Leadership

Job loss scare brings out the suck-ups

I guess it's a natural phenomenon brought on by fear, but when the threat of layoff looms, many employees scramble to impress the boss.

As I've mentioned before, I worked alongside several other middle managers at a former company. We were generally cooperative with each other, armed with the knowledge that we all had the same goal -- to make the company successful.

And we were successful. About five years into my tenure, we were purchased by a big company who kept everyone on staff, including the executives who were instrumental in making sure our culture stayed the same. Three years after that, we were not so lucky. Our founder moved on to other things, and we were purchased by a company whose ultimate goal, unbeknownst to us, was to move our headquarters from a nice little city in the South to a dismal, decaying frozen tundra up North (but I'm not bitter or anything).

All 155 employees were offered jobs in the new location; only three people accepted. The company was forced to scramble to fill all those positions -- underestimating our expertise -- and then to quickly train the new folks. The once-vibrant company died a quiet death about nine months later. The guy behind the relocation plans fared better, landing gently elsewhere with the help of his golden parachute.

Before the sale, we'd truly been a happy, though not-so-little family, run by a company president who was like a father figure. After the second sale (but before we knew about the planned change in location), and with our boss pursuing other interests, we underwent a transition. This happened because our old owner knew all of us pretty well, our strengths and weaknesses both individually and collectively. The new owners didn't. So when they flew in for meetings, my former colleagues became like first-graders desperately competing for the attention of the teacher; so in need of "validation" by the new powers that it was, frankly, nauseating.

Our meetings went from fertile idea-sharing times to "Hey, look at me! Look what I've done!" Gone was the cooperation between teams. It was replaced by a race between groups for who could come up with the innovation that would catch the attention of the new bosses, and whose lips could reach the posterior region of the bosses the fastest. It was enough to embarrass Eddie Haskell. And, sadly, hardly anyone was concerned with actually "minding the store." The irony, of course, was that all that grandstanding was ultimately wasted.

Because of that experience, I hate workplace grandstanding and all the jockeying for position that goes with it. I know that career experts tell you that it's necessary to toot your own horn now and then, but I don't think that means indulging in obvious bootlicking. I think it's unseemly and immature, and it sacrifices the teamwork that makes truly great companies work. But that's just my opinion. What's yours?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

20 comments
mark.giblin
mark.giblin

Yep, I have seen this a few times. In one job the management gathered together and announced that they hade been sucessful in a merger with another company doing the same type of service and they were happy to announce to us all that while they came out on top in this merger, they were now "Overstaffed". HTF can two independent companys with enough workload be over staffed when we were actually understaffed and they wouldn't employ more people? What it was in the end was a way of the managers to use our worried expressions on our faces to guage how much we needed our jobs. As I was one of 5 people last in the door (first out policy) I was one of those chosen and possibly for uttering under my breath "Typical, no management losses I bet" which was true, all the managers were OK and safe, sacrifice was at the bottom, the very people who make the whole company work. 9 months later, they closed down. So where are these managers jobs now? Relocated with a nice relocation package? What about the staff? Did they get an option? not very likely. As for the job loss suck ups, these tend to me people in a doers position like supervisory, team leader, section head and so on. The average joe on the shop floor gets the old bums rush out the front door when the time comes.

guillenkma
guillenkma

Toni, I typically look forwardto your articles as they are thought provoking and generate some great comments. I am not being a suck-up. This articel however is none of that! It is simply a fatal attempt to fill virtual space by the Friday deadline. Keep up the otherwise good work.

glgruver
glgruver

Toni is doing us all a favor by providing a topic that gives us a bit of comic relief. Anyone who has been in the workforce for any time at all has seen this type of behavior. I have to admit that I used to get annoyed about this kind of behavior, but I got over it. Really, if you can distance yourself from such behavior and look at it from a different perspective, it can be downright hilarious watching somebody else kissing up to a boss.

guillenkma
guillenkma

Some of us actually look to these articles to gain valuable insight into the IT world, renewing and increasing our knowledge level. We don't have time to read articles for the comic relief, while we are at work. Toni would be sserving us better if she stuck to providing good information on the status of the IT world. As an aside, NOT one of these posts did anything positive, with al lthe whining and carrying on. It strayed far off the original topic and is/was a waste of time. As they say on Reality Check, that's my comic relief when I am NOT at work, "That's Reality Check and I'm through."

mhbowman
mhbowman

I was actually working as a contractor at an airline that was bought by a larger one. The irony was that the smaller company had much higher ratings in customer satisfaction, on time flights, baggage handling etc. etc. Rather than using the opportunity to figure out what they were doing right, and improve in the process, they changed everything. Paycuts were issued while top management got million dollar Christmas bonuses. Whole divisions were relocated. They even changed the entire reservation system and switched over at the busiest time of the year right before Thanksgiving. I was working at the airport and personally witnessed 15 to 20 year veterans get so frustrated that they just quit and walked out. The company that used to be a great place to work was literally crushed by these idiotic changes that seemed to have no thought behind them. It makes absolutely no sense to me that a CEO should be able to walk away with millions for wrecking a company. It should be tied to consistant perfomance levels over a pre-established time period of at least 5 years.

Devans00
Devans00

You have some good ideas, mhbowman. But I'm afraid it's only in our dreams that CEO compensation and golden parachutes are tied to performance. Instead we have the situation of today where buddies vote buddies large payout from the board of directors. Scratching each others backs as the worker bees are laid off from lack of money to keep the business running.

Canuckster
Canuckster

I know that most managers will accept that butt kissing is a strategy that they see in the organization. Anyone who has been in a corporation, or even a small business for that matter, will have seen the toadyism that passes for a career. But what competent manager prefers that to real productivity within a team framework? It contributes little more than animosity and exclusionist attitudes. Whether its a symptom or the cause - boot-licking is a drag on corporate success and not a necessary part of it.

BlackHawk_EH
BlackHawk_EH

The problem is the managers enjoy their egos being stroked... and many had done the same to their next in command to get where they are. You end up with this in-bred management chain where the smooth talkers shine bright and the ones doing the job get over-burdened.

musso
musso

You got that right. They are always wanting to hire people with degrees or certs. Everyone they have hired doesnt seem to what to work and just wants to kiss &*( and pat themselves on the back for doing nothing. Management seems to think degree means knowledge. People going to school one night a week paying thousands of dollars. Don't seem to know how to work as a team because they bring no true/real knowledge to the table. They just use 10 dollar words to say nothing. As the world turns

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

My parents (and grandparents) taught me to never "toot my own horn" but to let my behaviour and results speak for themselves. I don't talk about what I've accomplished and I don't take credit for someone else's work either. Most of the people I've worked for have recognized my worth, some haven't. The Bible says that whatever you (believers) do, do it as if God is your Master (or Boss), and He will reward you. So far, that has been true ;-)

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

I hate to say this but this kind of behavior is the fault of the management staff. In a ideal world, managers are skilled in noticing the value and accomplishments of their staff with out any grandstanding. If I am doing a good job, my boss should know it. I shouldn't have to run to him and say "look what I have done" like a four year old. The problem is that managers aren't managers anymore. With all the available training on effective leadership bosses aren't any better. My current bosses are very good at recognizes the value of their staff but they are in the minority.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I've worked in environments where we were afraid, but I've not had the pleasure seeing someone go from co-operative to butt kisser. Generally I've seen butt kissers work harder when times get tough, but I've seen no transformations. Most places I have worked hate butt kissers and as a manager I do too. I've called out a few attempts and embarassed a few people who try. Ideas are great, but what really counts is results. If someone actually comes up with a great idea, implements it and it actually saves time and money, I'm happy. But many butt kissers simply want credit for the idea alone. James

nocturnal
nocturnal

I am glad to see this post. I for one, hate people who kiss ass. Where I work, this is rampant. It is sickening to see people with no values or morals get down on their hands and knees and dig into that deep brown crevice. I do not kiss ass. I hate it with a passion. I let my actions speak for itself. I work hard and it shows. I do not need to kiss anyones ass. And to the person who said they'll never make manager, I agree and feel the same way! Also to the manager who has called out ass kissers, bravo and kudos to you! If and when I become a manager, I will be sure to do the same thing! I will definitely let my employees know that I hate people who kiss ass and dispise it with a passion.

MavMin2
MavMin2

It is as old as mankind. There is no escape. You can only deal with it. I have often wished that the ADA had a category for my handicap. My lips won't pucker for boot nor butt and that has been a serious handicap in my career. ;-)

NunyaBZ
NunyaBZ

I'm with the fellow that said I'll never be in management. I've often said here where I work, that I'm simply incapable of sucking up, and tend to be logical and to the point when it comes to work. I expect everyone else to be the same way. Because I don't stroke the egos of bosses constantly, there is no way in the world they would ever deal well with me as a manager. It sickens me to watch people with no skills get the high salaries just because they know how to suck up. I see it far too many times here in my job and department. Sad fact of life but one I refuse to give in to!

kcdpas
kcdpas

I totally agree. The people use their looks, and kisses butt to get ahead. But sadly it is the truth in corporate world. A typical butt kisser usually has no or limited skills. Unfortunately, a lot of managers get to their management position in the same way. So, we have to keep our pride, standing tall and live with it.

Certifiable
Certifiable

In government often the checks and balances are missing. You know the ones that cause a company to fail if it has unqualified people in leadership and technical positions. And they are the people hiring other technicians and managers. Weakness breeds fear, and fearful managers hire weak employees. Now when you try to apply leadership, the former all day texters and myspace technicians try to deliver on other applications and no one wins. It doesn't matter what kind of leadership, good or bad. The skills they learned by watching alliances on Big Brother house and Survivor come to bear and no one is team oriented. They are all trying to win the virtual million dollars. When really what they are doing is flushing millions of dollars of public money down the toilet. If you are in Government and you are working hard. Excellent. Kudos to you. If you are in Government and you are slacking. Well I guess I feel the same way about you as the many government entities that dropped the ball leading up to 9/11/2001. Please private industry set some qualifications for IT professionals. Much like the electricians union. Either reasonably qualified or not. THANKS

swheeler
swheeler

This article is a good, if subtle, reminder or why I've studied organizational behavior and continue to read independently on the subject. I am committed to being genuine. It's the only way I know how to live happily, and though my paycheck shows the sacrifice it's well worth it. I suggest anyone struggling with office politics to seek some reading on the subject to gain more insight. Seth Godin's "The Dip" has good insight on the frustration that leads us to quitting. Though not about suck-ups, it's the first book I thought of to refer. What's the point of a suggestion without a referral? :D

torturednacho
torturednacho

I really dont think this could have been said any better. People out there in Big Corporations are fighting for jobs and job security. Yet less qualified and lazy individuals are getting the jobs and keeping them. It keeps my eyes open and on the prize.The prize being my job. I haven't been in the IT field for very long. But that isnt to say I dont know my computers and networking. Yet Katie Kissass who is only high school educated gets to keep her job and others are outside looking in. Totally makes me sick.

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