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Part I: Success has created jealousy

headline illustration by Franke James, MFA. Snowboarder ©istockphoto.com/Vladimir Piskunov

Dear Office Politics,

(First off, thanks for hosting and operating this site, you gave me some very valuable advice many years ago. So now I’m back again with a new dilemma for your experts.)

About one year ago I joined a new startup company as a department head, one level below top management. My mandate was to grow my new division with very limited resources for the first year, then if we can prove ourselves my department would receive much greater funding and staffing. And the first year went very well, we exceeded expectations by an order of magnitude.

That’s great, right? Well not exactly. Because we are a division that operates a brand new line of business, our success has created a lot of jealousy and bad feelings amongst the older, more established divisions who didn’t do quite so well. I’ve tried to be as inclusive as possible with the rest of the company, sharing resources, advice, personnel, etc., as needed. But now that it is time for top management to honor their commitment to fund more positions within my division (and a raise for me), they are balking and actually doing the opposite, saying that “margins and growth aren’t everything, maintaining our old company culture is more important”. In fact they criticized my cooperation with other divisions, saying it was a sign of weakness. Personally I think they care very little about company culture, it’s more a case of fear of competition and moving into territory outside of their comfort zone.

Note that I am in the entertainment industry, which can be very political (and sometimes a bit dishonest) by its very nature. I’m fine with that; it’s the sandbox I choose to play in. But I respect your opinions and was hoping for your advice – this is a privately held company with approx. 130 employees. Should I push for them to honor our original deal or do you think it’s futile?

Thanks,

AD Got Game

P.S. In 2004, I wrote a letter asking for advice on a situation with a prior game company that had changed business models, and that change had a negative effect on my career there. Fortunately I took your advice and left that firm about one year later – which in hindsight was a very good move as they have since rode a $60 million company all they way down to near bankruptcy. Your advisers would have a field day on some of the missteps that were taken there over the past few years.

OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY CHRISTINE COMAFORD-LYNCH
christine comaford-lynch

Dear AD Got Game,

You are a renegade. You have a degree of passion and commitment that exceeds the norm. Step one is to embrace this. Your passion and commitment have benefited your employer significantly.

You earned the funding and staffing due to your terrific performance. That said, I don’t want you to get booted out of the company by standing firm on getting the goods–not in this economy. So we need to formulate a plan where we get you as close to what you deserve, and we help management do the right thing.

Right now everyone’s intimidated by you — instead of celebrating your victory they are feeling threatened by it. This is an unfortunate cultural problem, and it starts at the top.

Here’s what I suggest: show your warts. Take some time to list all the things your team did wrong in growing a new division with scant resources. Show your humanity, your fallibility, highlight some of your most ridiculous mistakes. Then list all the things your team did right. Don’t take the credit! Say “we” when listing both the good and bad–never “I” (unless it’s a mistake, and your team objected to the direction you wanted to take, and you didn’t listen, and disaster resulted!).

The goal is to create a brain trust of do’s and don’ts for growing the business. Then as you share this with others they’ll see that they could follow your best practices and enjoy similar results too. You need to put this together first, then offer it to management. Bring an attitude of helpfulness. Could you speak at a brown bag lunch? Could you share your do’s and don’ts on a departmental level, in a 20 min session where you bounced ideas across departments? As you train up the other teams your reputation will grow as a helpful guy.

Now you ask for them to honor their deal. You’ve not only helped your division, you’ve helped many others for them too. You may even have results (or gushing appreciation) from other departments. If they stonewall you again, start looking. It may take a while to find a new job, but at least you’ll now have a track record of building a department AND helping others do the same.

Thanks for writing to Office Politics.

Best regards,

Christine Comaford-Lynch, Author, Rules for Renegades

cover of Rules for RenegadesNew York Times bestselling author Christine Comaford-Lynch is CEO of Mighty Ventures, an innovation accelerator which helps businesses to massively increase sales, product offerings, and company value. She has built and sold 5 of her own businesses with an average 700% return on investment, served as a board director or in-the-trenches adviser to 36 startups, and has invested in over 200 startups as a venture capitalist or angel investor. Christine has consulted to the White House (Clinton and Bush), 700 of the Fortune 1000, and hundreds of small businesses. She has repeatedly identified and championed key trends and technologies years before market acceptance. Christine’s popular column on www.BusinessWeek.com/SmallBiz launched in January 2007.Christine has led many lives: Buddhist monk, Microsoft engineer, geisha trainee, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist. Her triumphs and disasters are revealed in her New York Times (and USA Today, Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and Amazon.com ) bestselling business book: Rules for Renegades: How to Make More Money, Rock Your Career, and Revel in Your Individuality. The book is available at all major retailers, the Office-Politics bookstore, or via www.RulesForRenegades.com.Christine has appeared on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, FOX Business Network, PBS, CNET and is frequently quoted in the business, technology and general press at large. Stanford Graduate School of Business has done two case studies on her and PBS has featured her in three specials (Triumph of the Nerds, Nerds 2.0.1, and Nerd TV ). CNET has broadcast two specials covering her unconventional rise to success as a woman with neither a high school diploma nor college degree. Christine believes we can do well and do good, using business as a path for personal development, wealth creation, and philanthropy.

(Video bio at: http://www.mightyventures.com/bio.php )

  1. 2 Answers to “Part I: Success has created jealousy”

  2. Feedback from AD Got Game:

    Franke — I appreciate the thought both Christine and yourself put into this. I’ve taken a few of the steps she suggested last week, and they seem to be working. Thanks.

    By Letter writer on Mar 3, 2008

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  2. Mar 3, 2008: Office-Politics » Part II: Success has created jealousy

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