BLUF: How do I balance "what could have been" against "what is right now" while aiming for "what could once again be"?

The history:

  • been with the company 7 years, in the same department (account & ancillary feature setup)
  • gotten 3 promotions in that time (pretty well above average for the company)
  • in Oct 2008, was promoted to Manager (tax setup, a specialized group)
  • in July 2009, was "reorganized" back to "individual contributor" (ancillary feature setup)

I knew it was coming; I even prepared my team for a month before the offical reorg came through.  It's the decision I knew they would make and, in theory, on paper, the right decision.  I was shunted off to work for a VP I've still to this day never met in person.  We did not get along very well for at least the first six months but seem to have moved past a significant portion of our communication issues and are communicating fairly well, which is saying a LOT.

In the time since the demotion - over the last year - I've applied for three other positions and landed none of them.  I'm starting to get discouraged and feel as though it's never going to happen for me again.

I report to the VP but have "day to day" reporting to someone else - someone I used to report to directly but then was my peer and is now a quasi-boss again.  I don't respect this person at all and I'm having a hard time finding my way to a healthy, professional mindset.

It was a lot easier before I got the manager position to kick back, observe and muse to myself "I would have handled that differently, I could have done a better job."

It's a LOT more difficult to kick back, observe and muse to myself "I used to handle things so much differently, I did such a better job at these types of things" and then bitterness creeps back in.

I know - accept where I am now. I'm not a manager, she is.  I have to report to her and I can't shoot my career in the foot by bad-mouthing her all over the place (or even to a single person.)  

It seems to be a no-win situation. I want to move forward but feel like I won't be able to unless or until I'm able to fully embrace & accept that I'm a peon which is virtually impossible when seeing reminders of my past almost constantly.

So how do I balance "what could have been" against "what is right now" while aiming for "what could once again be"?

Any pep talk - words of wisdom - insight - advice - bitchslaps welcome.  Really and truly.  Hit me with whatever you've got - I just can't keep going like this any longer.  It's driving me crazy.  (Or, according to my husband, crazier.)

scm2423's picture

The coach in me wants to ask if what your calling a re-org was a result of yyour performance or was it a result of the economic downturn?   To me that is key to understanding what happened and how to move on.

Were others let go through the re-org?  If so, if may be an economic thing, and you have no control.

If you think this was a demotion based on performance, then it is time to turn things around and only you can do that.

You say there is some bitterness, that's your fault.  How you feel is up to you.  The problem is determining what's it going to take to move on from the bitterness. 

Without knowing all the details my guts says it was a re-org and not a demotion.  Accept that some things are not in your control, take some comfort in that fact that they kept you when others were let go.

Lastly it is a myth that you have to like your boss, or that they have to like you.  It makes things easier and you will be less crazy but sadly it is not a requirement of your employment.  You see improvements in your relationship, that is a good thing.  Any relationship takes time and effort but it is worth it.  Your new boss is also in a bit of a pickle too.  Sounds like she doesn't know you.  All she knows is she has someone who used to be a manager, now reporting to her.  Maybe she thinks you will be out to get her, so you can get back into a management role.  Maybe that is causing some issues with her.  You will never know but try to think what she may be dealing with in this re-org.  the best thing you can do is support her, take some of the load off her, help her succeed and you will succeed too. 







ashdenver's picture

They told me it was re-org and to a certain extent, I believe it because I was offered the "step down in lieu of a severance package" in the second round of layoffs.  I specifically asked if there were performance issues and was reassured it was strictly based on "time in position."  

What niggles away at my brain is that, as a manager, I filled out the same evaluation forms for my team of seven that were most likely used in the second round when it came to demoting/laying people off.  When I reviewed the form, I specifically asked if "Tenure" related to "time in the job" or "time with the company" and was told it was "time with the company overall, not the job specifically."  Additionally, the layoffs were essentially a house-cleaning in which all the lowest performers were let go.  To have been in the demotion group is both a blessing and a curse - I was thought well of enough to be offered a demotion to retain a job / paycheck / benefits but still low enough on the totem pole that I was with the group "at risk."

You're right - how I feel is my fault ... or my responsibility.  High D that I am, I chafe at not having full control over things I could do so well.  I need to let go.  I need to stop resenting the former-peer/current-quasi-boss person.  I need to put the manager hat back on and really put forth the high-potential image (more than the disgruntled, disengaged, bitter one.) Fake it til I make it, right?

Thanks, SCM!

DiSC profile: 7-2-1-5

scm2423's picture

You're right some of this is out of your control, so you just have to accept it.  They kept you, maybe not in the same position, but if they had to cut some staff, not everyone got to stay in the same position.

You're also right that you need to get rid of the resentment and get back to how you were seen before. Keep in mind that they will be looking to see how you are handling this change.  Its not what you wanted, but are you showing them that you're still a dedicated employee and someone who can adapt to adverse sitiations.  You don't want to show the bitterness, disengagement, etc, that would hurt you if the needed a second rond of cuts.

Remember there are somethings you cannot control, but you do control your reactions to these events.

scm2423's picture

So it has been a week from your original posting.  What have you done to improve the situaltion?  What can you commit to doing this week to make things better?

scm2423's picture

So it has been a week from your original posting.  What have you done to improve the situaltion?  What can you commit to doing this week to make things better?

ashdenver's picture

Oh. I was supposed to DO something?  LOL   Just kidding, of course.

In terms of changes, I've been keeping some recently-received feedback in mind.  I've let my dotted-line "boss" (former peer) know that I'm actively pursuing a return to management.  I've moved past the sting of rejection for the most recent job application which has helped my mood quite a bit.  I've been continuing my internal job search for suitable management positions. 

I have also let go of most of my irritation with the perceived incompetence of the dotted-line "boss" (former peer).  I'm still working on detaching her incompetence (and general cluelessness) from my loss of managerial duties.  That is to say: I was severely annoyed seeing this person bumble her way through the simplest of tasks, fuming to myself "I did SUCH a better job!"  I'm working on re-framing this into "She has always been this way; it's just who & how she is" so that it's not attached to my loss of management duties - it's solely focused on the interactions with this person.

DiSC profile: 7-2-1-5

chrisakin's picture

Well, how did it all turn out?  I'm in a very similar position right now and would love to learn from your trials and tribulations.  Thanks!


VPfreedude's picture


Here are a couple of thoughts although I may be a bit late.

As a fellow high D I can imagine that your former peer/dotted line "boss" is not a D which aggravates your feelings toward her however from her perspective can you think of how your behavior and communication style is heard?  Possibly she sees you as a major threat.  Maybe she sees your displeasure and is worried that you DID do a far better job than she is doing and that you want to railroad her to take her position all of which could be causing stress in your relationship.

I'm by no means saying this is what you are thinking at all but D's are often perceived very differently than we intend.

On that thread I would suggest a follow on conversation with her.  Explain why you are upset at the decision to demote you and commit to her that while you want a return to mgmt your first focus is to ensure she's considered a rock star due to her team's performance.  You are there to make sure she's a success while in this role.  I'd even consider extending an olive branch by saying you would like her input on the things you did well while in the mgmt role and any weaknesses you can manage so when you get promoted again you are an even better performer.

This is not likely an easy mental shift, however I think it's an important one that may actually help you feel better as it's a bit of a plan to get back to the role you want.  And us D's like a plan don't we?

Another key thing to do is objectively assess your performance in the mgmt role.  Previous posts suggest the demotion was not performance based and time based however if you were the absolute best manger the company has yet your tenure was low I suspect you would have been left in the mgmt role.  This process can be painful and also really insightful.  It allows you to build your "change file" for the next time you are the manager.  Did you spend too much/little time focusing on a corporate priority or have a string of hires that were just ok or anything?  What could you have done differently that would have resulted in even better performance?

I'm sure if you can let go of the bitterness and hurt feelings of this, it can be a real positive and make you even more successful in your next mgmt role (internal or external).

Best of luck