyalty?
They say they want top-notch engineers with leadership abilities and executive potential, but when they get one, rather than counsel, train and develop them, they betray them.
My 2014 hope for Corporate America and their Boards of Directors – May this be the year you’ll finally live up to the hollow words of your Corporate Values and Mission Statements , and realize that Your Employees Really Are Your Most Valuable Assets.
Since this situation is pure Dilbert, Scott Adams gets the last word.
Dilbert.com/November 9, 1997
For over 30 years, Don has helped job- and promotion-seekers, ignored by recruiters for work they've proven they can do, create custom résumés and targeted cover letters that won them interviews as Ideal Candidates. Today, he focuses on employed, high-five-figure, mid-career professionals passed over for promotions they know they've earned. Using his TOP CANDIDATE FOR PROMOTION™ system, he helps them win interviews as TOP CANDIDATES - whenever they want them - from now until they retire. He can be reached at LifetimeCareerPlan.com