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Career mgt example - smart or dumb?
Old 09-21-2011, 01:26 PM   #1
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Career mgt example - smart or dumb?

We have an older guy @ work. He's been there for a loooooong time and is nearing retirement. He knows quite a bit about his shop and is pretty valuable to the region he covers. Pretty smart guy from what I can tell.

My boss and other operational mgrs have asked me to work with him on several occasions to get some data off some db that will help reduce billing issues/etc (just one example). The guy really doesn't reply or cooperate - only did on one occasion after a lot of communication w/his boss. Needless to say it's pretty frustrating on my end, especially since it's not a region I am familiar with so I need some help.

I asked one of my contacts in his shop about the guy and she told me he has always been that way but apparently the reason is job security. She said he keeps what he knows to himself so that he can't be replaced.

So that got me thinking - good career mgt or bad career mgt in terms of job security or value to the company? Anyone do something similar?
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Old 09-21-2011, 01:41 PM   #2
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I have w*rked with and supervised these types. In the end people just end up going around them. It does nothing for their career and in the end they are amazed at how easily they are replaced.
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Old 09-21-2011, 02:09 PM   #3
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I have also seen a few of these types... and none that I have seen has been in a management position.... IOW, it seemed to hurt their career more than it helped...
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Old 09-21-2011, 02:52 PM   #4
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Certainly not a good way to build a career. It's awfully tough to promote someone who can't be replaced.
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Old 09-21-2011, 03:01 PM   #5
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Not everyone wants to be promoted. I had 27+ years of (mostly) happy programming, turning down promotions to retire as a peon-level programmer. I made about the same $$ as my management-seeking friends, maintaining a 40 hour workweek (unless paid OT was available) while their loads went up to 50 to 60+ hours typically.

One of the ways I maintained job security was to take on all the old legacy programming chores. While I never withheld info about them, everyone else found the work so distasteful they had no interest in learning about them. One of my pre-retirement chores was to teach my replacement about them.
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Old 09-21-2011, 03:52 PM   #6
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It's been my experience no one is irreplaceable.
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Old 09-21-2011, 04:15 PM   #7
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It's been my experience no one is irreplaceable.

You got that right! At least in regards to the w*rkplace.

Which is why it is so important to achieve a balance in our personal relationships and not make them secondary to our careers. You sure are irreplaceable to your spouse, partner, child, parent, or stalwart friends.
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Old 09-21-2011, 08:26 PM   #8
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"High maintenance" as in he gets the job done but it takes a lot of management time to motivate him and/or sooth the feelings of the people he works with is NOT a good label to have.

Its been my experience that everyone can be replaced. In addition, its my experience is that people who try to set things up so that an easy job is a life work are often high on management's list of first to go in a downturn.

I've had to put together my list of the first and last people to go in my department during the last downturn. The first to go were those who were doing a relatively simple job and who couldn't do anything else. The last to go were those who had a lot of skills and were flexible. This was a fairly common criteria for ranking people.

I don't recommend specializing in a small niche as a long term career choice. There is too many chances that your choice is going to go the way of the buggy whip or outsourced to a 3rd world. The way to guarantee a long career is to be open to change and to be known as someone who always adds value to the bottom line.
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Old 09-21-2011, 09:11 PM   #9
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I think that trying to maintain some kind of exclusive monopoly over key information by being unresponsive and requiring multiple requests and management pressure before complying is a very bad career strategy. If the company is overrun with other issues, management might tolerate it for a while if they believe that he otherwise is handling his area of responsibility. If a strong manager gets involved or if there is bandwidth to deal with his issues, he might as well paint a target on his back. In layoffs, obstructionist senior contributors are top of the list for reduction in force.

Note that this is different from people who work with obsolete technology or do useful work that no one else wants to do. That can make someone immune to job loss.
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Old 09-21-2011, 09:14 PM   #10
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... is nearing retirement. ...
So that got me thinking - good career mgt or bad career mgt in terms of job security or value to the company?
Corporate America is a complete mystery to me, but why do you expect him to be motivated by a desire to advance his career when he's near retirement? That doesn't make sense, to me. He has valuable expertise, and you want him to donate it to the company? Why should he? Give him something he can actually use, like enhanced pension benefits. Or money.
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Old 09-21-2011, 09:23 PM   #11
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At the Megacorp I retired from it was said that you could stick your finger into a bowl of water and then pull it out. The space left in the bowl of water after you pulled your finger out was how much you would be missed at Megacorp. This applied to the CEO and the janitor and everyone in between.
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Old 09-21-2011, 10:47 PM   #12
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Not everyone wants to be promoted. I had 27+ years of (mostly) happy programming, turning down promotions to retire as a peon-level programmer. I made about the same $$ as my management-seeking friends, maintaining a 40 hour workweek (unless paid OT was available) while their loads went up to 50 to 60+ hours typically.

One of the ways I maintained job security was to take on all the old legacy programming chores. While I never withheld info about them, everyone else found the work so distasteful they had no interest in learning about them. One of my pre-retirement chores was to teach my replacement about them.
I also spent most of my career avoiding being promoted to management. I enjoyed the technical aspects of my career, and hated the politics my management friends had to deal with. When I retired I was making more than both my boss and his boss, although at least the 2nd level boss was getting a lot of (currently useless) stock options. And they both got more vacation than I did, although I got to take mine and they lost their's most years through not taking it. The one time I did get promoted into management I hated it, and at first opportunity (about 2 year later) I was able to transfer to a technical position at a lower level, although with no cut in pay.

As far as the hoarding of information, every company has those people. Not a great idea, IMHO. Although I may have had that reputation with some. I didn't mind sharing information, but I hated giving the same person the same information over and over. The first time I was very cooperative, the second time I was OK, after that I tended to become surly and uncooperative. If people were truly trying to learn, though, I think I was pretty understanding, even if I didn't find the subject to be that challenging.
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Old 09-21-2011, 11:53 PM   #13
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I think that trying to maintain some kind of exclusive monopoly over key information by being unresponsive and requiring multiple requests and management pressure before complying is a very bad career strategy.
If someone can do that with "key information", I wonder how key that info is in the first place.
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Old 09-22-2011, 11:52 AM   #14
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Corporate America is a complete mystery to me, but why do you expect him to be motivated by a desire to advance his career when he's near retirement? That doesn't make sense, to me. He has valuable expertise, and you want him to donate it to the company? Why should he? Give him something he can actually use, like enhanced pension benefits. Or money.
How is it donating when he is being paid?

I don't think I posted anything about a desire to advance his career. In re to why should he pass on expertise - from reading "last day" posts around here it seems to be pretty common practice and a good gesture to at least attempt to pass on knowledge to others to ensure things run smoothly prior to one's retirement.
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Old 09-22-2011, 02:08 PM   #15
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The OP asked if it was a good career management tactic to become the uncommunicative expert in an area. My response is a strong NO. This is setting yourself up to be labeled as a high maintenance, non-team playing employee who will never be given good job opportunities and will be high on the list of first laid off in a downturn.

I've had people like this working for me in my former job. They are not fun to manage. On the one hand, they are generally productive as long as they are in there comfort zone. On the other, they take a lot of time to manage and become a real problem when job functions change (as they always do).

This might be a strategy to use the last 3 years before you retire. Any longer than this and you're taking a real chance that the company may decide that it doesn't need you before you are ready to go.

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Old 09-22-2011, 03:27 PM   #16
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If someone can do that with "key information", I wonder how key that info is in the first place.
Right. When employees behave like this managers just tend to forget that the information is available. Then they develop other methods of getting the info they need to make decisions. They just work around you. It can only hurt, in the end.

My guess is that the employee mentioned in the original post was not hoarding this information as a career strategy but in a move to try to maintain his "worth" to his direct supervisor. If his supervisor asks for the info, he can handily give it to him and be the miracle worker. I doubt he ever thought of this strategy as a way to be promoted. Er, at least I hope not.
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Old 09-25-2011, 09:12 AM   #17
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My father used to tell me a story of a similar situation. Back in the early 50's, he worked for a typewriter manufacturer in Canada. In those days, you had to physically install a different typeface if you wanted a typewriter for different languages. The production process was to make several months worth of typewriter keys in one batch, store them, and then feed the production line as needed.

The person who managed this stored the keys all over the plant, using a system only he could understand. Without him, the company would run out of inventory quickly and the production line would go down. Management kept asking him to organize this in a simple way. He kept promising to do this, but never did.

In frustration, without telling him, they hired someone else to set up a parallel system. When it was up and running, they brought him in, showed it to him, told him this is what we asked you to do, and gave him his severance papers.

This was an extreme case. The number of people who put themselves into dead end jobs, and were very unhappy at the results never ceased to amaze me when I was working. You have a choice for a lifetime job. You can either embrace change and be challenged all your life, or build a niche and spend the rest of your life fine tuning it. If you go the niche route, don't be surprised 10 years later when the company tells you that you're pay is maxed out or even worse, your niche has been eliminated by outsourcing or a change in strategic direction.
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Old 09-25-2011, 09:30 AM   #18
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I had a guy like that, a Process Engineer. He was pretty unhappy but it was his own fault. I forced him to retire long before he wanted to. Of course he refused to train a replacement at all. I copied his hard drive about a week before he left, and indeed he erased everything just before he left (but I already had it all, much to his disappointment).

Guess what, we survived just fine and were ultimately much better off thereafter because beyond being territorial he tried to protect the status quo making needed change more difficult. Sadly, he died 9 years after retiring 90 pounds heavier, alone, bitter, in his mid 60's. True story...
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Old 09-30-2011, 05:51 AM   #19
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Most of these people are very insecure and there's not much you can do about it. I learned a long time ago to work around them as everyone else did.
One of my highlights recently was when my boss asked me for ideas to bring along younger workers when us old timers hang it up. This is role I have gladly accepted and I find it very rewarding.
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