toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

June 13, 2010

management team means no boss

Although in partnership with her husband before their business and marriage went bust, Ivy was essentially a stay at home mom. Returning to work as a paid employee was thus a shock to her system over and above the usual return to work adjustments of a single mother but nothing prepared her for the 'management team'.

"I have two small children at home," explains Ivy, "and balancing my life between the kids and work is a constant worry I didn't have before. If that wasn't bad enough, when I last had a job at the age of 21 I remember workplaces as having one person in charge, and everybody knew exactly who the boss was. He was 'the man' and if nothing else you gave him respect."

Ivy's return to work job is with a large corporation and she has discovered that the 'boss' consists of a management team.

"Rather than one person giving orders," laughs Ivy, "I have to deal with three guys bossing me around and because each manager has his or her own personal agenda I'm having nightmares prioritizing the work I do for them. I hate being bossed around like a kid!"

Ivy is learning that 'teamwork' is responsible for so many bosses around workplaces these days.

Unfortunately, most of the factors relevant to how teamwork became adopted by management gurus as the perfect way to run a commercial organization apply not only to staff, but management, too.

"The theory behind teamwork - that nobody is indispensable, that we are all replaceable cogs in a machine and are unlikely to be given an area of work over which we have total control - is relaxed a fair bit when it is applied to management," says Ivy.

"Managers very clearly do have an area over which they have control - managing staff," says Ivy, "but they are also required to act in cohort with other managers - as well as reporting to their superiors - and this is where I often find myself between a rock and a hard place."

"I understand the business side of this, " says Ivy. "Basically, the shareholders in any publicly listed company determine a great deal of what goes on in the coalface. Profits must be maximized and losses minimized. The company directors are the slaves of the shareholders, the management team is the slave of the company directors, and staff members like me are the slaves of the management team."

It is a very clear pecking order and Ivy is at the bottom of it.

"Because the lowlife slaves like me are considered to be dispensable and not likely to be in a job for long," says Ivy, "there is very little camaraderie between managers and staff and the company directors are all but invisible people."

"I hate the 'them and us divide' in the company, "says Ivy. "When my ex-husband and I ran a small business we were on very good terms with our employees. I would never dream of putting myself above someone who worked for me. That's abominable. But I put up with it every day where I work."

"While the 'management team' arrangement has an advantage in that you are not stuck with one person whom you may not like," says Ivy, "it has far more disadvantages."

"As with all teams there are personality clashes," says Ivy, "and I've discovered that management teams are likely to have far bigger personality clashes than staff teams because their egos are bigger."

"Each manager will have his or her own personal agenda, so getting to know how each member of the management team ticks takes a lot more time and energy than applying this exercise to one person."

"Working for a management team," sighs Ivy, "is a real nightmare because I have to prioritize and decide who is more important. If I please X and do his work first, Y and Z are going to dislike me - and so it goes on."

Ivy has been told that managers are not as pleasant to work for as their superiors - the directors - but being a return to work mother made her ineligible for a job higher up in the pecking order.

"It's a bit like the division between generations," says Ivy. "My kids tend to get on a lot better with their grandparents than they do with my ex-husband and I, and that's just as well because my mom looks after them for me before and after school."

Ivy has had a job offer from a couple she once knew while running her own business.

"The pay would be much more than I'm getting now, and I know that this family business treats staff as part of the family rather than as a 'servant'," says Ivy. "But, I also know that the couple are having marital problems and while the business is likely to last the marriage won't and I don't really want to get involved. Been there, done that!"

"Also," adds Ivy, "I've heard from one of their employees that the couple tend to keep staff back working late until they are ready to keep some fancy restaurant appointment, and this is a bit gross because I need to get home, cook dinner for my kids and get them to bed."

Having too many people bossing you around at work is really not a good scene but Ivy thinks it is probably better than working for a family business.

"In a big organization," says Ivy, "there’s a grievance system in place to sort out any problem with the management team. In a small business, there is nobody 'higher up' to complain to. I guess I just have to knuckle down and do my time until I can move up into an executive position where I'll have one boss - not a team of them!"

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