This is a sensitive situation and I will treat it as such. I will
respond to your Question point-by-point below, but first allow me to
give an overview of how your situation sounds to me. I also had a
couple of friends (with decades of combined professional work
experience) read your Question after I had formulated my answer to see
what they thought, and they generally concurred with my summation of
the situation (after reading the Answer I wrote below, before I posted
it). This is of course not to say that I am 100% "right" about this,
by any means, but I did receive some corroboration of my assessment
You estimate that you are 2-7 years away from retirement, which leads
me to believe you are in your late fifties or thereabouts. Although
you did not state your compensation for this job, it sounds as though
you are making upwards of $50,000/yr plus benefits such as health and
dental, 401K and vacation time. Please correct me if I am way off the
mark on this, as it significantly affects my Answer. You also have 2.5
years of your professional career invested at this company.
The company has undergone a significant reorganization which seems to
have rendered your position somewhat less influential. You did not
mention any reduction in salary, however--only a reduction in
responsibility and visibility to executive management. This certainly
can affect your future raises/promotions, but it does not seem to have
affected your current monetary compensation. Again, please correct me
if I am wrong about this.
It is my firm opinion that any individual nearing retirement with a
family to support (you mentioned a child) should not do anything to
jeopardize high-income positions, even if it means suffering some
perceived (or even actual) indignities such as those you outlined in
your Question regarding the outcome of the company's restructuring
with respect to your position.
Here is what I suggest:
"Lay low" in your current position and simply do your job to the best
of your ability, do what is expected of you (even if you don't like it
and disagree with company policy and/or attitudes), in order to
continue pulling in the income necessary to support you and your
family both now and into your retirement. Looking for a new job isn't
fun for most people, and even less so the closer to retirement age one
In short, in situations where the job is unpleasant, but the salary is
high, the best course of action is to stick it out and do your job
until you actually have another job offer on the table.
In other words, feel free to look for another job (without letting
your employer(s) know about it). This will also allow you to test the
waters and see what it would really be like to be looking for a job,
without the desperation of having no income while you do it.
Get up an hour or two earlier than you normally do (or work on it a
couple of hours at night--every weekday) and conduct a job search. See
what it would be like without your current job for real. If you manage
to land an offer with a salary equal to or higher than what you're
currently earning, then you can accept the offer and give two weeks
notice at your current job. If not, then you know that your current
income will be difficult if not impossible to sustain without your
current job, and so you'll need to tough it out a while longer.
This is of course an "outsider's" opinion, given from some distance,
but I suspect in querying this service that that is what you're
Now, all that being said, since you've been at the company 2.5 years
making a good salary, presumably you've been doing something right and
they will at least listen to you. So, it would not be out of line for
you to put your concerns into writing and send them to your superior,
just to have it on record. However, do stop short of making any
ultimatums, threats or serious finger-pointing, as no one responds
well to this sort of thing. Also, I would leave out any mention of
your "mental condition" as it just doesn't reflect well on you,
however medically valid it may be. I don't recommend taking time off
for this reason, either, because it's just too easy for people to
label you as "unstable" or whatever. Just put into writing the events
that have led to your dissatisfaction, sign and date it and send it to
your immediate superior, or perhaps several bosses who are on the same
level as each other, if that is applicable. It is generally not
acceptable to go "over your bosses' head" though, and send a complaint
to your bosses' boss. I believe that filing a formal complaint alone
will make you feel significantly better, because you will have
assessed and documented the situation by writing it down, and taken
action by sending the document to your superior(s).
Then, whether or not this action leads to any improvement of your
current job situation, continue to work your job while conducting a
serious job search on your own time at home. Explain to your family
that you will be needing some additional time to do this, because
although you are not going to quit your job, or be terminated, you are
unhappy with the professional climate there due to the reorganization,
and will take another position that looks good to you if it has
equivalent or higher compensation. The act of updating your resume (or
C.V.) alone will give you a more clear assessment of your current
situation, as you will tend to see things more clearly when you put
them in writing (such as your job duties and accomplishments to date).
At this point, let me consider in detail your points 1-4:
1) "How do I stop being a "victim" and start taking control of the
You state that you have a good relationship with your immediate boss.
Use this to your advantage by putting your dissatisfactions into
writing, as I suggested above, and submitting it to your boss first.
Make sure you keep it strictly professional, without any personal
opinions towards co-workers surfacing in your complaint. If you plan
to submit this "complaint" or "report" or "request" or whatever you
wish to call it to other personnel besides your boss, it might be best
give him fair warning verbally before you do so. This shows that you
respect him and value the relationship you have established with him.
More than that, it puts the ball in his court so to speak, and will be
up to him to take action once he receives the request. If for some
reason he does not act whatsoever on your request, refuses to read it,
or reads it but effectively does nothing within one month or so of
receiving it, it may be appropriate for you to send a report to his
boss, or to some higher level.
2) "What kinds of questions should I be asking of my new boss, my new
boss's boss during the pre-transition meetings that will be going on
in the next few weeks?"
Unless you interact with your boss's boss quite regularly, I wouldn't
ask him/her anything. Again, I strongly advise the "lay low, do your
job, keep your eye on supporting your family and retirement" course of
action. As far as your immediate boss, I would simply ask him what he
expects of you, and then just listen. If it's not clear, you may want
to ask for a clarification as to the chain-of-command, or hierarchy.
In other words, who is reporting to whom? Perhaps use a flowcharting
program such as MS Visio to create a diagram showing how you perceive
the current chain-of command to be. Present this diagram at one of the
pre-organizational meetings and ask if it is correct or not. Suggest
certain "what-if" scenarios and apply them to the flowchart. i.e., "If
this happens, who would take over--this person or this person?", or
"Who would be responsible if this and this were to occur
simultaneously--this branch or that branch?" or "If the proposed
reorganization takes the form of Case A (see Diagram 1) rather than
Case B (see Diagram 2), then what role would my team be expected to
3)"Is there anything I can do about reporting to a person who is at
my current level? Is this legal??"
It is certainly legal. Companies pay you to do a job as they ask you
to do it. As to whether or not there is anything you can do to change
it, you can submit written requests as outlined above. However, I
would just "go with the flow" and be a "team-player." Reorganizations
are not the time to make a lot of waves or to be labeled as a
"difficult personality" or what have you. It all comes down to how
much you value the compensation the job provides you. You mentioned
that you were having a difficult time locating another job with
equivalent compensation. I'd say that answers your question. Submit a
formal complaint, but keep it polite and professional, omit any
mention of mental problems and just do your job. Ask in the
organizational meetings what is expected of you and your team. Ask
your staff what they feel about things. But always keep in your mind
the fact that you may be retiring in as little as two years! Think
about that--in less time as you've been at the job already, you may be
retired. Why jeopardize that by making waves over some reorganization
you won't even care about in a few years? By then it'll be their
problem, not yours. You're getting their money to deal with it now, so
deal with it as you're expected to and work it out.
4) "What can I salvage of my professional reputation?"
I wouldn't worry so much about this. You still have a job there, so do
your job and do it well. That's what reputations are built on. As far
as preserving your reputation in a way that will translate to other
potential employers, you could perhaps obtain some references from
those who acknowledge your quality work (however, don't make it
readily apparent you're seeking another job, as they're
restructuring). Another way of doing this is by obtaining statistical
reports from Departments who can attest to your contribution to the
Bottom Line. For example, if Accounting could provide you with a
report showing how your team directly lowered expenses by x%, then you
could use that report as a reference with your resume to help get you
At this point I'm going to provide you with several on-line resources
that pertain to resolving office politics fiascos/surviving corporate
restructurings, and on job search strategies:
The following link will take you to an article entitled, "Strictly
Business: Surviving Corporate Layoffs," and has some good advice
(parallel to my own) which applies to your situation. I realize you
haven't been laid off, but restructuring is often a precursor to
lay-offs. Here's a brief excerpt:
"Don't burn any bridges, she says. Sometimes youll have the chance
to be rehired. And youll want to get good references from your
supervisors, even if you never return to the company."
Here's a link to a good book on the subject, entitled, "Soar Above the
Madness: Surviving Office Politics Without Losing Your Mind, Your Job,
or Your Lunch," available from the Faith Resource Center:
[ http://www.faithresourcecenter.com/frc/item_1558539794.htm ]
Here is a link to "The Riley Guide, Employment Opportunities
and Job Resources on the Internet," which is a comprehensive listing
of available job search resources on the internet:
[ http://www.rileyguide.com/ ]
And, "The Job Hunter's Bible," on-line, (from the publishers of the
famous "What Color is Your Parachute"):
Both of these job search sites have numerous articles and links to
resources regarding modern day employment, and how to survive in the
workplace-type of advice. I do recommend that you conduct a major lart
of your job-search on-line. E-mail companies directly that you'd be
interested in working for.
Please, do not hesitate to ask for Clarification if I have been
incorrect about any major assumptions I have made in the assessment
your situation, or if you would like me to explain something here
further because it is not clear enough.
I wish you the best in resolving your situation at work to everyone's
mutual satisfaction, and to your finding a new job if that is the
route you decide (or find it necessary) to take.
Finally, here is a link to a law firm specializing in corporate
reorganizations--they cover in part how the company can protect itself
from employee lawsuits, so reading this should be beneficial to you to
see if your company has broached any of these laws. The firm is Silver
[ http://www.silver-freedman.com/library/mar_99_br1.html ]
Google search strategy:
Keywords--"Keywords: surviving corporate restructuring
guide to online job search
"employee rights during reorganization"
P.S. As a humorous look at the situation (but nevertheless with quite
valid points), I advise you to rent the following movie with Chevy
Chase: "Lost In America," from the 1980's.
In the story, Chase's character is a highly compensated, corporate
executive who feels slighted when he is passed over for a promotion by
a younger coworker with much less time at the company than he, and
quits. Here's an exceprt from a review:
"I always loved the idea of making a life-long decision and finding
out four days later that it was wrong. You know, burning your bridges
and then having to eat shit. Here was this successful married couple
who sell their house, buy a Winnebago, hit the road, lose everything
in a week, and realize they've made a mistake. So the concept was all
about backing up and eating shit. We all do it in little ways. I
wanted to see it big." -- Albert Brooks re Lost in America in Playboy
Clarification of Answer by
01 Sep 2003 16:40 PDT
"Since I am having a meeting this week with new boss, new boss's boss,
and my current boss and his boss, to discuss what I will be doing in
my new job, how should I approach this "cat and mouse" game I am in
now? I don't believe all the cards will be on the table. Should I
draw up a new job description for myself and hope they like it, or sit
back and wait to hear what they have to say?"
The approach you take in the meetings (whether to sit back, wait and
hear what they have to say, or to proactively present a written or
verbal description or presentation of what you see your role as)
should be dictated by the tone of the meeting once it starts. In other
words, I think it would be best to have something prepared along the
lines of what you suggest in this Clarification, (i.e. "I took a
little time to write out this description of how I see my job duties
going forward..."), should the meeting start out by them asking you if
you have anything you'd like to say.
However, just because you prepare something, don't expect to
automatically take over the whole meeting with it. Remain flexible,
yet prepared: If the meeting starts by them saying, "This is what we
have in mind for you and your team..." I would hear them out first.
Just listen, and afterwards, they will most likely ask for your
opinion. [Remember that these people are paying you six figures to do
what they ask, and that you are nearing retirement].
At that time, it may well be appropriate for you to present them with
your ideas concerning your job description. Subsequently, you and your
bosses may be able to meet somewhere in the middle if your idea of the
job differs significantly from theirs. Certainly, having something
prepared shows you've been taking your job seriously, which is never a
negative (assuming you're not obsessive about it).
So, if they hit you with something totally out of the blue that is
upsetting to you, tell them politely that that's quite different than
your idea of what you saw your role as. Say you'd like to show them
your idea of how you thought you could best help the company, and pass
out your written response, or simply relay it verbally, or even run a
PowerPoint presentation--whichever you are most comfortable with.
Since there is to be a whole series of meetings, you may want to wait
to present your view of how you see your position fitting in until
after the first or second meeting. That way you can adjust your ideas
that night (edit your presentation or written description) after
having heard their views during the meeting that day, if it is to your
advantage. Or, maybe you do want to present your ideas first, and then
have the rest of the meetings to resolve the differences between what
you presented and what your bosses have in mind. It just depends on
how the meetings progress and what their tone is.
Stay calm, relaxed, and be prepared. Sleep well the night before every
meeting. If presented with any decisions that you were totally not
expecting, or are very crucial, it probably wouldn't be out of line to
politely request 24 hours to think it over. (Especially if they
suggest any changes in compensation). This will avoided any hot-headed
responses or rash decisions, which you want to avoid.
Basically, unless they're asking you to take a pay-cut, or to do
something which is totally beyond the realm of the job-description you
were originally hired for, I would just go with it in the meeting.
Maybe say that you think their ideas could work, but you'd like to
meet again in 60 or 90 days to review the progress, or something to
You can continue to look for a better job while you work this one, and
you could always submit something in writing after the meetings
stating that, "In retrospect, I find I'm unable to go along with what
was decided upon.." But I doubt it will come to that.
It may also be appropriate, since you may be meeting people you
haven't met before, to make a point to reiterate your history at the
company (with enthusiasm!): the position you were hired for, what
you've accomplished to date, who you've worked with and what you got
done together, and finally-- what you see yourself best able to do for
the company at this crucial juncture. That way you know the new people
are hearing what you want them to hear, not just heresay or stories
I wish you the best of luck.
P.S.: Happy Labor Day!