Using Structure to Solve Your (Personnel) Problems

Cowardly.  That's about pretty well sums up my opinion of manipulating the structure of the organization in order to resolve a people problem.

This particular "face saving" maneuver was once at the root of the explanation for my termination from a job.  As I recall my boss said something along the lines of:  "I've decided to realign the company's structure geographically, and have decided I will be assigning your responsibilities to [executive 'X'].  That means we will be saying goodbye to you." 

Except that wasn't the actual reason for the change.  Not at all.  They were much more personal and certainly much more complex.  The cowardly lie offered in place of the truth was intended to disarm me, making a difficult discussion easier and cleaner. 

When a version of this same story came out in a company-wide memo, I'm sure few -- if anyone -- bought it.  Because it was so obviously untrue.  I found the childishness of the move to be irritating in the extreme.

A few years earlier, another executive left the same company in a "reorganization" that eliminated his position.  The official story:  "I've decided we no longer need a COO," was so far from the truth as to be laughable.   And laugh I (and other managers) did.  It was a kind of macabre comedy.

In other instances, I've seen company structure altered to accommodate all kinds of strange things ranging from personal conflicts between execs, to appeasement of an exec's demands, to positioning individuals for demotion or termination, to adapting to particularly strengths and weaknesses of an individual manager.  Most of this was complete nonsense.  These wrenching changes that impacted dozens, if not hundreds, of people would have been unnecessary if the boss had simply stepped up and addressed the issues underlying the changes.

But that would have involved the dirtying of hands, something often to be avoided by those in the highest paying jobs.

What was really needed was: 

To the battling executives, a forced peace.  To the megalomanic manager, a clear assessment and discussion of where he/she really stands.  To the individual on the way out, honesty and clarity about what is going wrong and where it is leading.  To the lopsided performer, an offer of help with improvement. 

Only in this last case, and only when dealing with a truly exceptional performer, should structure be allowed to vary in response to personal talent rather than the other way around. 

The other maneuvering is both cowardly, and politically manipulative in the worst sort of way -- an attempt to disarm opponents before delivering the final, fatal blow. 

If you find yourself tempted to take this path, if you find yourself drawing organization charts in an attempt to control a particular person, if you find yourself lining up justification for your decisions -- arrived at for a different reason -- by adjusting the structure of the company...

then just stop.   Step back.  Decide if there isn't a better, simpler, more direct way to solve the problem.  And then do that.  Even if it is uncomfortable.

Afterall, that's why you get paid the big bucks. 

There are more honorable ways to handle even the most difficult situations, and all involved will respect you much more in the end for following the more difficult, but honest, path.  17.1

Other Recent Posts:

If you are intrigued by the ideas presented in my blog posts, check out some of my other writing.  Novels: LEVERAGEINCENTIVIZEDELIVERABLES and now HEIR APPARENT (published 3/2/2013) -- note, the Kindle version of DELIVERABLES (a prequel to HEIR APPARENT) is on sale for a limited time for $2.99.

Shown on this page is a montage of all four of the novel covers. 

In order:  Leverage, Incentivize, Deliverables and Heir Apparent

In order:  Leverage, Incentivize, Deliverables and Heir Apparent

My novels are based on extensions of 27 years of personal experience as a senior manager in public corporations.