Do Nice Engineers Finish Last in Tough Times?: Page 2

Posted January 19, 2009

Eric Spiegel

Eric Spiegel

(Page 2 of 2)

Kelly gathered her team of managers and asked them to rate their employees and then she would work with them to determine who would be laid off. What she didn’t tell them was that she was rating her direct reports because managers would be on the chopping block as well.

As usual, the layoff rumors started as soon as the holiday sales numbers were reported in the press. Doug came into Stuart’s office soon after and asked if he thought management was at risk. Stuart said he wasn’t worried about it; instead he was focusing on fairly rating his team and even thinking about where he might be able to help them find jobs elsewhere. Doug just smirked and left the office. (Kind of guy you want to have a beer with right?)

Later that day Stuart saw Doug go into Kelly’s office and close the door. At the time, he didn’t know exactly what was said. But later he found out. I’ll get back to that.

The next day, Kelly calls Stuart into her office. She asked for his team’s ratings list that he had compiled. Then she gave him the bad news. He was also being let go. Doug would be made the manager of infrastructure, taking over Stuart’s team. When Stuart asked why him, Kelly just shrugged her shoulders and said “tough decisions had to be made.”

He asked one favor of Kelly. He wanted to be the one to give the bad news to the selected members of his team that they were being terminated. Kelly agreed. (I wonder if HR knew about that?)

The first person Stuart informed handled it pretty well and said he appreciated everything Stuart had done for him. Then this engineer said “I think you should know something. You know how my cubicle is up against Kelly’s office wall? Well, I overheard a conversation between her and Doug.” (Evidently Doug doesn’t know how to talk softly while stabbing someone in the back.)

What the engineer disclosed was that when Doug had that closed door conversation with Kelly, he went in there to make his case to take over Stuart’s team. The engineer quoted him as saying “Really, Stuart is too nice and isn’t capable of making the tough decisions that will be necessary for us to survive this downturn. I will be ruthless and make you look really, really good Kelly.”

So what would you have done in Kelly’s shoes? When times are tough, do you need to keep people that are tough as nails or nice like Stuart? Should Stuart have been more proactive about making his own case to Kelly?

I’ll leave you with this. The remainder of Stuart’s team went to Kelly and told her that they would all be looking for other jobs if they had to work for Doug. Not a smart move in this economy, but I’m sure they felt strongly about it. Should this have persuaded Kelly? I can tell you that it did not.

Ah, the life of a manager! Writing code looks better and better. But I’ll stick to writing articles – for now.

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Tags: security, software, management, IT Jobs/Salary, layoffs

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