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‘Performing exceptionally’ and yet shafted again

Dear Office-Politics,

I started in a company in a position that reported to the Chief Technology Officer. At first he appeared to take little interest in my role (Quality Assurance Manager), and even though I was told I was performing exceptionally well, after an organizational review I was then demoted and placed under the Operations Manager, who was once my peer. Though hard to take at first, I adjusted and settled in, in the meantime working on getting back up to the position I previously enjoyed. Again, all indicators were telling me I was doing fine.

Then another organizational review occurred – with yet another demotion and reporting to an as-yet-unhired manager.

I have no interest in staying at a much lower level than what I was hired at. The second demotion was insulting and publicly humiliating, especially since once again I have been “performing exceptionally”. Also, my team’s morale has gone down despite my keeping an upbeat attitude – others in the organization are already treating me with less significance.

Quality Assurance (and software testing) is often seen as the least desired task in many organizations (“always expected but least respected”). It is often ridiculed as cost-wasting etc., even though at the end of the day it saves the company. This role requires patience and integrity as well as maintaining a firm line – all of which I do very well. I am open to changing careers completely, yet my background is mostly in this area.

The Operations Manager admitted I was shafted but said he did his best to help me. Apparently I am not seen as “technical enough” to take on the new role that was created, and which I would report to. In a chance conversation I had with HR I was told “it had nothing to do with politics or me, it was just the way the cards fell”, which I find hard to believe. I have also spoken to other trusted senior managers who have indicated they will keep an eye out for me – but no promises etc.

Though I have been doing my best to remain cheerful, this last incident is the final straw for me. I am at a cross-roads in my career, especially in light of the latest events. I am now faced with a few choices: find a job elsewhere, try again to take a step up, or…? Any guidance would be appreciated.

Shafted Again

jennifer glueck bezoza

Dear Demoted for No Apparent Reason (Shafted Again),

I admire your willingness to remain positive and make the best of two organizational restructurings, which have resulted in you reporting to lower ranks in the organization. You seem to be getting mixed signals from the organization. On the one hand, you are told your performance is “exceptional,” while on the other, you are told you do not have enough technical experience to report to a higher level in the organization.

Given your explanation of events, I understand why you feel at a crossroads. Before we look at what types of actions you might take for yourself, I think it might be beneficial to examine potential explanations for why this might have occurred in the first place.

  • It may very well be that these organizational changes are not a personal reflection on your performance, skills or person. It could be that this was truly a business decision based on where senior leaders see Quality Assurance fitting into the overall structure of the organization. As you state yourself, Quality Assurance (and software testing) is often seen as the least desired task in many organizations (“always expected but least respected.”)
  • Alternatively, it might be the case that you are not getting completely frank feedback on some way in which your values, work style and/or performance were not fitting with the company’s initial expectations of you. You were told it was because you did not have enough technical knowledge, which very well could be the case, but you need greater clarity around what specific knowledge/expertise they required from you. It sounds as if you did your homework, inquiring with HR and the Operations Manager about why this happened, and still did not come away with a thorough understanding. It’s disappointing that the CTO or some other senior leader did not share in plain terms how you did and did not contribute to the reorganization. This lack of transparency and disclosure is a reflection of a corporate culture that lacks courageous leaders and does not focus on employee development.

Having explored these two potential scenarios, let’s turn to focusing on what you can do to proactively manage your career.

  1. First, crystallize your career goals and values for the next 5 and 10-year periods. Are you truly passionate about the field of Quality Assurance? Are you interested in another area of technology or business altogether? What type of organization are you looking to do this work in, and what types of personal sacrifices are you willing or not willing to make to get there? In order to assess whether your current work situation is a fit for you, you need to be clear on what is going to make you happy professionally and personally over both the near and longer term.
  2. Second, assess whether your current job and level of responsibility is in line with your professional aspirations. You may decide that your work is in line with what you want to be doing and where you want to go eventually, even if your place in the organizational hierarchy is not what you expected. Alternatively, you might decide that your current role and/or function is not respected enough in this particular organization to have the type of impact and personal rewards necessary to keep you there.
  3. With your goals and values in mind, explore what skills and experiences you will need to move you on the right path. Outside of your day job, you might explore books, magazines, associations and/or coursework that would support you in moving closer to you fulfilling your career aspirations.
  4. Network, network, network. Call upon previous colleagues, friends and/or family to network about the types of experiences and roles that are available in Quality Assurance and/or other related disciplines. You might leverage professional/social networking sites on the web, such as Linked In and Facebook. Benchmark with others on trends in the market and potential career paths of those with QA backgrounds.
  5. Continue to do great work and learn as much as possible in your current organization. While you may decide to leave your current organization, it’s critical that you remain committed and seek to learn something each and every day on the job. You will need references if and when you move on, and that means performing up through the last day of your employment.

Good luck with your career exploration, and putting your many talents to work. Thanks for writing Office-Politics!

Jennifer Glueck Bezoza, MA

Jennifer Glueck Bezoza has an MA in organizational psychology from Columbia University and a BA in psychology and humanities from Stanford University. She currently works in Organizational Development for the largest not-for-profit home health organization in the country where she focuses on succession planning, leadership development and coaching. Previously, she worked for GE Commercial Finance and HR consultant, Towers Perrin.

  1. 2 Answers to “‘Performing exceptionally’ and yet shafted again”

  2. Comment by Franke James, Editor, Office-Politics

    From your letter, I sense that you have many talents that could help you to earn a living in a much more fulfilling way. I suggest that you take a look at the book Dreamcrafting. It is the best book I’ve read on how to design the life and career you want. It may be available at your local library.

    By Franke James, Editor on Nov 19, 2007

  3. Feedback from Shafted:

    I most definitely found the response useful. I thought Jennifer’s advice was timely. I have been in a rut with this situation despite my determination to remain outwardly cheerful, which has not been an easy thing. Her advice was spot-on. Some of these things I have started already – I am making an inventory of where I’ve been, where I’m at now, where I want to go and how to get there.

    Also purchased the Dreamcrafting book you mentioned from Amazon, decided I would give it a go. It is also timely since that is along the lines of the message I’ve been sensing.

    Please pass on a huge thank you to Jennifer for her feedback, it was helpful and I hope it may also help someone else in a similar predicament.

    This has been very highly appreciated!


    By Letter writer on Nov 21, 2007

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