Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 34 – the jobs and careers context 33

This is my 34th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-33.)

I have been successively addressing each of a set of six workplace issues and challenges that would explicitly call for negotiating skills and effort since Part 25 of this series, the first five of which can arise for essentially anyone who works sufficiently long-term with a given employer (see Part 32 for a full list of those topics points, with appended links to where I have discussed them up to there.) And as part of this narrative, I began discussing the sixth and more complexly comprehensive final entry to that list and its issues in Part 32 and Part 33:

6. Negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them, and how you might best manage your career when facing the prospects of getting caught up in that,

More specifically, I discussed in at least some detail, more precisely what downsizings are in Part 32 when they are considered beyond their bottom-line outcome to a business’ employees of what can become massive layoffs. And I built from that starting point discussion in Part 33, to lay a foundation for explicitly discussing negotiating approaches and tactics that individuals can make use of in order to at least better manage the impact of this type of event on themselves and their jobs and careers.

My goal for this posting is to at least begin to explicitly discuss negotiations and the negotiating process in this challenging and stress-creating type of context. And I begin that phase of this overall discussion by repeating a crucially important point that I made in Part 33, that success in any negotiating effort of the type that I address here would hinge upon your understanding as a matter of basic principle, that:

• You cannot effectively negotiate absent an understanding of what you have to, and can negotiate about. And knowing that calls for understanding the context and circumstance, and the goals and priorities of the people who you would face on the other side of the table. And as a crucial part of that, this also includes knowing as fully and clearly as possible, what options and possibilities they might and might not even be able to negotiate upon.

This means that negotiating in a complex and options-constrained context such as that of an impending (or already occurring) downsizing, can never be carried out as a “one size fits all” effort on your part. Effective negotiations in this context, have to be explicitly framed and carried out on a specific-scenario by specific-scenario basis and according to precisely what type of that you face. And even there they need to be flexible and adaptable from your side of this conversation, and certainly when and as your negotiating efforts bring the people who you would negotiate with, to reconsider their initially planned decisions and actions as they would impact upon you, or alternatively if and when they begin to show increased resistance to that possibility.

Note: I am discussing this set of issues in this jobs and careers oriented first half of this series, from the perspective of how you as an individual would best manage and seek to manage your own work and career context. I will also, further on in this series, reconsider this overall challenge from a business negotiations context too, where I will discuss what at least begin as the same set of issues but from the perspective of negotiating for others too, and when working with others who would negotiate on your behalf.

All of this, of necessity means both reconsidering negotiations from an employee perspective, and addressing them from the business side of the table too. And in anticipation of that line of discussion to come, I note here that effectively negotiating from either an employee or a business side requires as clear an understanding as possible of the other side’s perspective too, and in both directions for these negotiations to succeed. And in that, negotiations can become what amount to teaching exercises as well as exercises in persuasion, as assumptions held walking into them arise in explicit discussion.

That noted, and turning back to focus on the employee side of the negotiating table again, my goal for what follows here is to at least begin addressing the individual employee side to this, with more general comments on negotiating a better jobs and careers path through overall change at a place of employment, such as a downsizing event. And that starting assumption: an assumption of individual negotiating in a context of overall business change, can be the best way to approach these conversations in a downsizing or downsizing-like context.

• The type of negotiations process that I am discussing here is not just about you and your direct supervisor and how you work together, or about you and other colleagues with them included there, and how you supportively and productively fit in and offer value.
• And certainly when considered from the other, business management side of the table for this; it is not just about your employment and its terms there, as a center of attention or concern.
• This is about how you would navigate a larger and more widely involving and impacting context of change as a whole, as it is taking place at the place where you work, and even where that might mean your specific situation being treated as an exception to some more generally considered personnel policy-based decision that is otherwise being followed as a more determined rule.
• But that noted, effective negotiations on your part in this are still going to have to significantly focus on what you individually offer and can offer, do and can do for your employer moving forward.

After completing a more generally orienting half of this line of discussion, I will successively discuss how the basic principles that I have been discussing here, and since Part 25, can be applied to the specific business-needs defined downsizing scenarios that I raised in Parts 32 and 33. And with that orienting point noted and the above negating context-clarifying bullet points offered, I begin addressing more general principles as to how to negotiate better terms of employment, or even just continued employment with a business here, beginning with the absolute fundamentals and by noting that:

• It is vitally important as a matter of basic career planning due diligence, that you be as generally informed as possible and on an ongoing basis, as to what is going on at your place of employment as a whole, and that you not just focus on your own work and responsibilities or your own part of the table of organization there, and on what you and your team does. You need to know and understand the larger context that you face where you work and on an ongoing basis. And this means seeing and thinking through what might be the unpleasant and the undesirable sides of that too, and certainly as they might arise and involve you, your job and your career path. This type of proactive preparation certainly holds value if you are to effectively negotiate where possible and where doing so might offer benefit to you, if events are developing that might adversely affect you.
• At the same time you reach out to better understand the business that you work at, you also need to know and really understand what you seek to achieve from any such negotiations that you might enter into here too. It is just as important that you be thoughtfully aware of your own needs and issues too. You need to think through and understand both your own needs and desires, and your priorities and what you can and cannot comfortably give ground on and make concessions on, if and when jobs and career supportive negotiations become necessary.
• And with an at least significantly considered set of answers in place for the questions that those first two bullet points raise for you, and with a clear understanding of what specific questions you need to ask given your particular circumstances, you need to have at least broadly considered your Plan B options in case you cannot in fact find a way to mutually agreeably reconcile your own negotiating goals with those of the people who you would negotiate with. What are your best options, absent you’re being able to achieve an acceptable negotiated agreement there? The issues and questions that I raise here in this bullet point, at least should come into sharp focus if you do in fact see challenge to your continued employment from an impending downsizing on the horizon.
• And in anticipation of discussion to come, you have to assume that you start out any negotiations that you can enter into here, from a completely asymmetric position with your employer, where it comes to leveraging influence and power. You have to assume that you start out wanting to stay on at a current job or at least with a current employer, even if with a new position there, more than they start out at least, wanting to see you stay. And as a result, you want to think through and be prepared to negotiate from a perspective of how you can establish your value with this employer and from as early on as possible, so as to tip the balance there to one of more equal perceived value.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment by expanding upon these more general organizing notes, fleshing them out to form a more organized foundation for dealing with the specifics of the particular downsizing contexts that you might face. Then as promised, I will take this more general narrative out of the abstract by applying it to the specific downsizing scenarios that I have already mentioned in Parts 32 and 33. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Hands-off management, micromanagement and in-between – some thoughts on what they mean in practice 2

I offered a thought piece on better management practices just over a month ago, as a Part 1 to what I expect to develop into a short series. And my goal there was to at least briefly broach and start to outline a discussion of a basic challenge that essentially any manager can fall into: knowing when to step-back and allow for learning curve inefficiencies and related performance issues on the part of people who report to them, and when to step-in and even if that means actively intervening and seeming to at least situationally take over.

There is no simple, one size fits all answer to this type of question, and understanding the possibilities and the possible consequences there, and on a specific context by specific context basis is a core lesson that goes into becoming an effective, experienced manager and leader.

I tried to keep my initial Part 1 discussion of this in clearer focus, by building some basic assumptions into the range of contexts that I made note of, where the types of step-in or step-back decisions that I write of here, would be made. And my goal here in this continuation posting is to expand that initial line of discussion for its range of acknowledged applicability by adding in some basic complications to its narrative. More specifically, I start out here by acknowledging that:

• Sometimes hands-on employees and lower level managers who a more senior supervisor manages, can perform certain types of tasks but not others, at least with sufficient speed and effectiveness to meet ongoing business needs. And this is not always something that more training or more learning curve time can correct. What should a supervising manager do in this type of situation? If the tasks and potential tasks involved are central to that person’s job description and their expected areas of responsibilities there, that is very different than would be the case if these performance issues just involve new work that would expand the job and job description of an employee in question. And even then, are the performance problems that are now observed, problems in addressing work responsibilities that of necessity have to become part of that employee’s job description as the business and its needs change and evolve, or has this arisen essentially entirely in the context of add-on tasks that it would be nice if this employee could fulfill, but where those tasks are still separate from what this person would more routinely be expected to do?
• But what of training and offering opportunity to learn new skills? I just dismissed that as a possible solution to this problem in the above bullet point, but sometimes offering training opportunities, or time and opportunity to pursue them to an employee can make all the difference and to the good for all involved. Does this business allow for employee training or related improvement as an employee benefit, or support employees who would seek out such opportunities and who actively strive to become better, more valuable employees there? Does it support and encourage employees who would be willing to put in the time and effort to achieve that?
• But this brings me back to problem employees who cannot in fact sufficiently carry out their assigned and expected work assignments, and on time and correctly, for them to be seen as fully doing their jobs. Any step-in or step-back question always carries within it, a retain-as-is, or reassign or let go question too.

Context and effective communications are crucial here; the questions and issues that I raise here, in fact cut to the heart of what it means to be a manager and supervisor, and a leader in general. And with that noted, I take this line of discussion out of the abstract by offering and at least briefly considering a specific case in point example of how this works. And in anticipation of offering it, I add that my above-offered three point list of alternative context details, was drafted with this example in mind.

You are a mid-level or senior executive at a business that is actively striving to get out from under a history and reputation of being legacy-only, and for what traditionally has been its brand-defining, key production and product line for the business as a whole. And that area of the business is in fact your area of responsibility there now. Some of the people who have been doing this work, and both hands-on and as production line managers are approaching retirement and are deeply set in their ways, and would be good candidates for early retirement with incentives offered to leave now. Pursuing this approach for dealing with them would show a very positive message to all who remain and to any new hires that might be brought in, that this is a great place to work, where employees and their loyalty are rewarded. And it would create openings for bringing in new people with new skills and workplace experience too. But some of the people who have in effect become pigeonholed for the type of legacy work that you have to move the business beyond now, are younger and a lot earlier in their careers, and would in fact like to start working on more current and even cutting edge products and their development and manufacture too. They are not legacy-only, like their more senior peers. And it is these employees who I write of here, and the issues of dealing with them where they cannot simply move into New as a matter of course and immediately be up to speed on their now-expected tasks.

I assume here that it would be better long-term to retain and support these people, instead of simply taking a “simplest resolution” downsizing approach for anyone and everyone who has worked in this key and even defining area of the business, and in effect starting over as if from scratch there.

People who work in legacy areas of a business are all too often automatically typecast as only being able to do that, and essentially as an axiomatic assumption. But I am writing here of employees who in fact do not fit that stereotype and who could in fact move on to become valuable assets for an employer that seeks to retain and benefit from its people, and that can see real potential from achieving that.

How should a manager address this possibility, so as to retain and develop and not discourage and thwart and either by being too hands-on or too hands-off? How should a more senior manager or mid-level executive work with more junior line managers who work under their supervision who actively, day-to-day manage and supervise these people? Once again, simply laying them off, or alternatively frustrating them so much that they look elsewhere and leave, would create a shared message that everyone working there has to be expected to hear of. And downsizings are never exactly supportive of good morale, to put it mildly.

This is a situation where training and even the development of a business updating-oriented training program, probably organized and run by a third party service provider with relevant experience, can offer real value. And the issues of stepping-back or stepping-in and of knowing best when and how to do this, become crucially important during the transition period that attempting this type of change is certain to create for this business.

I end this posting by noting two further details that I will delve into in my next installment to this series:

• You have to expect that any decision you make here will have repercussions and ripple effects that run throughout the business, and that everyone there will come to know about. And if they only hear about this second hand and as rumor, they will only hear versions of it that are negative and worse.
• And with both that and my above example in mind, a key part of actually addressing this type of management challenge is one of understanding, conveying and managing expectations.

You can find this and related postings and series at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, with this put into its addendum section (and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3.) And you can also find this at Social Networking and Business 2 (and also see its Page 1), and at HR and Personnel – 2 (and see its Page 1.)

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 33 – the jobs and careers context 32

This is my 33rd installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-32.)

I have been successively addressing each of a set of workplace issues and challenges since Part 25 of this, that can arise for essentially anyone who works sufficiently long-term with a given employer (see Part 32 for a full list of those points, with appended links to where I have discussed them.) The first five of those entries represent very specific, focused sources of possible challenge and opportunity, and the final, sixth entry offered there is a more general and wide-ranging one that can encompass all of the others that I have raised and discussed here:

6. Negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them, and how you might best manage your career when facing the prospects of getting caught up in that.

I began preparing for a more detailed discussion of this last topics point in Part 32 by outlining in at least a measure of detail, exactly what downsizings are, at least when they are considered beyond the simple fact that they are events where people, and even large numbers of them can lose their jobs and essentially all at once. As I stated in that posting and in the context of that discussion-organizing explanation:

• You cannot effectively negotiate absent an understanding of what you have to, and can negotiate about. And knowing that calls for understanding the context and circumstance, and the goals and priorities of the people who you would face on the other side of the table. And as a crucial part of that, this also includes knowing as fully and clearly as possible, what options and possibilities they might and might not even be able to negotiate upon.

Getting caught up in a downsizing can seem like getting run over by a truck, and when there is no way to get out of the way to avoid that happening. But this perception, while commonly held and understandable, is essentially always wrong and usually for several or even many of its at least assumed details. My goal for this posting is to briefly discuss and explain that, and then at least begin to discuss the options and possibilities for effective negotiations that you might have – that you might be able to create for yourself, when facing this type of challenge. And I begin addressing this set of issues with the basics – with points of readily visible fact that are in practice overlooked or pushed aside and by precisely the people who most need to be aware of them, and as fully and as early as possible:

• Downsizings essentially all come with advance warnings, and after a relatively long series of warnings have been made general knowledge and certainly throughout the workforce that would be affected.
• First of all, they often arise as what amount to Plan B or even Plan C or D options, turned to after other attempts to regain fiscal balance have failed. Everyone at a business, probably knows if its markets have dried up and they can no longer bring in the revenue flows needed to maintain the business they work for at the scale it has operated at. Everyone knows if the business they work for is no longer competitively up to date and if its senior management is going to have to make fundamental changes in what the business does and how, if it is to remain viable as an ongoing enterprise. They know if they have legacy skills that are not going to fit long-term into their employer’s future, and if they have become pigeonholed there as only being able to perform that type of work. They can and probably should know if their employer is looking to outsource what they do as their area of expertise. Everyone there generally knows if their employer is facing a possible merger or acquisition, where staff rightsizing, to use a popular euphemism, is going to mean eliminating what will become redundant work positions and dismissing the employees who hold them. The basic challenges that lead to downsizings are virtually always out there and visible, and in at least enough detail to indicate that downsizings are at least possible.
• And secondly, downsizings are rarely once and done events. They take place in stages, with groups let go and pauses and then with next groups let go. And it is not at all uncommon for businesses that are facing a need to downsize, to bring in outside specialists as business consultants to help manage all of this. So this can mean the employees there seeing colleagues disappear from their workplace in groups (and most commonly on Fridays), while seeing new faces walking around seeking information on what everyone does there.

And this brings me to the great unspoken: the issues and challenges of directly, objectively, openly facing these possibilities, when and as they become realities for an employer and for the people working there. Too many of us look away from the uncertainty and threat of all of this, as if our not seeing it and not considering its possible impact on us, might make it all go away. You have to at least consider the possibility that you might be caught up in this type of a tidal wave type event too, if there is evidence of it happening or of its likelihood of happening. And it is never safe to simply assume that this cannot happen to you because you are a loyal and effective employee or manager there, with skills and experience that the business needs. You can never simply assume that this cannot happen to you because you consistently get excellent performance reviews, or because your colleagues and supervisor like you and value having you there. People are fired for specific reasons that would put them at the center of a target for that type of dismissal. Problem hands-on employees and managers are fired and for specific cause. But good and even great employees and managers can and do get caught up in downsizings, as they are never (at least in principle) carried out on a fault or deficiency determined basis. Good people: good employees and managers are let go, and even despite their value to the business, to keep a business viable and competitive and to meet larger business needs. And that point of fact can serve as the basis for essentially all of the negotiating arguments that you could raise, in support of your being retained by an employer facing this type of at least perceived need.

• The question, which I will explore in at least some depth in the installment to come here, is one of how you can best present yourself as an asset that your employer would want to keep on, coming out of the staff reductions and reorganizations of a downsizing. And that means negotiating in terms of what you can do that will offer value through this type of transition and as your employer moves past it. And that means you’re negotiating in terms of the specific downsizing you face, and how and why it is taking place, and with as clear an understanding as possible of what this business seeks to achieve from it (and avoid from it.)

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, where I will expand on that bullet point, discussing negotiations goals and priorities as they arise for you, depending on your job and career objectives, and the driving reasons for a possible, or ongoing downsizing that you might be caught up in. And in anticipation of that, I will consider all of the downsizing-cause scenarios that I have noted, at least in passing here and in Part 32.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 32 – the jobs and careers context 31

This is my 32nd installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-31.)

I have been successively addressing each of a set of workplace issues and challenges that can arise for essentially anyone who works sufficiently long-term with a given employer, that I repeat here in list form (with appended links to where I have discussed them) for smoother continuity of narrative:

1. Changes in tasks assigned, and resources that would at least nominally be available for them: timeline allowances and work hour requirements definitely included there (see Part 25 and Part 26),
2. Salary and overall compensation changes (see Part 27),
3. Overall longer-term workplace and job responsibility changes and constraints box issues as change might challenge or enable you’re reaching your more personally individualized goals there (see Part 28),
4. Promotions and lateral moves (see Part 29),
5. And dealing with difficult people (see Part 30 and Part 31).

And while all of these issues can arise and can need to be addressed in combination with others on the list, they can also all be seen as separate and distinct jobs and careers issues that can call for largely separate negotiations to resolve. I have in fact discussed them separately up to here as more stand-alone topics. But I added one more issue: one more increasingly common challenge to this list that of necessity involves all of the above, simultaneously, and more. And that is:

6. Negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them, and how you might best manage your career when facing the prospects of getting caught up in that.

I added this example of a negotiations-requiring workplace situation last on this list, because navigating this type of challenge as effectively as possible, calls for skills in dealing with all of the other issues on this list and more, and with real emphasis on Plan B preparation and planning, and on its execution too as touched upon in Part 23 and again in Parts 30 and 31. And my goal here is to at least begin a discussion as to how you might better approach this challenge or its possibility. And as a starting point that means more clearly stating what downsizings are, as cause and effect driven processes.

• You cannot effectively negotiate absent an understanding of what you have to, and can negotiate about. And knowing that calls for understanding the context and circumstance, and the goals and priorities of the people who you would face on the other side of the table. And as a crucial part of that, this also includes knowing as fully and clearly as possible, what options and possibilities they might and might not even be able to negotiate upon.

I begin this first step discussion for addressing the above Point 6 by acknowledging that I have personally been caught up in two downsizings so I write from direct experience here, and not simply from the perspective of abstract principles. And I have seen them play out when I was not an in-house employee or manager too. And that perhaps-relevant piece of my own workplace experience shared, I begin this posting’s main line of discussion by at least briefly outlining some of the details of the heart of this challenge itself: what downsizings are and what leads to them.

• In principle, this is simple and straightforward. Essentially any business that grows in scale beyond that of a single proprietor owner has at least some hands-on working, non-managerial employees. And as a business grows in scale it generally takes on managers who supervise them and coordinate their efforts towards the resolution of larger tasks than any single individual could carry out on their own. And next level up managers come onboard too if this trend towards growth continues. And payroll and benefits expenses can and often do rise in scale and significance to become among the largest ongoing expenses that most businesses face. So if a business has a set-back in its incoming revenue and they have to cut back on their expenses, staff and directly staff-related expenses are usually one of the first possible places considered when cutbacks in expenses paid and due are on the table.
• This can mean last in, first out and certainly in business contexts where seniority of employment has to be taken into account. Businesses with a strong union presence often follow that approach. But this type of retain or let-go determination can also be skills-based, or location based if for example it is decided to close a more peripheral office that might not have been as much of a profit center as desired or expected.
• Downsizings, while more usually driven by revenue and expense imbalances, can also be driven by pressures to phase out old systems and install new ones that might be better fits for the current business model in place. Think of staff reductions there, as they can arise when a business decides to outsource a functional area and its work, making it unnecessary to keep the people who have done that in-house as ongoing employees. To take that out of the abstract with a specific example, there was a time when large numbers of businesses had their own in-house teams for developing and maintaining the more technical side of their websites and online presence. It is now much more common to outsource that type of specialized work to third party providers that only do this type of work and that can more cost-effectively provide these services. And that widespread change in organizational perspective and priorities lead to a significant numbers of downsizings for people who had worked in-house in Information Technology and related departments, and with those businesses shifting their in-house focus there, essentially entirely to a more Marketing and Communications or other content-oriented focus.
• But to be blunt, and I will add a lot more candid than most senior managers are on this, downsizings are not just about cutting down on staff to reduce redundancies and to bring the business into leaner and more effective focus for meeting its business performance needs. Downsizings can also be used as opportunities to cut out and remove people who have developed reputations as being difficult to work with, or for whatever reasons that the managers they report to would see as sufficiently justifying. They are used as a no-fault opportunity for removing staff who do not fit into the corporate culture or who have ruffled feathers higher up on the table of organization and even if they would otherwise more probably be retained and stay.
• People can be and sometimes are fired with cause. But a business that pursues that path needs to be able to back up any such actions with fact and evidence-based reasons that they could offer to justify those dismissals. Otherwise they run a risk of facing unlawful termination law suits, and with a distinct possibility for that happening if they operate in any of a great many legal jurisdictions.
• Downsizings, on the other hand are entirely no-fault in nature, at least as formally defined. They can and do sweep up skilled workers who have proven their value to the organization and who have supportively fit into it and contributed to it. They can and do sweep up people the business would otherwise want to keep on-staff and long term. But downsizings can also be used, and are used to get rid of people who do their jobs and at performance levels that would mitigate against their being fired per se, but who at least someone in management would like to see leave anyway. All such a manager would need there is the cover of their business seeing need to enter into an actual downsizing, for reorganizational purposes.
• The point that I have been leading to in the past three bullet points of this list is simple in principle, even as it is complex and largely opaque in the details of any given actual downsizing events. People are let go for any and usually all of a complex mix of reasons with that including financial need on the part of a business, with that meaning dismissal of good and desired employees, with that meaning reduction in or elimination of functional areas in-house that could more cost-effectively be outsourced, and with that meaning “housecleaning” out employees who while effective at their jobs, do not fit there. And ultimately, all of these decisions are judgment calls on the part of managers who are involved in carrying these actions out. I will come back to this point and its possibilities, later in this series when I begin to discuss negotiations in this context. But to round out this bullet pointed list of downsizing-clarifying points, and to bring this point itself into clearer focus, consider the following scenario: the CEO of a business that has suddenly found itself in severe fiscal stress tells the C level heads of its functional arms on the table of organization that all of their departments and services are going to have to make reductions in scale, sharing the pain. No one service or functional area will simply take the hit there. So word goes down through middle and lower management that they have what amount to quotas to fill, and then they have to choose who is to be let go. If you work there and can see this coming, what can you do and how can you best present and represent yourself if you in fact want to stay working there? That is where your negotiations and your skills at that enter this narrative.

There are of course, more possible reasons and rationales for downsizings that I could have raised in my above list; my above-offered outline of what downsizings are is just a simplified cartoon representation of a more complex and nuanced process that is essentially always riven by pushback and challenge. Just consider my last bullet point and its “share the pain” example. Every senior manager and certainly every C level officer who is challenged to make their share of these cuts will want to argue the case for why their services should be spared, or at least allowed to make smaller cuts.

I will consider at least one more reason for downsizing at all as I continue this narrative, which I will identify here in anticipation of discussion to come. And it is one that I have seen play out first hand so I know from personal observation how real and how impactful it can be. A new, more senior manager who wants to do some personal empire building within their new employer’s systems can use a downsizing and reorganization in their area of oversight responsibility to put their name on how things are done there. Consider this a confrontational career enhancement tactic, and I will discuss it in that context. And consider this as an arena where a prepared skilled employee or manager can negotiate their own circumstances with this type of empire builder too.

And with that noted, I have at least laid out the basic issues leading up to a downsizing here, and the basic issues of who gets swept up in them too. I will continue this discussion in the next installment of this series where I will begin addressing preparation and response options that hands-on employees and managers can use when facing these types of possibilities.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material.

Hands-off management, micromanagement and in-between – some thoughts on what they mean in practice 1

One of the most difficult issues that managers face – essentially all managers and regardless of their industry or their titles or scope of responsibility, can be found in simply knowing when to actively supervise and manage, and when to step back. Most managers spend essentially their entire careers and work lives, working in the context of their own specific areas of hands-on experience and training, whether that means working in technical and related areas such as Information Technology or Finance, or in soft people-skills areas such as Marketing and Communications or Personnel. They, as such, have training and experience that would at least offer a foundation for addressing challenges and opportunities in the functional areas that they are responsible for, and even when facing what to them personally are the new and unexpected. The challenges and the at least potential opportunities that I write of here are, however, essentially pure management in nature. And they are of a type that is not generally addressed all that effectively in standard MBA and related programs with their all but laser-focused subject area orientations and specializations. These issues do not, after all, clearly fit into any particular arena of business-defined functional area expertise or responsibility.

• When should a manager step back and even knowingly allow at least more minor mistakes, delays and related learning curve inefficiencies?
• And when should they step in and more directly intervene, and even if that means they’re in-effect taking over from a hands-on employee or a lower level manager who reports to them? When does this become micromanagement?
• When does hands-off mean giving others a chance to make mistakes and learn and grow professionally from them, and when does it mean leaving them hanging and without the support that they actually need, and that they might even actively want?
• When does more actively hands-on mean actively helping and when does it more primarily become an otherwise avoidable challenge to those so “helped,” and of a form that undercuts those subordinates and limits their ability to do better on their own the next time?

I have in effect already at least partly addressed those questions from how I phrased them, when I raised the possibility of at least more minor mistakes, delays and related learning curve inefficiencies, and by implication the possibility of more impactfully significant challenges that would require more immediate and effective response and resolution too.

• If a new, more junior manager is slower than might be desired at first, when using a new-to-them administrative tool and its online screens, and when they are still figuring out where everything is in it on their own, it can be better to wait for them to ask questions if they hit a wall in that, instead of automatically, in effect taking over. They might take a little longer at first, in effectively completing the tasks that they would use this tool for. But you’re making the investment as a more senior manager, of letting them learn this new tool as a matter of ingrained hands-on experience, and at their own pace can really pay off for you and for your business later on, and certainly if this means they’re learning their next new software tool that much faster, and if they learn it more effectively and fully from how they learned how to use it by actually using it, too.
• If, on the other hand, that new more junior manager is on the brink of making a mistake that would create serious problems for a major business client, that would probably call for a more immediate and direct intervention.

But that, at least categorical level context in which a step-in or step-back decision would be made, only represents one of several possible arenas where the questions that I raise here, as to how to better manage, actually arise. What are the work performance issues involved that a step-in or step-back decision would be made about? But just as importantly, who are the people involved in this and what are the most productive ways for working with them, and certainly when everything is not moving ahead like clockwork for them?

• And it is important to note in this context, that addressing the who side of that, can and generally does call for more individualized management approaches and more flexible ones at that, than a focus on business tasks and goals would call for, and certainly as a general rule.
• Business tasks and goals, and certainly as organized and called for from a big picture perspective, are laid out in business plans in place, or at least in effectively drafted ones. They are formally understood for what they would accomplish and how, at least for an organized and efficient business and for its ongoing business systems.
• But few if any businesses have anything like formal guidelines in place for working more effectively with others, depending on their personalities and on what specific ways of completing tasks work best for them. Few if any businesses have anything like formal guidelines in place for working more effectively with others in addressing how they would work when facing special-to-them needs: short term and time-limited or ongoing, and with only a few special exception circumstances such as parental need guidelines, and disabilities accommodations standing out as exceptions there.

Actually addressing the issues raised here as a senior manager, means thinking through the tasks and goals involved and the priorities that they carry, while also thinking and acting with a matching awareness of the other people involved in carrying them out – as well as maintaining an active awareness of other involved parties, including third party stakeholders who need to have the tasks involved, completed correctly and on time. And at least as importantly, this also means better understanding ourselves as the senior managers in charge in this too.

• Management is about organizing and coordinating what has to be done, to get it done and as smoothly and effectively, and cost-effectively as possible. But it is also about working with and enabling the people involved in carrying this work out. Managers are people, who work with, and in this context supervise other people.

Personality and management style, as shaped by it, enter this narrative here, and a need to be able and willing to work with others in ways that they can be positively receptive to, and in ways that can help bring out their best. This means finding the right balance between challenge to perform, and the opportunity for professional growth that the right types and amounts of such challenge can foster, while giving others both the opportunity and the tools needed to get their work done, even as they learn from trying and doing.

I have seen way too many managers who do not allow for any error or delay (from others). And that lack of flexibility and yes – lack of adaptability, makes it all the easier to fall into one or the other of the two chasms of problematical management that I have been discussing here: hands-off that can and will leave subordinates twisting in the wind, or its overly involved counterpart of longer-term performance-thwarting micromanagement. And this brings me to the final point that I would raise here in this brief note: the final point of challenge that not finding the right balance between hands-off and hands-on can bring.

• Whether a senior manager steps back and remains uninvolved as their default and automatic response to work performance problems in their team (taking a sink or swim approach),
• Or whether they make the mistake of stepping in too often and on problems and issues that do not genuinely call for their direct intervention, leaving no room for errors or delays and even when a subordinate is learning, or when they are trying to navigate the unexpected or unusual,
• They make the path that they themselves would follow as a more senior manager in charge, that much more difficult too. The more they just automatically default to either of these two approaches and certainly if they vacillate between them, the poorer their own work performance is likely to be from their failure to focus on and expend effort, and time and other resources where their effort is really needed, and where it would have been expected in their own performance reviews.

And the types of problems that I write of here can radiate down the lines of a table of organization from more senior managers on down. At its worst, poor managerial decision making of the type that I write of here, can come to shape and damage entire corporate cultures, and businesses as a whole, undermining morale at a business as a whole in the process.

I offer this posting with a goal of explicitly raising and outlining a type of management problem. And I will return to this topic area in future postings, with a goal of offering some thoughts on how to better address it.

In anticipation of my next posting on this, I note here that I have made a number of assumptions in this one that are true for many involved participants and across a range of real-world scenarios, but without their being universally true, or even close to that. As an example of that, I have assumed that all of the people involved in the scenarios that I have touched upon here, are good employees who can do their jobs effectively or even exceptionally well, even if they do face at least occasional learning curve slow-downs in that. And I have assumed that such learning would be more autodidactic in nature. But not all employees are as effective as others and not all show the same levels of potential for developing into the good or even great there. And some need and really benefit from more formal training and particularly on more complex training issues.

The devil, it is said, is in the details and that definitely applies for the issues and at least potential problems that I write of here. And the detail-of-necessity nature of the issues that I raise here, explains at least in part why this is not necessarily a topic area that is addressed as effectively as might be needed in at least most MBA and related degree programs. The details that arise here are all experience based, if they are to be fully learned and understood. My goal here is to offer tools that might help to shorten this type of learning curve. And I will continue this effort in a next installment to what will become a short series.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, with this put into its addendum section (and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3.) And you can also find this at Social Networking and Business 2 (and also see its Page 1), and at HR and Personnel – 2 (and see its Page 1.)

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 31 – the jobs and careers context 30

This is my 31st installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-30.)

I have been working my way through a to-address topics list since Part 25 that addresses a succession of workplace challenges and opportunities that can and often do arise when working for a business for any significant period of time. And my goal for this posting is to continue that process, completing my discussion, at least for purposes of this series, of Point 5 and continuing my discussion of Plan B approaches as I began addressing in that context. After that I will turn to and discuss Point 6 and both as an important source of relevant issues in its own right and to illustrate how the types of issues and approaches that I have been discussing in this series can and do fit together in real life.

To put what is to come here and what will follow this installment in clearer context, I begin by repeating this topics and issues list as a whole, with parenthetical references as to where I have already discussed its first five points:

1. Changes in tasks assigned, and resources that would at least nominally be available for them: timeline allowances and work hour requirements definitely included there (see Part 25 and Part 26),
2. Salary and overall compensation changes (see Part 27),
3. Overall longer-term workplace and job responsibility changes and constraints box issues as change might challenge or enable you’re reaching your more personally individualized goals there (see Part 28),
4. Promotions and lateral moves (see Part 29),
5. Dealing with difficult people (see Part 30),
6. And negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them. I add this example last on this list because navigating this type of challenge as effectively as possible, calls for skills in dealing with all of the other issues on this list and more, and with real emphasis on Plan B preparation and planning, and on its execution too as touched upon in Part 23 and again in Part 30.

And with that orienting and series-connecting text in place I turn to further consider Plan B approaches, starting with a point of detail that might seem obvious:

• Standard and routine tasks, processes and work flows, as carried out by the people expected to do them, rarely call for negotiations and of any sort, except insofar as it might prove necessary to argue a case against sudden disruptive change. But that exception cannot be expected and certainly very often; most of us never in fact find ourselves having to negotiate that type of scenario and certainly given the day-to-day momentum of simply pursuing and doing business as usual.
• So it can essentially be taken as a given, that when negotiations of some sort are needed as to the what, how and who of work, that means that at least one critically involved stakeholder in an involved part of the business sees need for change and for trying a more non-standard approach, or for reaching agreement on new goals or benchmarks that would be used to gauge and performance track outcomes and results achieved.
• So as soon as a sufficiently compelling need arises so as to make negotiations per se, tenable or even necessary enough to pursue them, the people involved are already facing what might be considered at least something of a Plan B situation: a shift to the less known and the less comfortably familiar of breaking away from normal routines at all. And when I write of Plan B approaches in this series and in this blog as a whole, I am primarily if not exclusively writing of situations where both standard and routine, and the more obvious alternatives to it all would fall by the wayside as not adequately meeting perceived needs.

I briefly outlined an alternative approach that might at least in principle be attempted to avoid a Plan B requirement, and certainly as just specified there, where negotiating an acceptable alternative to whatever would be default, cannot be made to work. And that is a key defining feature of Plan B approaches as more stringently defined here and in my earlier writings to this blog.

I would start to more fully flesh out what I am discussing here as Plan B options, by picking up on and continuing discussion of a tactic that I raised later on in Part 30, and only made note of there for its potential risks:

• The negotiating tactic of selecting, where possible, who you actually have to and get to negotiate with, and certainly when attempting to work with more obvious first choices for this as based on their job titles and positions at the business, could not be made to work.

If you do attempt to work your way around one or more people who are legitimate stakeholders in whatever matters that you would see need to negotiate over, and if they come to see you as having bypassed them because you would not like what they would have to say on that, then you run a significant risk of burning bridges that you might have found useful to have intact, later on. And you will have probably created animosity and of a type that can have radiating impact on your overall reputation there at that employing business, and certainly insofar as you would seek to be viewed as a supportively involved and connected team player.

Circumstances are important there, and both as far as the ongoing actions and decisions and reputations of the people who you would not want to get involved in this are concerned, and in the people who you would turn to as alternatives in this type of negotiating context. As a perhaps obvious example, if the person with a gatekeeper, decision making title and position who you would want to avoid having to negotiate with has a terrible reputation for their short sightedness and their lack of professional capability, and you seek out alternatives who are well respected for getting the right things done, then a lot less harm is likely to arise than if you seek to shift who you would negotiate with in the opposite direction to this.

But regardless of that type of consideration, assume that you and the people who you would prefer to negotiate with and those who you wish to avoid in this are all going to be around at that business, longer-term. And one way or the other you will have to deal with all of these other stakeholders and with their friends there and more, longer-term too.

I note the likely need for what amounts to bridge mending when negotiating around a difficult stakeholder and certainly in this type of longer-term context. And I point out in this context that as soon as I begin taking and proposing a longer timeframe approach to job performance as I do here, I am actually discussing careers and a longer-term career perspective as well.

• Plan B approaches: Plan B strategies and tactics and related negotiating for the long-term, always bring career considerations into your planning and into your follow-through of it. And that is even true, and it can even be particularly true when you find yourself more mentally oriented towards the here-and-now and when you are in the midst of job-level navigating, where that more immediate perspective and its imperatives might be more overtly pressing and attention demanding.

And with that last detail added to this posting’s narrative, I turn to the above repeated Point 6 of the to-address list that I have been working my way through here:

• Negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them, with all of the issues and complications that this type of situation brings with it.

I am going to at least begin to explicitly discuss that complex of issues in my next installment to this series, simply repeating for now, that this represents a type challenge, and a type of opportunity that brings essentially everything that I have been discussing here up to now, into active consideration again. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 30 – the jobs and careers context 29

This is my 30th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-29.)

I have been working my way through a to-address topics list since Part 25 that addresses a succession of workplace challenges and opportunities that can and often do arise when working for a business for any significant period of time. And my goal for this posting is to continue that process, here focusing in its Point 5. To put what is to come here in clearer context, I begin by repeating this list as a whole, with parenthetical references as to where I have already discussed its Points 1-4:

1. Changes in tasks assigned, and resources that would at least nominally be available for them: timeline allowances and work hour requirements definitely included there (see Part 25 and Part 26),
2. Salary and overall compensation changes (see Part 27),
3. Overall longer-term workplace and job responsibility changes and constraints box issues as change might challenge or enable you’re reaching your more personally individualized goals there (see Part 28),
4. Promotions and lateral moves (see Part 29),
5. Dealing with difficult people,
6. And negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them. I add this example last on this list because navigating this type of challenge as effectively as possible, calls for skills in dealing with all of the other issues on this list and more, and with real emphasis on Plan B preparation and planning, and on its execution too as touched upon in Part 23.

I initially mentioned Plan B approaches to jobs and careers planning and execution in that list in the context of its last, sixth entry. But this basic due diligence, and yes … risk management-aware jobs and careers approach can be just as important for consideration here in an explicitly Point 5 context too. So I begin this posting’s discussion by offering systematically organized references regarding Plan B thinking and execution, and about working with difficult people in general, as a starting point for what is to follow here:

• Finding Your Best Practices Plan B When Your Job Search Isn’t Working, as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development as postings 56-72, and
• Should I Stay or Should I Go?, as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 as postings 416-458.

I focused on a job search context in my above-cited Plan B series, highlighting this basic jobs and careers approach in terms that would perhaps more directly relate to Parts 2-12 of this series. But the flexibility of thought and action that that series discusses, and that Plan B approaches are built from in general, apply here too. And when you apply them in this type of context, where you are already working with a business that you would prefer to stay with, the negotiations options and processes of this series become particularly important there.

With that noted, I cite in particular, Part 2: interpersonal conflict and related challenges of my Stay or Go series here, though I in fact raise the issues of difficult, or at least potentially difficult people in other installments in that series too. Positing that series’ narrative in terms pursued in this series, best practices for working with difficult, challenging people are all about finding ways to forestall conflict where possible, where that can mean preventing at least avoidable difficulties from arising. And barring that possibility, it is about limiting and diffusing conflict and finding ways to constructively work with those difficult people where possible. And Plan B approaches enter into all of this, forming a third basic possibility for dealing with circumstances where such favorable resolutions might not in fact be possible.

That noted, let’s start addressing this complex of issues from the beginning and with the fundamentals:

• Really think through and understand what you seek to achieve here, and for your goals and your priorities and for what you would acceptably be willing to offer in exchange for achieving at least your core requirements there.
• And get to know and understand the people you work with, and seek to at least catch glimpses of the world around them as they see it, and certainly when they are at work. What do they seek to do and what do they seek to avoid? Where do they see opportunity and challenge? What are their goals and where can you see possible conflicts or congruences of interest as they might arise between you and them?
• Think of this as background preparation work for when you specifically have to negotiate an agreement with one or more of these people. The more clearly you have thought through your own position on matters of importance to you, the more clearly you can articulate it and present it. And the more clearly you understand the people who you work with, and certainly gatekeepers and stakeholders who you might have to gain some measure of support from, the more easily and effectively you can negotiate mutually acceptable agreements with them.

The key to effective negotiating is in understanding the people you would negotiate with, and any third parties who they might have to accommodate as they argue what would ostensibly be their case. And with that I add a new layer of complexity to this. Sometimes, the driving force behind the positions and the demands that you hear from the other side of a negotiating table, come from people who are not even in the room, who the people you are meeting with have to answer to.

That noted, if you know and understand something of who is involved in this, and perhaps from behind the scenes, and you know and understand them and the people you are actually meeting with, and if you can understand these people well enough to be able to predict how they might raise and promote their positions when negotiating, and how they would likely respond to you and your positions, the better off you will be.

What terms: what wording do these people use when discussing matters, and certainly where their preferences, needs and priorities are concerned? What are their hot button words and phrases that might elicit more of an emotional response than anything else, and a negative one at that?

• Know and understand the people you need to communicate with and particularly when and as you need to negotiate with them, with all of the establishment of common grounds that this can call for.
• And use the terms and phrasings that they would find more comfortable where possible, avoiding options that would raise extra, avoidable complications for you in this.

And with that noted as background for how I would address Point 5 itself, I ask an at least seemingly simple, basic question:

• What does “difficult people” mean?

For purposes of this discussion, I would argue that this means people who:

• You have, and are likely to have need to negotiate with and on at least some issues that are of significant importance to you,
• But who you are also likely to come into disagreement with over those issues, or even outright conflict if you cannot effectively negotiate a common ground with them,
• And where navigating your way to that point of agreement with them, would be difficult at the very least – and even particularly difficult.

Sometimes this means you’re needing to negotiate more effective and equitable ways of working with people who do not see value or significance in others in general, or their issues. But more often than not this means they’re not seeing areas of overlap where they would benefit, or at least not lose if they were to agree to anything that they would see as making a concession to you.

• Are they concerned that if they give ground to you in some way that might create a precedent that would somehow come back as a problem for them later on?
• Do they take a zero-sum approach where anything short of a total victory for them is a loss for them and any victory for someone else must be a loss for them too?
• Turning back to consider outside influencers here again, do they see themselves as being fundamentally blocked from making any concessions, and even ones they would otherwise agree to, because of outside pressures from other parties (e.g. their own supervisor and direct in line boss there, or with that pressure coming from other powerfully placed stakeholders?)

The goal in working with difficult people is to find ways to present your case, in ways that would bring them to see what you want to get done as offering value to them too, and in ways that they could favorably present to anyone else who they have to answer to as well, if needed. Or at least, your goal here would be to create grounds for these stakeholders gaining to value for themselves, and to see themselves as gaining such value, later from favors owed that will be repaid, and under conditions that would make them be willing to “pay it forward” for you.

• Do you have potential allies here, who could help argue your case for you,
• And either directly or from how they might influence outside decision makers who the people who you meet with would have to secure approval and agreement from: the involved parties who are outside of the room but still crucially involved in this as already noted here in this posting?
• Who are these negotiations enablers and how could you best negotiate their supporting you, or at least not hindering your efforts here? In this, sometimes remaining neutral can be supportive too.

Stepping back from the specifics as I have been discussing them here: all of the approaches and tactics that I have just raised here, and more that would be thought through and attempted might fail. You always have to start out and proceed from there with a very real additional outcomes possibility in mind: the prospect that all of your negotiation efforts might not work and no matter how you approach them or prepare for them or seek to carry them out. And this means you’re thinking through and preparing for a possible best alternative to negotiated agreement and a Plan B option that would at least reasonably work for you.

To be clear here, I am assuming that you have at least thought of and considered all viable negotiating approaches and tactics here, that might in principle help you to reach an agreement that would work for you. So for example, can you find an alternative to having to deal with a particularly difficult stakeholder who you would more normally seek to negotiate with here, due to their position or title, but who you do not see as being amenable to any offer or suggestion, no matter how presented? You have at least considered that too. (Note: If you do want to try this type of work-around here, do so first if at all possible so you do not avoidably put yourself in a position of burning future bridges by insulting and challenging that stakeholder with a probably public declaration that you are explicitly going around them, when working with them does not meet your satisfaction. If you try negotiating with someone and that falls through and you turn to others to bypass them, this will only create lasting animosity and resentment and from all parties involved in this – and even when and if they were responsible for the vast majority of the problems that you had with them in your attempt to negotiate with them in the first place.)

• But what happens if you do try negotiating with such a difficult individual and then find out this could not have worked and certainly with them,
• Or if circumstances are such that you have no choice but to work with them on this and even when you know up-front that your chances of success with them are slim at best?
• Then what is your best fall-back non-negotiated position?

The entire thrust of this posting can be summarized with a single piece of advice: think through what you seek to achieve, and how the people who you need to negotiate with on that will perceive matters and act. And do so with an open mind and both when thinking through your own position and how you would best present it, and when thinking through the options and tools that you have as you present and argue your case. And be prepared to be flexible and at all stages of this – and with the possibility of having to pursue a Plan B, best alternative to negotiated agreement alternative too.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, starting with a more detailed discussion of Plan B options as they arise in this type of context. And with that laid out I will turn to and begin to discuss the above-repeated Point 6 of the to-address list that I have been working my way through here. In anticipation of that line of discussion to come, this series installment and the next to come are going to be particularly pertinent for that.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 29 – the jobs and careers context 28

This is my 29th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-28.)

This is also my fifth consecutive posting to this series to specifically deal with issues that can arise at essentially any point during a professional’s tenure while working with some specific employer. And several of the basic topic points raised here are in fact most likely to arise for people well after their initial new hire onboarding and their initial probationary period there, and after they have largely settled into a job there. For smother continuity of narrative, I repeat this topics list as a whole as I continue addressing it, here focusing on its Point 4:

1. Changes in tasks assigned, and resources that would at least nominally be available for them: timeline allowances and work hour requirements definitely included there (see Part 25 and Part 26),
2. Salary and overall compensation changes (see Part 27),
3. Overall longer-term workplace and job responsibility changes and constraints box issues as change might challenge or enable your reaching your more personally individualized goals there (see Part 28),
4. Promotions and lateral moves,
5. Dealing with difficult people,
6. And negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them. I add this example last on this list because navigating this type of challenge as effectively as possible, calls for skills in dealing with all of the other issues on this list and more, and with real emphasis on Plan B preparation and planning, and execution too, as touched upon in Part 23.

The above repeated Point 4 is one of the two shortest ones offered in this list by word count, and even if it were to be expanded out to include the possibility of demotions too. And it is also the most emotionally loaded and the least analytically thought through of all of them as well, and certainly for many people. We all tend to get caught up in the emotional baggage that understandably surrounds the key words involved there, and particularly when words like demotion are involved. So I begin addressing this topics point by stepping back from it as a whole and considering those two (and now three) key words in it for what they do and do not actually mean, and certainly in a practical real-world context: promotions and lateral moves … and demotions as well.

Let’s start this line of discussion by considering that third, newly added word: demotions. And I do so by posing a somewhat stilted appearing workplace scenario that I have in fact seen play out exactly as I will present it here, phrasing what follows in the second person in an attempt to prompt you the reader to think this through as if you were facing this situation yourself:

• You like your job a lot and you and your family really like the community that you live in, and the fact that your workplace is a short commute from your home, and from your children’s school and from where your spouse works too. All of the key places that you and the members of your immediate family would routinely go to in the course of your day-to-day lives are in fact close by to each other. And you and your spouse and children have friends there and have made this community yours.
• Now suddenly your direct boss at work: your immediate supervisor there, is starting to talk about you’re taking an at least temporary position with this company at a much more distantly located facility. And this new position with the company is being offered without any end point or overall duration included or even mentioned. You have always gotten very high performance scores in your annual reviews. You have always gotten along very well with your colleagues at work and with business clients and others who you have had to deal with there. But suddenly your boss is coming across as pressuring you into making this move – and on the face of it, this is not going to be a promotion per se insofar as it would not give you either a higher level job title, or higher level compensation aside from financial support in the relocation that this would call for and related temporary allowances.
• As just noted, you have liked this job, and the people who you have worked with there seem to like and appreciate, and value you too. So is this a lateral move? Is this a demotion, insofar as agreeing to it would mean you’re losing a lot of the sources of value that you personally see as significant that you have in your constraints box, as discussed in Part 28 and its cited references and as touched upon in the third bullet point here?

An initial and perhaps immediate gut reaction response to this, and particularly as I have proposed it as being offered to you, would be to see this as more of a demotion than anything else. But let me add in one more bullet point to this scenario to at least add context to what I have just related about this proffered job change:

• Your immediate boss there: your direct supervisor at this business does in fact value having you on their team, and very much so. And they are not entirely happy with this turn of events. But their own immediate supervisor: the C level officer in this business who runs the functional area that you both work in, makes a habit of reviewing the performance reviews of the people who their direct reportees supervise: your supervisor included there. They do this as a means of better understanding how these lower level managers who they supervise manage so they can more fully know how effectively they carry out those types of responsibilities. And incidentally, your supervisor’s supervisor also uses this as an opportunity to search out and identify people in their overall department who show real potential and who might be good candidates for career advancement there – with proper professional grooming and training. And one more detail: while this practice is not always followed, it is not uncommon in this business to explicitly give possible candidates for this type of promotion, wider experience in the business as a whole so they can have wider ranging hand-on experience there and better understand how everything there works and fits together.

So is this a lateral move and a perhaps somewhat unfavorable one, or is it a demotion? Or is this a stepping stone career change that if it works out would lead in all probability to a real and very definitive next step promotion? If the last of these possibilities holds real likelihood, and this move succeeds with you’re getting really positive reviews from your supervisor in place at this temporary assignment and from anyone else there who might be turned to for more wide-ranging 360 degree input, then you will find yourself negotiating terms in a promotions and advancement context. And in all likelihood, given the circumstances outlined here, that would mean you’re meeting with and negotiating with people who have already bought into your succeeding and who want to see that happen, and under circumstances where you would be in a stronger position than any outside candidate would be, and certainly for arguing the case for your being offered accommodations for any constraints box requirements from your time at this business up to here, that still hold significant value to you. Or the new possibilities that this type of promotion might open up for you and your family, might mean your arriving at a new and reprioritized constraints box list that would actively support your making new types of changes and even happily so –where that might even include you’re agreeing to a longer term workplace relocation.

• Job changes of the types that I address here, whether promotions, lateral moves, or even demotions can all arise in a business as a means to keeping good people onboard. And yes, that can include demotions and pay cuts and certainly when a business and its owners find themselves forced to take those types of steps during a lean period if they are to survive it. So these events can be and often are complex and certainly for how and why they come up as issues and for how they are carried out.
• And just as importantly, they are often and even usually looked at as here-and-now jobs level events by the people caught up in them. But they are always career level events and they should be thought through in those terms, and at least as carefully as they are for their here-and-now, jobs-of-the-moment impact.

The basic point that I raise here of taking a longer career perspective and certainly when facing impactful change, in fact informs everything that I have offered in this series up to here. And it will continue to inform all that follows in this series too. We work at specific here-and-now jobs but we have to continually keep that and them in perspective too: in a wider and longer-term career-level perspective too.

I am going to offer some further thoughts on Point 5 and its issues in a next series installment, and add in anticipation of that, that this is a place where Plan B considerations of necessity have to enter this overall narrative. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 28 – the jobs and careers context 27

This is my 28th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-27.)

I began addressing a list of issues in Part 25 of this, that can and do arise at least occasionally during longer employment tenures, that I repeat here as a whole for purposes of smoother continuity of narrative in what is to follow. And I begin this posting by noting that I have already at least preliminarily addressed the first two of the topics points of this list (as noted parenthetically here) and the first half of Part 3 as well:

1. Changes in tasks assigned, and resources that would at least nominally be available for them: timeline allowances and work hour requirements definitely included there (see Part 25 and Part 26),
2. Salary and overall compensation changes (see Part 27),
3. Overall longer-term workplace and job responsibility changes and constraints box issues as change might challenge or enable your reaching your goals there (with discussion of this begun in earlier installments in this progression of them),
4. Promotions and lateral moves,
5. Dealing with difficult people,
6. And negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them. I add this example last on this list because navigating this type of challenge as effectively as possible, calls for skills in dealing with all of the other issues on this list and more, and with real emphasis on Plan B preparation and planning, and execution too, as touched upon in Part 23.

My goal for this posting is to further address the above stated Point 3 and its issues, focusing here on constraints box considerations and further expanding out the range of employee needs and options for addressing them, that can effectively be brought to the table in the types of work position and overall compensation negotiations that I have been discussing here.

Note: the issues that I discuss here can rise to critical importance because an employee’s work responsibilities have expanded out beyond any realistic interpretations of the official job description in place for work actually performed, and on an ongoing basis. That is the basic underlying reason that I have discussed up to here in these postings, for seeking opportunity to negotiate, or renegotiate terms of employment at a business. But this can also become important and even crucially so as a consequence of non-work, life issues and when an employee needs to find a better way to juggle the needs of their overall life with those of their job too. So I write here about expanding the range of options and option types that might be negotiated over, but I also write here from a wider perspective as to why these negotiations might even be needed in the first place. Remember in that context, that some of the possibilities that an employee might want and even need to gain approval for, would essentially only arise as issues for them when they have to address demands and pressures that arise outside of work. So this wider negotiating context is particularly important here in this posting.

With that noted, let’s start this line of discussion from the already at least partly addressed context of changes in job responsibilities held, and similar workplace reasons for seeking out change. And to set the stage for discussion to follow here, I explicitly note that I am not writing about special circumstance, limited duration changes in the work load expected of an employee or manager under consideration here, and certainly where everyone working at a business is facing what are essentially the same type of “crunch time” work load increases for some period of time, for what they would be expected to do. To take that out of the abstract, consider large retail businesses with their seasonally expected large and even tremendously so, increases in sales and sales-supportive business activity going into their year-end holiday sales seasons. My focus here is on fundamental, long-term and essentially permanent shifts in what at least some employees and managers are expected to do as their new upgraded but not necessarily automatically rewarded standard, expected work flow. The types of employee recognition and overall compensation changes that I address here, as negotiating goals are all long-term in nature. So are the shifts in employment context and in job requirements that I address here too. And that point is crucial to all that I have been discussing in this and the immediately preceding four installments to this series. And this understanding is equally important when thinking through and acting upon the issues that I will be addressing here as I continue addressing the rest of the topics issues of the above-repeated list.

• Effective negotiations are built around what at least hopefully can become a shared effort to find commensurate, equitable resolutions in what is to happen moving forward, that would match the changes that have led to those negotiations in the first place.
• And the key words there are “commensurate” and “equitable,” as in fair and balanced, and with a goal of arriving at agreement as to what those words mean as a practical matter, in the situation under discussion.

I cited one reference in the above topics list, for constraints box and what that term means as a key jobs and careers consideration. And I begin to more fully address that larger range of possible commensurate and equitable resolution, bargaining points here by offering two more relevant reference links too:

Globalization and Your Constraints Box.
Working In-House, Working as a Consultant and Your Constraints Box.

The basic idea of a constraints box is very simple. Start out by listing all of the needs, desires and wishes that you can think of that if at least individually met, might at least incrementally positively impact upon and reshape your work life and your life as a whole from that. In effect, toss these wish list possibilities as a loose and unorganized, unprioritized collection into a box. And after you have built up your collection there for a while, open the box and begin looking for patterns in what you have put in there, and for duplications too. What have you added several times, perhaps with slightly different wording but with a same basic need or desire coming to the fore, for you repeatedly? Which of your constraints box items fit together in patterns and what do those emerging patterns have to say as to what is and is not really important for you? Which of them are outliers, but ones that are still very important to you? Which of your entries here are more whim in nature and discardable, and which are more centrally important to you?

Collectively, these listed items can help you map out the points that you would want to raise and discuss in any jobs or careers discussion, where the terms of your employment and the workplace conditions that you and an employer would come to agreement with become important. To take that out of the abstract with a specific wish list item, is flex-time work scheduling important to you so you can more easily meet pressing family obligations? And to add in a second possibility here, would you see the possibility of being able to work from home at least part time, of real value and meaning to you? Does your employer support these options or ones like them, and if so would your immediate supervisor there be supportive of this, in your case? Now, how would you best approach this type of workplace issue if you wanted to try to negotiate a deal with your direct supervisor that would allow you’re achieving one of these constraints box goals?

• Know yourself and your needs, and know your own priorities for all of this.
• Know your workplace, and from a corporate culture and business practice perspective, and from the perspective of how your supervisor more individually views the issues that you might raise here.
• Think through how best to frame and present your constraints box goals here, and with some raised for discussion as throw-away negotiating points where that might help to advance your cause, but with that option only resorted to with care.
• Think through what you might be willing to give on, in exchange for a more valuable to you concession. And think longer-term here and not just in terms of your immediate short-term needs – unless that is, you are explicitly seeking a short-term accommodation, in which case you are probably looking for accommodations that would not go into your longer-term constraints box lists in the first place.
• Know what is short-term and what is long-term there and think in terms of how you would best present them as such.
• And listen for possible flexibility in the feedback you receive in these discussions, where rephrasing and fine tuning a requested accommodation might make it more acceptable. This point cuts to the heart of what your actual constraints box entries actually are and to the heart of what their actual priorities are for you. Don’t be surprised if discussing them in this type of setting brings you to reconsider your constraints box goals here, and what really defines them for you.
• And if you seek change in the terms under which you work at a business, and certainly where that would involve changes in when, where or how you perform your work, present your case in terms of smooth continuity, or even as a potential source for you’re being able to achieve real work performance improvement – if you can make the changes that you seek, with approval from your supervisor and from your employer as a whole.
• This means thinking through how you can make the goal of that last point both true and realistic sounding, where appearance is in fact an entirely separate if equally important matter here.
• And this means thinking through how your employer reaching agreement with you on accommodations here, need not appear as you’re being allowed a special exception that would not be offered to your peer level colleagues there too.
• And throughout this process think in terms of best alternatives to negotiated agreement if you cannot secure the accommodations that would really matter to you here. What is your Plan B? Think this through before you sit down to start these negotiations, and have an idea as to how you might proceed under this set of circumstances.

As a final point here, it is important to remember that your constraints box needs will change with time. Constraints box goals and requirements that hold importance when a professional still has young children, might no longer apply as those children grow up and become more independent and as they move away from home as a part of that. Constraints box needs can and do change as jobs change too, where for example commutes become shorter, or significantly longer from working with a new employer. As such, it is important to update your constraints box periodically, and certainly when approaching the types of work and life negotiations under discussion here.

I always recommend that you start your constraints box list assembly from scratch, and without reviewing your older lists first when you revisit this exercise. The idea there is to capture your new needs and priorities as they are now, and without you’re adding in older entries simply because they made sense before. Then after you have assembled your new list, compare it to your old one and think through the differences: the changes that have entered into your thinking and your prioritization. The insight that this type of comparison can offer can help you to more effectively order and prioritize what you have in your constraints box now, and it can help you to better understand the short and longer term significance that your current list entries hold for you too. Hint: if you forgot to add in something from your old list in your new one, it probably is low or even very low in priority now at most, and even if it was high priority at some earlier date.

• The idea here is to be up to date on what you see as your needs and priorities in this, and that you approach the types of negotiations discussed here as fully prepared for them as possible, for laying out your current negotiating points and for arguing their case.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will turn to consider Point 4 of the above list: promotions and lateral moves. After that, I will address the remaining entries offered there. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material.

The legacy of mentorship

I have written on a number of occasions in this blog about mentors and mentoring, and from multiple perspectives. In that I have addressed this complex of issues from the perspective of mentors and those explicitly mentored, and from the perspective of those who might see themselves as being left out of these arrangements. And I have discussed this complex of issues from the perspective of the businesses that mentoring might take place in and their policies and practices, and from the perspective of their corporate cultures as well where they might support and even facilitate such individually focused guidance, or challenge it as even just an acceptable possibility.

See for example, my earlier series: Developing Management and Leadership Skills in Others (as can be found at HR and Personnel as its postings 81 and following), as a working example of how mentoring can arise and take place. And I add here that I selected that particular background reference here as a relevant example for two reasons. First, this is an entire, if short series that is centered around the issues and challenges of mentoring and both for its How and Why. I have for the most part addressed mentoring in this blog as a recurring set of detail-level issues that I have added into other, longer series as special case contexts for their various lines of discussion. As such, most of what I have offered here on this has not been presented in as cohesively organized a manner as that series does, for mentoring per se. And second, I have chosen this series as a working example here because I focus on the positive virtues and values of mentoring in it, and a lot less on any possible implementation-level problems that it might bring with it too.

• I freely, readily acknowledge here that while mentoring can offer positive value and to all concerned,
• It can also become a masking label for nepotism or other forms of favoritism too, and that as such it or rather its use as a guise can become more of a problem than a positive solution.

Good managers: good leaders, look for talent and potential in the people they work with. And they seek to foster and encourage and develop those positive virtues, giving those who exhibit them, the opportunity that they would need in order to grow and develop to their fuller potential. This obviously helps those high potential employees who would be offered mentoring out of this. But just as importantly this helps those managers and supervisors too: the people who are most often in the best position to recognize untapped and undeveloped potential on their teams and who would be in a best position to act on that knowledge. And this type of mentoring help can also aid and facilitate the teams that these high potential employees work in too. Enabling the high potential members of a team to do more and to be able to do it better, can only improve the overall performance of all involved, and whether that means helping a hands-on non-managerial employee to start to develop managerial and supervisory skills as they work with their more junior peers there, or whether this means helping a higher potential hands-on expert who would continue on that track, to further develop their skills as they seek to advance their careers in a non-managerial direction. Mentoring as touched upon here, can help the business as a whole too – and certainly if it is merit and performance potential-based for who is brought into it, and not as noted above, simply a cover for bias and favoritism.

• Is mentoring egalitarian or is it elitist and exclusionary? That depends on how open and inclusive it is and on how fully it is based on merit and ability.
• And given the significance of perception as a shaper of resulting reality in anything like this, that depends on how palpably visible that lack of prejudicial bias is in it, for how mentors and mentees are selected and even encouraged to enter into this type of agreement.

I assume here, on the basic of my own direct experience as well as from my experience working with others, that mentoring can work and that it can in fact offer the types of 360 degree value that I have been writing of here. I know that it can because I have seen it work, offering value in essentially all directions. And I have seen how mentoring can offer value that is more lasting than any particular specific skills-oriented training option or opportunity might bring. New computer languages and coding skills in them come and go, to cite a more specific example there. But mentoring on how to more effectively develop and use soft people skills when working with the in-house clients who would use the software developed from that, to more fully understand their needs and issues and to more effectively secure buy-in from them on what a finished software product should do and how: that can offer value that outlasts any particular hands-on class-learned technical skills update. More than that, this type of more mentor-shared skill can be essential if those new coding skills are to offer any real value increase and for anyone involved, as they can increase the chances that a programmer actually work on the right problem and with a clear understanding of both how their software would be used and what it actually has to do.

I write this one-off thought piece at a point in time when I find myself looking back at my own career path: a perspective that is probably inevitable given how often I have been writing about jobs and careers in this blog, and given my longer-term career focus in all of that over the past few years. See my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development and its Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 continuations and particularly my most recent several series offered there, as of this writing.

And I find myself taking stock in what I have done and sought to do in all professionally, and certainly from my active work life and my career path there but also as I have sought to organize and present something of what I have learned from all of that, here in this blog. What, looking back, has held the most value for me? What do I look back upon as having offered the most meaning and value to those I have worked with and worked for? There are times when my decisions and actions have literally meant a difference of millions of dollars on a monetary scale for the value that I have brought to the table. I have helped a few businesses to both survive and thrive. But all of that, for the most part has involved my stepping in and taking action, or preventing potentially harmful action in very specific and time-limited contexts.

I have benefited from mentors and mentoring and in ways that I would find difficult to explicitly capture in a few briefly stated words, for how this has impacted upon me as a professional and as a person too. And I have always actively sought out opportunities to mentor others too, and with a goal of bringing at least comparable types of value to others as a matter of perpetuating the flow of value that I was allowed to benefit from in this way.

I titled this posting “the legacy of mentorship.” And looking back, the impact when positive, that I have had on others, in helping them realize more of their potential and in enabling them to succeed and excel … that activity is at the core of what I would like to think of as my legacy from what I have done professionally. That, at least potentially is my lasting legacy, or it is at the very least the closest that I might be able to come to actually creating one.

Mentoring is obviously not the only measure or means of longer-term and even lasting value that we can bring to the work that we do as our contribution to larger efforts and longer-lasting values. But it is one that I find myself thinking back on now.

So I write of this as a stand-alone posting, rather than as yet another installment in a longer series. And I write this as an off-day publication where I am currently writing my more regularly planned and written postings to go live every third day and with planning and writing for that mapped out way in advance.

My intention here is to continue posting every third day, with a couple of “special exception” series intentionally scheduled and written for off days as a matter of course. But I will also start adding in more individual pieces to this blog-length puzzle, like this posting for off-day publication too.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material.

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