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Work Collapses Around Me
Old 05-20-2011, 08:58 PM   #1
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Work Collapses Around Me

Despite my optimistic projections in the past, it looks like I should expect to work another 4-5 years before I can retire. I've been okay with that and resigned myself to working until then. Especially because my immediate boss is a great boss, who makes my work environment as livable as possible. But this month my work has fallen apart. My boss, who was the best thing about this company. left for a new job. Then, 30% of the engineers, including the chief architect and the software lead all quit in the 2 weeks after that.

A new boss has been hired (without consulting any of his team) and he is way underqualified. He's apparently a friend of his future boss, but his only work experience is running 3 little startups, none of which turned into viable businesses. He's already announced a major reorg without talking to any of his team, or even his direct reports. Half his direct reports are interviewing elsewhere.

For me the scariest foreshadowing of problems ahead was a meeting today. We have a customer problem and called in all the department heads to brainstorm possible solutions. It was chaotic and dozens of ideas, some ridiculous, were duly collected and the new boss has 2 people chasing down details for EVERY one of them. Fine. The scariest part however is that we have had this problem before. There is a known solution which is logical and simple. No one suggested it. Aside from me, there were at least 2 other people who know the solution, and possibly more in the room. It looks like everyone has either checked out or is cautiously waiting to see what may be happening next before engaging.

So what to do? Do I try to hang on and see if this will play out tolerably, although it doesn't look promising? Do I give up and join the exodus? Do I sharpen my pencil and ER a little too early, but do it now to avoid work grinding me down before I go? If I were an amateur sociologist or if I could simply not care and let the place fall down around me, I might be able to keep working here, but I'm not sure I'll be able to. Any other ideas for what might help me last a few more years?
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Old 05-20-2011, 09:15 PM   #2
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I am so sorry that this has happened at your workplace. You did not deserve to have this happen to you (of course).

As to what to do, I really don't know. In your shoes, I probably wouldn't do anything for a while until things settle down a little. Then your choices may seem more clear. Whatever you decide to do, I wish you the best.
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Old 05-20-2011, 09:26 PM   #3
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Can you suggest the simple, logical, known solution?
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Old 05-20-2011, 09:55 PM   #4
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Yes, I could suggest the solution. I'm really not sure I should. If I rescue this new boss, I may or may not get his approval, but I don't think I make him any smarter or better manager. For what it's worth, this problem is not in my regular area and I am doing my official job as well as I've ever done it. I'm not volunteering for extra unpaid overtime to solve this particular problem in another area of the business. It may come back to me anyway, because the last time we had this problem I did solve it, so sooner or later someone may remember that and ask me a direct question. Until then, I am observing and trying to make up my mind what to do.
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Old 05-20-2011, 10:04 PM   #5
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...The scariest part however is that we have had this problem before. There is a known solution which is logical and simple. No one suggested it.
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Can you suggest the simple, logical, known solution?
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Yes, I could. I'm really not sure I should. ... For what it's worth, this problem is not in my regular area and I am doing my official job as well as I've ever done it. I'm not volunteering for extra unpaid overtime to solve this particular problem in another area of the business. It may come back to me anyway, because the last time we had this problem I did solve it, so sooner or later someone may remember that and ask me a direct question. ...
And you think the new boss is the problem?

You know the answer to a customer problem, and you won't bring it up to help out the company? Why should this company (or the new boss, when he finds out you held back information) give a rat's ass about you?

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Old 05-20-2011, 10:51 PM   #6
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You should be networking with those employees that have already left or are considering leaving and see if they have found a new company that looks fun to work for. Especially the great boss. He may be forbidden from contacting you, but you can probably contact him without causing problems. I left Megacorp for a new startup with my great boss and had a blast.
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Old 05-20-2011, 11:31 PM   #7
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Why should this company (or the new boss, when he finds out you held back information) give a rat's ass about you?
Well, that's a fair question, but I don't think I see it as you do. I routinely am working overtime already. I participated in the new boss' brainstorming and provided several alternatives that will solve this problem. I could have been more assertive about pointing out how we solved this problem before, but I can't do everyone's job for them all the time. You are right, maybe I was withholding this OBVIOUS answer, but I note that several others were doing the same. I think I am not the source of this morale problem.

For what it's worth, the previous solution was something I did myself over a couple weekends outside of my regular work and while I was happy to help then and we still have the solution so it could probably be done more quickly this time, I cannot make a reasonable work-life balance that includes that much work. I worked seven days a week for about six months doing my regular job and "saving" people from other problems at this company a couple years ago. Just because I can take on extra work (always uncompensated) doesn't mean I always should. Maybe I am burned out or selfish to not be volunteering to save the day again. Maybe the new boss (or the company) should rightly not give a rat's ass about me. I think I'm a good guy who has to put some limits on how much time and attention I'm willing to spend on this job, including not always doing extra work outside my department just because I can figure problems out. I suspect I'm also thinking this includes not having to always either volunteer or argue for my idea of the best way to solve all problems in other groups and not quietly doing my new boss' job for him because he is unqualified. There are legitimate reasons so many talented people have been leaving recently. Being assigned to a new boss without being involved in any way certainly affects my attitude about the company. If you are right that my current level of dissatisfaction is affecting my work judgment to the point that the company should be dissatisfied with me, then I probably have a worse problem than I suspected. On the other hand, one of the reasons for writing about it on this board is that I can get excellent perspectives, even if they don't agree with me. I think the core problem is issues with the company, but if you are right that the core problem is my own issues, then I would certainly want to hear about that.
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Old 05-20-2011, 11:41 PM   #8
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Yes, you are right I can get a new job with my old (great) boss anytime. He is restricted from contacting me, but I am not restricted from contacting him. I do want to give the owners of this current company a fair shake and opportunity work out their problems. I hope there's a chance the new boss can either surprise me by being better than expected or quickly grow into this new job. I'm willing to help get over the rough adjustments. But I don't think I should be willing to burn out doing so. Maybe I'm too close to my own problems. Fixing my spreadsheets to adopt a lower standard of living in ER is looking shockingly attractive, but I don't think that's necessarily the answer to my problems, it's just an illusion that offers an immediate out. I'm finding it hard to figure out what to do.
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Old 05-21-2011, 12:46 AM   #9
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Sometimes when there is a shakeup like this, and a lot of people leave, openings for advancement develop. A promotion or other goodies could make things a little more bearable if this turns out to be the case.

Retire when YOU want to and when YOU are financially ready. If it is possible, don't let this situation dictate when you retire. That could feel too much like giving up.
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Old 05-21-2011, 02:09 AM   #10
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I routinely am working overtime already.
A friendly word of caution here... working overtime does not necessarily mean you have too much work. It may mean more ominous things such as you're not organized, you expand the task to fit the time allocated for the task (e.g. taking an hour to do a 30 minute task), you slack off during the work day and have to put in the extra time to compensate, or you just don't know what you're doing. Also, if you're at work that much, then family time suffers.

I would not allow my employees to work overtime except in extraordinary situations.
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Old 05-21-2011, 03:05 AM   #11
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I would suggest the solution.
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Yes, I could suggest the solution. I'm really not sure I should.
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Old 05-21-2011, 04:14 AM   #12
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I would suggest the solution.

I would also.

Cut the new boss some slack. Running a start up is hard work, most fail, some because the boss is bad, other because stuff happens. Stop by the office or send him and email, explain that you guys dealt with a similar problem in the past, and it was resolved by doing X and Y. This seems especially important given he has people wasting time chasing other solutions.

If ignores you or does some other stupid thing, well then you are free to assume your initial impression is valid. Best case your new boss will be happy you helped him, worse case you have to work some OT.
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Old 05-21-2011, 04:34 AM   #13
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Suggest the solution since you know it. That's the reason they held the brainstorming session - to gather views and find the answers.
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Old 05-21-2011, 06:08 AM   #14
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Yes, you are right I can get a new job with my old (great) boss anytime. He is restricted from contacting me, but I am not restricted from contacting him. I do want to give the owners of this current company a fair shake and opportunity work out their problems.
I would simply give it some time and do everything you can do to make it work. If it doesn't, contact your old boss and move on. Doesn't sound like you are locked in to a dead end job like some people. And there is light at the end of the tunnel, just 4 more years of work. So your goal is pretty short term. That should be comforting.
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Old 05-21-2011, 06:23 AM   #15
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You are right, maybe I was withholding this OBVIOUS answer, but I note that several others were doing the same. I think I am not the source of this morale problem.
This tells me that something is wrong.

I would talk to the old boss. Life is too short to work for someone you do not like.
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Old 05-21-2011, 06:46 AM   #16
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Sure sounds like a dysfunctional workplace, and that's not uncommon. But by withholding the solution, you are part of the problem. If others know, it's a copout for you to withhold just because they are, they're part of the problem too. 'You get what you deserve' comes to mind.

If you had a problem and one of your co-workers withheld the solution from you and you found out after running down a bunch of dead ends, would you be OK with it?

The new boss did not hire himself, someone above him did. So your solution is to sabotage the new boss to punish the person who hired him? Put yourself in the shoes of the new boss or his boss for a minute - you are helping the organization YOU work for to fail.

It's fascinating how the boss is always the problem...I'd say it goes both ways in this example.

And if you don't like where you work, find another place to work or actively try to make it better where you are.
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Old 05-21-2011, 06:59 AM   #17
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Getting older. You need to rethink your approach to work or get out of there. You are clearly antagonistic to the place and to the new guy. If you are not willing to do your best to make things work you are helping to make it fail - for everyone including yourself. That sounds like four years of hell.
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Old 05-21-2011, 07:16 AM   #18
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If you disconnect from all the emotion, ignore the opinions, I think you'll see important clues in your OP. "30% of the engineers, including the chief architect and the software lead all quit in the 2 weeks after that." That is bad news. Really bad news. My guess is that the talent left, and now you are left with the not-so-talented. What is the likelihood that new kid, friend of insider, has the experience to resurrect this sinking ship? You know the answer. You're looking at 5 years of downslope, discontent, and company close.
I'd call old boss, but be aware that you may not be a good fit for the new location.
As far as sharing a solution you engineered some years ago, you may be right in not bringing that up. If you're overloaded now, being associated with a critical new piece of the puzzle makes no sense. You may become associated with its failure. Yes, I know it worked before, but this time you don't have the backing of the organization. In the midst of that chaos, surely there will be others who try to make it fail.
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Old 05-21-2011, 07:52 AM   #19
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On the customer problem... Don't withhold information.... it helps no one!

The reason this occurs is usually one of two circumstances:

  1. Spite
  2. Fear that you may get the assignment

Do the right thing.


As far as a job decision... I would take a wait and see attitude. The changes may not be all that bad. Besides, the grass is not always greener on the other side (just a different shade)... You will go through a certain amount of stress just reestablishing yourself somewhere else. With 4 or 5 years left.... I would only leave if it were intolerable or if it were in my financial interest to do so.

I have been s!ck of my j*b for about 3 or 4 years... I am capable of going somewhere else and could improve my financial situation a little. But my current job is not intolerable, and the financial improvement would not be huge.... so I stuck it out. Now I am getting ready to FIRE... all of that is almost behind me now! I do not regret the decision.
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Old 05-21-2011, 08:53 AM   #20
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If work is making you ill even thinking about your next day, then it's time to move on. If it's just uncomfortable, then stay put and see what happens in 6 months... imho. You've lost a lot of talent but this is also a chance to see if there's some new talent ready to step into the void.

You said the new boss is having people chase down a bunch of bad ideas. Yet you've withheld a good idea. He's new to the org and new to your org's specific offerings (even if he was in similar verticals before). So, step up and help out. If you're worried about additional overtime, then suggest a team work on it. Get more assertive about prioritizing commitments and sticking to a sane schedule. You're thinking about leaving anyway so what's the worst that can happen....

And, if you emerge the hero of the day, then it's time to talk compensation.
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