So many cooks…

Hi there!

On a prior post I wrote about too many chiefs and not enough Indians in an organization and how to survive this. And today I want to delve into that a bit further and what can happen next.

A few things have happened over the last few years at my company – many many layoffs – so many its routine! The company has split. Senior management has changed – and changed again. Company has been reorganized and reorganized again and again. Company revenues are declining  – and many are wondering what happens next – a sale? chapter 11?

Where does that leave employees? Job roles aren’t clear. People are overloaded with work and 60 hour work weeks are the norm. Pay raises are gone. Employees leave and aren’t replaced. Emotional break downs with staff are more and more common. Company doesn’t seem to care “you should be glad you have a job” attitude.

But surprisingly, we have a too many cooks in the kitchen problem! A simple project has so so many people having to review it. Last year the same project was reviewed by maybe 2-3 people before completion – now its 10-15+.. and not just by me and my colleagues either – now its going to my bosses, bosses, boss –  top level executive. Then to her bosses boss – C director level second only to the president. Someone who shouldn’t have time, and shouldn’t be copy editing – its way below their pay grade. Everyone has a different opinion and has to have their say and comments. So  despite one of those senior bosses saying we need to be fast and agile and that our new mantra is around “owning our projects “- its quite the opposite.. things are slow and messy.. people stepping on each others toes.. taking forever to get things approved.

You see  the circus here. But the question is why? What do you think is going on here?

Firstly I suspect that people are worried about their jobs and trying to show “value” – and aren’t sure what their roles are so think they should be involved.  And with the company trying to survive – I suspect its barely clinging onto survival now –  top management feels the need to micromanage and cover their asses despite the mantra. They haven’t worked out there is a disconnect between telling people to “own your own projects” while having them micromanage everything.

I have been with the company 20 years and have seen nothing like it – ever. Most people are disenfranchised and confused. They feel un-empowered and not trusted. And sadly I think that’s the honest truth of the matter.




woman holding a smiley balloon

Its a crazy time at work for many people including me.. my company has re-organized for yet another time and again my job has expanded and changed with way more workload and no remuneration for it. So I am a bit stressed to say the least.

Then today as soon as I open my work email I see an email from my boss with a request for an activity that just doesn’t make sense for the company. She also sent a meeting request where she wants to review my plan as to how to implement this activity based on direction and details she has provided in this email.

With my blood pressure rising I start typing, what I must admit, is a clearly irritated email reply as I think through all the ramifications of what she is asking… and get more and more annoyed.  After maybe 10 minutes revising and re-revising this email, I realize that this email is going to piss her off no matter what, and  likely she wont even back down on her request despite my well structured answers as to why the activity doesn’t make sense.  So I save the draft and decide I will call her right now to discuss since I may get a better answer in person…

I am aware  that her email has put me in a tizzy despite my recent manta to be calmer and care less about work. So before I pick up the phone, I  take a step back, breathe and try and calm down – and plan to call her later when I can think more clearly.

And as I breathe and take another sip of coffee and look at the draft email again I come up with a plan… maybe somehow I can make her idea work for me?… maybe instead of doing her request exactly as specified, I can interpret her email using her high level request as rough direction only. I tend to be literal but if I do the activity it as literally intended in her email, it won’t work for the company.

So I delete the draft email and instead work on a plan that although it’s aligned to her high direction, deviates somewhat from her email in terms of the details. Deviation which makes more sense for the company.

So my tips of the day

  • Breathe and wait –  Don’t react immediately even if the item appears to be urgent – rushing things isn’t good as your brain isn’t clear. Wait – Most things can wait 10 minutes. Delay that email.
  • Phone – avoid email when it’s something important – email can be misconstrued on both ends. You can tell  much better what people are thinking and feeling when you get audio clues.
  • Don’t be always take things literally – consider interpreting what you see

Never having done this before I am a bit nervous so wish me luck! I will let you know how it goes!



Playing the game

selective focus photography of person holding beige leaf

Photo by fotografierende on

Fall. Fall is here, the leaves are changing colour and so perhaps now a good time for reflection and change.

I am writing today’s post though as I am confused. I have been with my company 20 years and now things don’t make sense.. perhaps someone reading can explain?

Anyway my company, most people appear ambitious and aiming for the top… they make all the right moves and right noises –  work long hours (late and early), schmooze with the higher ups, are team players, dress the part, use the right buzzwords, seem to love the company and everything it does, get promoted every few years…  They appear to be ambitious, entirely work-centered employees trying to move up the ladder to the top.. and encourage (and often pressure) others to do the same.

So why recently did a few of these people suddenly put their hands up for a layoff package? Sure, the company is restructuring and a bit unsettled, but isn’t this a great time for them to stay and get their next promotion? They are missing opportunities to progress their career even further and continue the path to the top.

Why would they leave now? Some of them even are quitting the workforce entirely (and very early)!  Wasn’t their career at the company, and getting to the top, everything to them? They certainly behaved like it. If this was true, why would they leave now? If it wasn’t, why would they play the game so completely (and create this sometimes toxic workaholic culture as a result)? Its a lot of unnecessary time and effort if you are just planning to leave anyway.

I don’t get it.

What are the chances of getting a pay raise when your coworkers earn more than you do.

Happy Monday! I have a case of the Monday blues which seems to make topics like salary more poignant to me. I was reading an article today about what to do when you find out a co-worker makes more than you do. I read the article and thought it was totally pink tinged and not realistic.

Their main advice was go to your boss and present your case for a better salary. In today’s economic climate, and more so if you are a minority, or a female, then that likely doesn’t work most of the time. If it did women wouldn’t earn 2/3 of what men do!

Lets look at what your chances actually are of getting the raise you deserve, starting with why your pay is less to begin with.

  • When were you hired?  I was hired when the company was low on funds and wasn’t able to offer out big salaries. And they have HR rules that cap any subsequent earnings (even if you get a promotion or new job!! – see below) so I haven’t been able to catch up naturally.
  • Where did you come from? My colleagues Jane and Bob both came from sales. In my company sales are valued more, so they were offered higher salaries to join the company.
  • What has been your career progression? When you get promoted, it can often come with a salary increase. And if you are promoted often or change jobs internally a lot, your salary can increase more than others who don’t. How does your career progression compare to your coworkers?
  • Are they worth it? I know I am underpaid but quite honestly, when I look at industry salaries, my coworkers are overpaid.
  • Where do you live? My colleagues in the US (even considering exchange) get paid more than me. But my colleagues out in Eastern Canada get paid less. So there is a calculation done by HR based on cost of living and the local hiring market.

Hopefully that gives you some insight into why you got where you are.. but the big question is.. what’s the chances you can even score a pay increase now??

  • What is your experience compared to your colleagues? This is the big one that career advisors focus on so you can judge your worth. But here’s the problem with this – everyones’ work experience is different and I have met managers who can take two identical resumes and explain how one has more value than an other just because it suits them!
  • How is the company financially? Your company likely doesn’t want to pay you any more if they don’t have to. They are concerned about their bottom line more than how it effects you. So if they are tight for funds you are fighting a losing battle on salary.
  • Who are your friends? In my company its all about who you know and who you, and your boss are “friends” with. If you have a lot of supporters, especially at higher levels, you are more likely to get a raise.

So I wanted to provide a couple of examples on my experience when asking for a raise which may also help.

  1. When I asked for a pay increase and presented my case, they said I “needed more experience”. Note I had been doing the job for over 5 years, and in this role am one of the more experienced in the company. They didn’t say how much more experience they thought I would need. Note this manager was fairly new so had less experience than me too…
  2. I applied for a senior role recently vacated by a retiring VP. This job was at a much higher grade and salary than my current one (due to my discrepancy over the years) but they decided I was qualified and promoted me anyway. I was given a minimal increase in salary (which meant I was being paid roughly $150k less per year than my predecessor) and when I questioned it my company said” HR rules say you can’t get more than 1 grade level increase and  5% increase in salary when promoted – and each increase  has to be at least 2 years apart!” Some skewed logic about typical promotion and experience paths.  Somehow find out out if your company has an HR policy like that.
  3. Next time I asked for an increase, my manager agreed and told me to fill in some forms so that HR could benchmark my salary against other companies with similar roles to work out what I should be paid. When my boss called HR and asked where to send the form to (and importantly before she even sent the form to anyone) the HR manager said “send in the form and we will give her a 5% increase”.. which is against the whole procedure and defeats the purpose. Note the 5% is the typical amount as per 2.
    A typical company will have a pyramid shape of employees – the president at the top at the peak earning most, then a few VPs earning a bit less under him, then a number of directors earning less again,  and then the wide base with lots of lower earning regular employees. But in my company,  over the years they haven’t been hiring due to lack of funds, and combined with the fact that people haven’t been retiring (and instead every 2 years they get a 5% increase) has caused creation of an inverted pyramid. This means means they have a many high earning VP and directors at the top of the pyramid and a low number of regular employees at the bottom. To try and prevent it getting worse and save more money, they are trying to stop pay increases and promotions to artificially keep lower earning employees at the bottom of the pyramid.. which means getting a promotion is very hard. Does this sound like your company?
  4. The most recent time (and new manager) I asked for a pay increase, they actually agreed I was getting paid less than everyone else and that I deserved more. However they said since the company was short of funds, there was nothing they could do.

What actually worked for me then? I am still underpaid but have had 2 significant increases in my career and here’s how:

  1. I found a new job with another company and gave my 2 weeks notice. Suddenly my VP took me aside and asked “What would it take for you to stay?”. I got a significant increase at that point. This is a ballsy move though, you need to be prepared to leave.
  2. I applied for a promotion with a manager who was a major fan of mine. I told her I would only take the job if I got a significant promotion. She fought tooth and nail with HR and I got 10% raise. Still not great but better than nothing.

Hope my experience helps and good luck with your raise!

Not what you think

adult background beach blue

Photo by Lukas on

Hey there – hope you are enjoying your summer. And since its summer and things tend to be a little slow, its a good time to re-evaluate where you are and what you are doing with your career and where you are heading – because you may not be as secure as you think!

The last few months I have seen a number of layoffs at my company and thats another reason to evaluate where you are.  A few questions to start you off.

  • Are you happy in your job? Bored? Fulfilled?
  • How is your work life balance?
  • Do you feel appreciated? Are you paid enough?
  • What are the promotion prospects like?
  • Are you where you expected to be by now? If not, why?
  • How do you see yourself in the next 5 years, and what steps do you need to take to get there?
  • How is your company doing? Do you have a long term future with them?

Considering these will certainly help you develop a career action plan however perhaps you are happy and feel valued by your company and see a long term future with them?

Be careful – nowadays there is no such thing as job security. You may love your company and your job, but when a company is in difficulty, they may still let you go – and you need to have a plan for that!

For example, recently a number of my colleagues, in roles from graphic designer to senior VP, were laid off.  They were shocked and sad and really not expecting it.

They had followed all the office tips from schmoozing with upper management, jumping at every request, showcasing themselves at every opportunity, dressing and acting the “right”way, using the buzzwords etc etc – making all the “right” office moves. And they thought they were invaluable and indispensable.. They were wrong. Nobody is.

And it made no difference in the end. They were still laid off when the time came.

So follow my secrets, make the right moves, and do your best – but plan for the worst.

Part 3: The layoff process. What to expect when being laid off



Ok so you think you are about to be laid off.. how does it happen? What should you expect?

  1. Your boss will book a short meeting with you in  a private meeting room (or by phone). He will likely get there before you.
  2. When you arrive at the meeting he will likely be with an HR person. Now you know for sure whats going on as you weren’t expecting someone else to be there.
  3. He will get to the point fast. No discussion. He will explain that you are being laid off, and provide documentation on your severance package and how long you have to review and sign it. Package will likely include details of severance, benefits, pension options etc etc.  Likely you will be too shocked to hear anything but the big takeaway is get the documents and find out how long you have to sign them – but don’t sign them until you have had your lawyer look at them!
  4. He may then exit the room or wrap up the call. Many companies will recruit an independent third party career counsellor to come in and explain their services.
  5. He will then escort you to pack your desk and collect personal items. Some managers may allow you to come back at a later time to do this. If you are virtual they will expect you to return your laptop and any other equipment. They may provide shipping labels and boxes for this. Note: I cleared my desk of any personal items years ago so that if I do get laid off I can just walk without worrying about packing my stuff in front of people.

Go home, take a breath and call your lawyer and have him review the contract before you sign.

You can if you wish send an email from your personal email to your colleagues to let them know you have moved on and how to contact you. Try to be professional and keep your feelings out of the note – dont share details of the package etc.  You may need a reference from them later and you don’t want to jeopardize your professional reputation – plus you may need them later on .

Then start planning your next move and your future.

Part 2: How to know if and when you are getting laid off



In part 1 in this series about layoffs I discussed how my company chooses employees to layoff.  In this part I will review how you can tell if and when are about to be laid off.

What to watch for:  

Company performance and other layoffs: Whats going on at your company? Is it doing well? Are there layoffs in other divisions or departments? What role or tenure of employee is being laid off – and are they equivalent to you? If it’s happening in your office to another department, watch to see how/where and when they do the layoffs.

Timing: In my experience, decisions on who to lay off are made fast. Usually to achieve quarter or year end results  And they want to pull the band-aid off fast… not delay it for months.  So typical times for layoffs are towards the end of the year (November December), the start of the year (January), or start or end of a quarter. Often this is done towards the end of the work week as well – Wednesday through Friday.

Manager behaviour:  Your manager likely will not know until perhaps a week or two out.  A couple of days before the layoff he may start to act a little strange. Distant. Stressed.  He may not give you new projects or may not invite you to meetings that you normally may attend. He may be attending meetings with HR or his boss and come out in a weird mood.

1:1 Meetings: Watch for your boss adding an unusually short meeting  to your calendar with only him – in a small meeting room or by call if you work virtually. This won’t be at his desk or  public place. He may also do this during your scheduled one:one if you have one.

See the signs above and think you are about to be laid off?!

In part 3 next week I will talk about the process and how it typically happens at my company.