In the May 21, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader worries down-hiring is an irreversible catastrophe.


down-hiringI joined my company six years ago mainly because every manager and employee I met impressed me. For the first couple of years, we were wildly successful. I’m convinced it was because of the people. As a manager, I am careful to hire only people who match that caliber. But things changed. A mediocre vice president was hired who brought in two managers who were not technically competent. They in turn hired weak staff. Customers started complaining.

Now my team and I spend most of our time putting out fires. Recently the first two people I hired quit in disgust. It’s hard to keep others who report to me motivated. I was asked to do a presentation to our board of directors and I was blunt with them. Two weeks later I was offered the job of CEO. I’m not sure I want it. Is the damage reversible or should I move on?

Nick’s Reply

Strong managers work to build the success of a business by hiring the best people. Insecure managers struggle to preserve their positions in the pecking order by “down-hiring.” That is, they hire weak employees who will not threaten their status.

A people hire A people, but B people will hire C people. When enough B and C people fill critical roles, A people leave. That VP you mentioned — and the weak managers she hired — are bringing down your company because its best people won’t tolerate it.

Like a virus, one B person can devastate your entire organization. I think you need to decide whether you can turn the company’s management team and staff around. That’s a tall order.

Rebuilding by hiring and firing

Think about the critical path: While you can try to purge your company of B and C people, the real challenge is keeping A people focused on hiring more A people.

Companies routinely delegate the hiring process downward to managers and staff who have progressively less skin in the game. If you become CEO, you need to take complete control of hiring until you have re-set the standard. You need to eliminate every B and C manager and replace them with A managers — then ride them to re-build the organization. (Eliminate might mean mentoring and training B’s and C’s into A’s, but that depends on the resources at your disposal and the time frame in which you must pull this off.)

Is this possible and worth attempting? I can’t tell you that. You have to make the judgment. I agree that you need to think hard about accepting the CEO role. I’ll try to offer you some thoughts that might be helpful, with the disclaimer that I am not a management expert. My suggestions are based on what I’ve seen and heard in many years of helping companies hire. I expect lively debate from readers about this Q&A!

Never down-hire

Always try to hire people better than yourself, and reward your managers for doing the same.

Your first problem may be in your human resources department. HR often fails to ensure managers are up-hiring. It lets managers down-hire. That’s no strategy for any company. HR’s job is to up the ante and to raise the standards of hiring.

Many HR departments routinely reject what they term “over-qualified” job candidates, fearing these folks will become quickly dissatisfied with the job and the pay and quit when something better comes along.

This is corporate suicide. Turning away “over-qualified” job applicants is a tacit admission that a company is already infected with B managers who don’t know how to profitably apply the extra skills that the most advanced job candidates offer. Worse, it reveals that a company is not a learning organization — it does not advance itself by adding and developing better talent.

A company’s response to “over-qualified” candidates should be glee. It should find the money and tweak the job so the company can benefit from the extraordinary good luck it has to hire extraordinarily qualified talent.

Down-hiring results in more B and C people in the ranks. The objective must always be the opposite.

Judge managers on the quality of their hires

If managers can’t find, hire and retain A people, fire the managers. (Don’t blame HR alone. It’s up to managers to manage hiring. HR is only a tool.)

You can tell quickly which managers are A people: They build teams filled with A people who meet challenges and deadlines with smiles on their faces. (See Talent Crisis: Managers who don’t recruit.) There’s no serious dissent among them because they all respect one another, their work, and their bosses.

Perhaps most obvious: Your best managers are not afraid to hire people who are smarter or more talented than themselves. They manage talent; they are not threatened by it.

Sever the rotting B manager, or lose the whole body. In this case, the head can be grown back if you have one A person who can take control.

Reward performance quickly

As you’ve seen in your company, when you let B people hire C people, your A people will leave. A people don’t stick around B or C companies. That’s the disaster of down-hiring.

When you bring an A person on board, you must reward them. The most effective reward you can give an A person is more A people to work with. (You’re the best example. The presence of A people inspired you to join up.) The next important reward is authority, which an A person will use to hire more A people and to weed out B and C people.

But don’t forget that another critical reward is money. A people can always get more money, but will they get it from you, or from a competitor? Feed your A people, and they will build an A company to ensure your success along with their own. (See Why employers should make higher job offers. My HR buddy Suzanne Lucas agrees.)

Can you fix it?

It’s a good sign that your board listened to the blunt truth you shared and trusts you to run the company. You need to make sure the board will back that up and fully support you. I’d ask to meet with a few of the key board members individually. Meet each for a working breakfast. Satisfy yourself that this request to turn the company around is real. Then have similar meetings with your best A managers and A employees. Ask for their judgments, advice and support. Only then would I make the decision you face.

Do I think up-hiring can fix a catastrophe caused in part by down-hiring? It matters only what you and your prospective new team think. I wish you the best.

Is my taxonomy of A, B and C people legitimate? Are B and C people really the problem this prospective CEO faces? Do you think it’s possible to turn this company around?

: :

  1. I’m curious about why overqualified is a problem with a company. If someone was overqualified and was willing to stay there provided they were treated right, what’s the problem? They’d be able to perform better than the “typical” people in that role (as they’d be “above” the typical person the job description calls for). Perhaps they’d be able to be moved up more easily than other workers if they were overqualified meaning you could hire internally rather than looking for people externally.

    If, however, you planned to use up and burn workers, I could see why you’d fear that someone who was “overqualified” might leave, as they were skilled enough to get hired elsewhere if you treat them like trash.

    • I’m also curious if the “hiring down” thing is also meant to put subordinates “in their place”. If you hire lots of A People, they won’t stay long if a B person or a jerk (per you last article of “don’t work with jerks”) was their supervisor/manager. However, if a B Person hired a C or D person, they could always hold the “You could be unemployed if you don’t like it here with me” card over their heads. If they are A People on the other hand, they can say “And I can quit and you can have fun filling me seat.” in reply if a B manager pushes their buttons too much.

      • A benefit to B people of hiring C people is that the B manager “owns” the employee, who winds up beholden to the manager. I’ve seen this yield corrupt behavior of the worst kind.

    • Small-minded people are threatened and/or intimidated by those who are “overqualified.”

      • @Askeladd: I think it’s really far worse. Most managers have no idea how to leverage and benefit from “higher” qualifications. This reveals a lot about an organization’s fundamental management AND business philosophy.

  2. The situation the reader describes is very, very common, especially in durable-goods companies (aerospace, volume automotive, etc) that have sufficient financial momentum and profit margins to finance those behaviors and consequences. If the reader / prospective CEO is not given full hire-fire power and the ability to set compensation ranges regardless of company protocol, in my opinion the situation is not salvageable and reader should leave. The offer of CEO from the board indicates their level of concern, but responsibility without commensurate authority (and reward!) is an untenable situation.
    My personal philosophy is to use a modified ‘golden handcuff’ method, whereby you pay carefully selected employees with high integrity and capable of independent problem-solving very well and hold them to very high (but not abusive) standards.

    • Allow me to mention here that ‘down-hiring’ most often starts with and is enforced by HR, who are generally not held responsible for the financial performance of their companies. The reader might well investigate the entire specification, recruiting, vetting and hiring process. Presumably the desired organizational outcome is sustainable profits, although I might be wrong on that one.

  3. I think the key to whether or not the company can be turned around is Nick’s comment about having the backing of the board. It’s easy for the board to say, “Yeah, good idea. Please fix the company.”

    But when it comes time to dismiss some high level people who know the board, will they really have the new CEO’s back? What about when the new CEO offers a nice package to bring on an A person and the board balks at it because “that’s 10% more than we’ve always paid for that position”? (Never mind it was always a B/C person doing the job.) What about when the CEO thinks a B/C person is an A diamond in the rough who just needs good managing and a chance to perform but the board wants that person gone?

    If the board balks at the first few moves the new CEO makes, they don’t really have that person’s back. The CEO should bail.

    Also, why not apply this fix to the board? Are you telling me they’re all A level people? How could the company get into such trouble when the board is full of As? The shareholders should also be asking if the right people are on the board.

    • @Chris: My suggestion for one-on-one breakfasts with board members is intended to make this all very personal and to make each board member accountable. I think it’s key.

      Your other comments hint at a fundamental question companies ignore: Is the money you pay to hire someone “compensation” for the work you want done, or an “investment” intended to yield far more than just getting the work done?

      Employers bind themselves to salary policies that inherently presume hires are made on the fat part of the salary curve. By policy, they avoid what HR pretends and proclaims it wants: “the best.” But the best cost the most. They require an unusual investment. So they are by policy rejected. Howzzat for compensation philosophy?

      When an over-qualified candidate appears, it’s often worth going back to the till to come up with the bucks to make the hire. “You gotta spend money to make money!” Of course, here’s where the real problem arises — Does management know how to leverage an exceptional candidate? Probably not.

      So there’s our metric: Does a company demonstrate that its managers recognize and know what to do with exceptional talent? To me, that’s a key defining characteristic of an A manager.

  4. I run into the “over qualified” trap all the time. I have a PhD in Physics/Engineering and I have been told by a fair number of companies that they automatically reject all PhD applications. I would be quite happy working in industry and not doing research, but I never get the chance to tell any hiring managers that. The true PhD jobs that I am correctly qualified for are not that common and thus I am watching my career die before it starts. PhD jobs (even post-docs) tend to be very specific and if you did not do your dissertation in that exact area they won’t look at you.

    • @MollyG: From experience, I know that the skills required to earn a PhD in Physics can qualify you to work in almost any field. Chief among those generalizable skills are analytics and mathematical modeling. From engineering jobs to hedge fund jobs. Any employer that doesn’t jump to hire a Physics PhD is goofy. (Of course, the uninitiated offer this lame excuse: But PhDs are elitist intellectuals who cannot possibly get along with others! Translation: I’m stupid and have no idea what a Physics PhD is.)

    • The fact that you have a PhD in Physics and read ATH tells me you get it, Molly.

      In in the Photonics field and place people in jobs. Im not a recruiter, but doing this pays me back time and time and time again

      Search under CYC and look for the Ivy League bozo and that’s me.

      I’m in the Northeast but connected across the world in a field you can do well in.

      Sorry for using your blog as a networking tool , Nick. You trained me to do this, though.

    • Have you looked at semiconductor companies? Physics is very important in figuring out how to build the newest chips, and the semiconductor companies I know have no problem hiring PhDs.

      My first boss had a PhD in Math, and worked in Electrical Engineering. He made it a practice to hire PhDs in a wide range of fields (including me) and built a mediocre organization into a world class one. He hired only A people (modest cough) mostly smarter than me.
      Good luck.

      • I have not looked at semiconductor specifically but for every other job I have looked at outside my expertise has been a bust. While I have the skills to be trained to do other types of science, companies don’t want to train. Even the jobs inside my field have very specific requirements.

    • MollyG- The company that I work for hires PhD-level physicists/engineers, and our CEO has his PhD in physics. I would be happy to tell you about our company/industry. Clicking on my name should send you to my LinkedIn page.

      I’ve been an ATH fan for over 20 years, and two big reasons that I’m at this company are that I wasn’t greeted with HR nonsense, and they were open to someone who was crossing over from a different engineering specialty.

    • You know when the system is broken when you have to leave the fact that you have a PhD off your resume to even be looked at.

      • @David: We live in a time where the .01% successfully market the pablum that education is bad.

        • I was once advised that since my master’s degree is in music, rather than engineering, to keep it off my resume. Another employer saw it, however, and said, “You will get a higher salary since you have a master’s degree even though it is in a different field.”

          My first week in music school for my master’s degree – in music theory class – we discussed the Fourier series – in music theory it is called the overtone series.

          My father is an engineer ad my mother is a musician – yet my mother says she can’t understand my dad’d Ph.D. dissertation. When I told her that much of the material is about the overtone series, she understood right away – my dad’s dissertation deals with light where my mother deals with sound. As for me, I like microwaves.

          Let’s just say my music degree helped me do two things: 1) I became a much better engineer, and 2) I also got intense management experience.

          Potential employers, however, in making excuses not to hire me, tell me that I am not specialized enough, and that non engineering management does not count.

          If someone isn’t qualified, don’t interview them. As for me, I probably have changed jobs too often. My tendency is to jump ship before things get bad. I will be glad to stay at the same job for a long time when I get job security.

          • @Kevin: The problem is with uneducated, unsophisticated, narrow-minded employers who don’t study or read widely enough to gain a competitive edge when making business decisions. Regardless of an employer’s specific expertise, when it fails to explore the value of a job candidate’s education and expertise, it fails to cultivate an edge in hiring. “We hire engineers! What’s a master’s in music got to do with that?” What, indeed. If you don’t know, you shouldn’t be involved in hiring!

      • I have left my master’s off in some instances to increase the likelihood of getting an interview, with mixed success.

        Yeah, accomplishments like advanced degrees should be respected if not honored, but generally that’s not the case in this culture. Too many employers have champagne tastes and beer budgets.

        • A few years ago I just put the last 10 years of experience on my resume. They could tell I had more experience and wanted it on my resume so that they could justify a higher pay grade.

          With all this nonsense, you can see why I am working with a mentor to start my own company.

    • Since you also hold a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, yu have no obligation to share anything other than the education level youi wish to be considered. I hear this concern all the time. Why set yourself up for this when you control the information?

  5. The letter writer did not state his or her current position. I am assuming he or she will be jumping over a number of people to become CEO. I feel if the BOD has to ask someone to become the CEO after they made a stunning presentation, the company is already in trouble. I have never been a manager but worked under a number of managers over the years, so I can suss out if a manager is good or not.

  6. Steve Jobs and Guy Kawasaki, love them or hate them, called this phenomenon the ‘bozo explosion’ and it’s totally on point. It seems the board at least recognizes that your writer may have a higher standard than who is currently in charge. Sussing out any hidden power dynamics amongst them is a smart next step in determining whether it’s worthwhile to take on the role.

    Here’s a link to the amusing Guy Kawasaki post that lists other warning signs of a dreaded bozo explosion as well as steps to remediate –

    • @EM: Thanks for that link!

  7. Another question – what’s the downside of taking the CEO position; besides the obvious? Sure, there’s a strong potential for failure, but the experience will be great for the writer’s career. Even if he did an exacting Risk Analysis today, there are sure to be surprises executing the plan to turn around the company.

    Look at the upside. This didn’t get mentioned, but I’m sure the writer will demand a hefty increase in salary to take on this project. Sure, some of it may come in the form of bonuses for success, but there will be an immediate reward. A CEO job will bring new responsibilities, along with a chance to learn that role. That’s a career boost any way you look at it. It might also be a valuable lesson as to whether or not he likes that role. In the immortal words of Murphy, “Nothing is ever a total failure; it can always serve as a bad example.”

    With due precaution and Nick’s solid advice on vetting the board, I would encourage the writer to look at the situation as potentially beneficial to his career.

  8. One of the late Robert Townsend’s aphorisms went something like this: “the reward for succeeding in an almost impossible project is to be handed an impossible one.” A CEO position on the questioner’s resume will certainly be a benefit if he or she can succeed in turning the company around. But if the company fails, the stink of that failure will cling to their reputation. Which is why the decision to accept or reject the position is not a slam dunk accept.

  9. I’ve thought about this phenomenon in the context of age discrimination against older–i.e., more experienced and qualified–employees and candidates. Once a company has gone down the road of letting the more seasoned employees go and replaced them with young pups, can it be reversed?

    I’d say not without some surgical removal or a policy of reintroducing more experienced people at levels above the existing stock of younger, less experienced managers, even if that means demoting some of them (or withholding promotions until a proper structure is reestablished). The problem arises that a younger manager is going to be intimidated by having somebody who is more knowledgeable and experienced reporting to them, and the seasoned candidate will never get hired for positions that are truly below their level and worth.

    Alternatively, the much-needed experienced candidates could be reintroduced via newly created positions, perhaps as a part of restructuring the existing organizational chart.

    I’m not sure if this analogy really works, but when a company is paying/valuing younger, less experienced employees more than older, more experience and accomplished candidates and employees, it’s much like an inverted yield curve. And that portends a self-induced “recession” for the firm.

  10. “But don’t forget that another critical reward is money.”

    Can we just have that carved into the cornerstone of the firm’s headquarters so that everyone from the CEO to the janitor’s assistant do not forget this fact during the next recession?

  11. ~15 years ago, I was promoted to run a large division of the company where I was currently employed. It was failing and, even though they’d interviewed many people on the outside, they recruited me to take the position. I figured that it was already failing, how much worse could I do? (Ahh, innocence!)

    I didn’t know anything about this division (I had completely different experience up to that point), so I did the only thing I could think of: I met, one-on-one, with each individual, all 230 of them. After that, I was scared. By my estimation, 75% were not a fit for their role – mostly because they obviously didn’t care or didn’t like what they were doing. Then I learned that, if you were failing in another part of the company, you had a free pass to join this division. No wonder they hated their jobs!

    First thing I did was change how we hired, and until I was certain they understood who was a fit (not just someone breathing, they had to show competency for the role) I had to be the final interview, which I always made sure was at the same time as the other interviews (I didn’t make them come back just for me!).

    Next, I started replacing managers, top down. First managers who reported to me, then the team leaders who reported to them.

    There was all sorts of workflow improvement and other goals that drove better performance, but none of that would have mattered without a strong team on board.

    It took time, but within three years we went from being what we called the “armpit” of the company where people went when they failed, to being a highly regarded division from which people were often recruited. One of the best experiences of my life, mostly because I had a great boss who constantly encouraged me to focus on people first.

    My advice to the OP – it’s not easy, but it is so rewarding to turnaround a culture! If you have a strong reputation already, your presence as CEO will likely give hope to those remaining great people. Meet with them, engage them in what you’re going to do! What an adventure!

    • You point to an obvious fact: Very often, if a company fails, the employees know, and they know why. But top management neglect it – because top management is the cause for fail.

      My previous employer was a small oil company which ran with red numbers for years in row, and the reason was an obviously failed strategy. Every half year, management gathered the whole company (around 40 people) for team building and hallelujah for a new business strategy, which would fix it, we promise! But, because management remained the same, the strategy also remained the same in practice. Experienced people left (after talking to deaf ears), those who remained were the young people who were inexperienced, or veterans who stuck around just waiting for retirement.

      I had also started looking for a new job, when the company was basically raided by a local “Wall Street” guy, who basically butched it. Most people were fired, I jumped before I was kicked, and today, the company remains only a small investment vehicle.

    • @Annette: That’s one of the best stories I’ve ever read! Thanks, and kudos!

  12. It’s one thing to properly identify problems within a company’s specific department and another to run an entire company. I question the qualification of the writer and sense a fear factor associated with running the entire company. Rule of thumb is always operate from your strengths and not your weaknesses. Does the writer have the necessary strengths to run the entire company or merely reside within one of the company’s departments? I have serious doubts the writer has the emotional strength to run the entire company otherwise he/she would have jumped at the opportunity. Truly gifted leaders don’t hesitate, they act and relish the opportunity to put their stamp on the direction the company heads. Like so many other weekly problem presenters, this one leaves out a lot of details necessary to understand the situation better.

    • LOL, I ran a company after that. It was actually easier because I had a greater span of control. :) Been running companies ever since – most recently one I purchased.

      We don’t know the writer, but I’d say that a certain amount of due diligence before taking a position is smart and doesn’t indicate incompetence. I respectfully disagree that “truly gifted leaders don’t hesitate.” That isn’t a one-size-fits-all magical being.

      Finally, I’ve definitely had more opportunities to do bigger things since having the title of President and/or CEO – depending on what someone wants, that’s an important factor to consider.

      • @Annette When you say “span of control”, is that more of a scope of influence? I was at a company where the owner had a span of control that, well, spanned the company. He tried to visit every employee every day so he could alter their tasking.

        The trade-off for a larger scope of influence, though, is that it typically take longer to see changes happen.

        Eric Brechner describes this:

        • @Timothy LOL, what I meant was that I didn’t have to worry about another leader at my level or above me contradicting what I was trying to do. So whichever one that is, that’s what I meant. :)

          Funny story, when I was first running my next company, I was talking about changing something with the production manager and she said, “That makes sense, but we can’t do that because they won’t let us.” I asked, “Who are they?” and she did not know. She liked me and wanted to blame management… but I was management! Really messed with her psyche. We made some great things happen together when she finally felt free to do so.

    • @Inquisitive Mind: “Truly gifted leaders don’t hesitate, they act “

      I couldn’t agree with you less. I think leaders like that are selfish and merely looking for a big win at any cost.

      • @Nick as in “Gifted leaders jump in where angels fear to tread?”

        • @Timothy: I almost used the “angels” and “fools” line…

    • This is a rather simplistic and very dangerous view. Great leaders take risks, yes, but they are always calculated ones. The idea that the ones pausing to consider these risks are lacking “emotional strength” is ludicrous.

  13. We often hear that networking and relationships are important, but in the absence of value the B-and-C support network sustains itself solely through the “friends and family” model. When a reprobate B manager is termed, another manager within his internal network recommends him for backfill to another manager in another capability. All parties involved come away feeling bulletproof. To sustain their viability B managers hire followers rather than producers.

  14. I have often entered a job as an A person but ended up doing B and C work. It was the environment that got me down. I left my last job due to micromanagement – and now at my current job my new boss is a micromanager.

    I’m actively interviewing as well as talking to a local group that helps people start businesses.

    I could fix a lot of problems in my current company. Sadly, they will probably lose me soon.

    • @Kevin: That’s something to think about. The work is B and C, not the worker.

    • I think this is my story too. When I was a software engineer I could ignore the bullcrap by burying my head in the code and still enjoy my job. In the last decade I’ve been a business analyst and can’t do that anymore, so I’m finding that I’m not at all enjoying being a business analyst. In every BA job I’ve had, I start out ambitious and enthusiastic and then become discouraged and demoralized. Now I have the “just coasting” thing down pat, sadly. After I’m done with the current place I’m going to just freelance on a part time basis. I’m so done with corporate life!

  15. I believe we should get rid of the “management” tier entirely. This tier consists of people who say “get to work.” I am in the technical tier. If I need to be told to get to work then fire my butt.

    The manager work I see is “busy work” that they cause themselves by creating “meetings” to “manage” work. But the truth is if you have competent technical people, they know how to do the work–because they do it. (I suppose if you’re hiring such low level people that can barely put together a sandwich then yes, you need a tutor–but that’s on your business plan to hire bottom wage positions).

    Managers type and talk. So do technical people other than technical people also use tools do do the job, from scalpels to hammers, from specialized diagnostic applications (on computers) to complicated hardware.

    We all type and talk. The question is what do you need written and spoken. The amount of waste by mediocre people who lack the expertise to do the job, and thus the awareness of what’s needed–is appalling. The technical people don’t have time to do the paperwork (accounting, billing, paying taxes, dealing with logistics). This can be done by anyone with a brain. You don’t have to pay 6 figures for someone to do this.

    Policies…another exaggerated effort done by “management”. For example in IT, you have firewalls that keep out the bad guys and allow the good guys to do the work. You can Google how to do this on a firewall, pay a consultant on how to do it, and even hire your own technical person. You don’t need a Security VP to pay big bucks to do what the technical person can. Other policies: HR (be kind and nice, show up for work, be prompt, work with others…fire the rest. You need a HR VP to figure this out? Seriously?).

    CFO aka the person in charge of the money. Why pay someone 6 figures to pay the bills and have a budget. Budgeting is about can you afford X to do Y and make a profit after paying for all the costs? Hire an accountant or accounting firm.

    The VP tier is a PARTY that makes money on the backs of others…you don’t need all these layers of $$$. Only these people will tell you that you do. Sure. I worked at a huge company that lost most of its customer base due to stupid decisions and–ignored their own technical people screaming at them their customers were leaving. Yes, that company had LAYERS of managers plus the VP layer, and all of them contributed to destroying the company. If the technical people ran the place, and had paper pushers, it would still be great.

    Thus, an authentic manager is one that follows the direction of what the technical people (the ones doing the actual work, from flipping burgers to writing technical proposals) tell them they need. They manage these needs using spreadsheets, databases, gant charts and whatever else. Incidentally, email is a horrible way to manage your business.

    • Why not lead from the front? Set up a company running the way you describe, and show everyone the proof that it is better?

      I’m not denigrating you. I agree with you. But it’s all just hot air if you are hoping someone else is going to do it.

      • > I believe we should get rid of the “management” tier entirely

        Check out valve software or the polish softwaremill (they say everyone is a CEO, rather than no CEO.) Or any other flat organisation.

        >it’s all just hot air if you are hoping someone else is going to do it.

        Others are doing it though,so Jack could just try and work for one of those companies instead.

    • @Jack: Your comments give me two good ideas.

      1. When interviewing candidates, look for those who can tell you what work they would do after you tell them what your objective is (the deliverable). If they can’t do that, don’t hire them. (BTW, the Ask The Headhunter approach to interviewing is exactly that. See

      2. A manager’s #1 (only?) jobs should be to eliminate obstacles their team faces, and to enable them to get the work done.

      Love it.

      • @Nick – AMEN to #2. My management philosophy is hire great people and remove all obstacles to success.

      • @ Nick C

        The problem is that most of us aren’t in the positions of control (management level). I’ve been told I can vote with my feet which means quit and go elsewhere. With all the offshoring of jobs and the big monopolies taking over–there’s not a lot of opportunity. It’s musical chairs at best. Making it happen pretty much looks like becoming a gangster. I’ve worked very hard my entire life and–nobody cared. Oh they loved it, but more money? Forget it. Plus your health can get in the way and then you can’t work 70 hours a week anymore.

        But for what I’m trying to say is that people as a team can manage themselves. They don’t need cops to police themselves. But we have setup these businesses to become that. People quickly become disgruntled by how they’re treated and the fact the managers make double+ and don’t do the work. So there goes the neighborhood.

        I’ve been hoping everybody would become more interested in what goes on in the world beyond what the official sources are saying. Thus regarding my comments, it’s meant to change the manager position itself from a cop to a coach, to lower the pay because frankly, you don’t need to pay that position so much–it’s emails, talking and spreadsheets. Sure there will be moaning but for all those that moan–where were you when the Free Trade Acts destroyed our manufacturing base and allowed offshore goods to be sold in America without tariffs? In the Nixon years of the early 70s, it was common practice to protect domestic businesses from cheaper offshore goods. Somehow this was turned into “protectionalism” which was bad.

        Oh no, it was much better to send 85%+ of the American manufacturing base offshore to be replaced by inferior products. It’s no longer Made in America but Delivered In America. Frankly July 4th has become an embarrassment with the lack of effort to keep America at least economically vital.

        And this isn’t a partisan thing. They’re all in on it. Today’s post is about creating an inferior organization. How about a hospital that is doing work for free, giving away services and the very expensive supplies–to those who never pay for it? Well guess what, your health insurance costs are going UP because the hospital can’t afford to give away 40% of its care.

        But this is happening due to all the free healthcare for immigrants. Forget about who or what party–do the math. Free for some means the rest will pay and that means YOU. I don’t know about you but I have had my wages cut in half from 2003 due to all this offshoring agenda. My healthcare has gone UP due to “costs”. Yet today’s Orwellian nonsense from officaldom says that there’s nothing wrong with flooding the country with people who aren’t from here.

        Do the math.

        But again, I’m talking about people talking together, in an openminded fashion, and not just repeating what they’ve been told (this leader is good, this leader is bad, all sorts of narratives to justify money spent overseas instead of in America). This isn’t complicated. We have the worst form of corruption everywhere, including these businesses where people are paid per position, not for what they personally achieve (if someone else does it for you, it doesn’t count).

        What I’m saying goes against the grain. But the direction America has gone since the 90s is straight down the tubes. Technology is more complex but so buggy it’s ridiculous. The best name in networking is making the worst code ever…more bugs than in the Everglades and I am not the only one saying this–it’s junk! That’s what all the manager tier has gotten you–bugs that should have been fixed before release.

        I could go on forever but frankly hardly anyone cares. Pass the fast food, watch TV and pretend everything is okay. Oh yes, and stay obedient…because that’s how this country was founded!

        • @Jack: My mother will often say “That’s the way it is.” – with a tone of resignation. Yet, she is a strong person – my question is, “ What can you do about this?”

          Often, you have more power to do something than you think. “How can I make this work?” is the question to ask.

          Insofar as corruption is concerned, there are many countries that have corruption far worse than the US. I may not like the current President, but at least I know I won’t go to jail for complaining – and I can call my legislators. I can also participate in jury duty when called, and vote.

          I will tell you that I can get extremely pessimistic – and I have to make sure that doesn’t happen. It’s tough for me to do.

          My group got a new boss that no one likes. I’m trying to learn to work with him. I’m also interviewing for a couple of jobs, and I’m meeting regularly with a mentor to discuss how to start a business. If I start a business, there are tax benefits. If I’m successful, I can ride that business into retirement.

        • >to lower the pay because frankly, you don’t need to pay that position so much–it’s emails, talking and spreadsheets

          Bots are getting much better at chat and emails lately,most spreadsheet data comes straight from software anyway, APIs arr exploding because they can push it straight there.

          Once the bots and AI can connect to the spreadsheet we can just hire McDonald’s fry cook to walk around with a smartphone and do the physical work.

          • Remember that someone has to pay for all this automation and high technology. If everyone is out of a job, no one can pay for the technology.

            Likewise, automation will always be at a level that is most sustainable. Enough to increase productivity, but not so much that everyone becomes unemployed.

      • @Nick: Love your 2nd point. At a job I had a couple of jobs ago, my boss constantly did the polar opposite of what you said her only (#1) job should be: she never met an obstacle or roadblock that she didn’t love and was very clever in coming up with ways to tie our hands behind our backs when it came to our work. Then she wondered why people had problems doing what she wanted. She was fond of saying that our job was to make her look good (which it was, I agree with that) but she forgot that she had a major role in helping us make her look good. You can’t make your boss look good, or even complete basic tasks, when the boss doesn’t give you the tools to do the job. She started hemorrhaging employees, as people tried their best but failed. Bosses shouldn’t set people up for failure, either, but that is what happens when the boss doesn’t know what her underlings do, why, how long it takes, etc.

        This boss was my fourth in 18 months; the first three were great, but then came the boss from hell. We had great people, but a bad boss made the place toxic and sent morale into a downward spiral. If there hadn’t been a recession, more people would have quit sooner.

        Fish rot from the head down, so if there’s problems, look at management. If this week’s LW feels that he can do this and make improvements, he’s wise to get a sense of how much support he’ll get from the Board of Directors. He can have all the great ideas in the world, but it won’t do any good if he doesn’t have the full support of the board, or if the board ties his hands behind his back, yet expects stellar results.

  16. Someone once said to me, “A smart person hires even smarter people”. When you let go of insecurities and ego because someone has a better skill set or just has finesse in an area you don’t, it’s worth it. Especially new businesses who need to make it happen to have a win for longevity.

    Great comments here.

    • @Gwen: The corollary is, don’t be afraid to hire someone and pay them more than you get paid, if they’re worth it. I’ve known few managers with the smarts to do that.

  17. Yeah if I was the writer I’d take the job. Worse case is it won’t work. But if nothing is done it will remain the same… not working. You’ve got nothing to lose, and much to gain. I don’t recall many/any cases where even the worse CEOs had a problem gaining another job

    The Board saw something they liked. Maybe they recognized the train wreck.

    But the writer should have caveats…tested and then reinforced by the one/one meetings Nick suggested.
    The Caveats are taht the Board understands and acknowledges to each other & the budding CEO, that the company is heading down the slippery slope and , agree that the person can clean house. To lead, not manage.

    This acknowledgement is important. For example I knew a S/W Dev Mgr who was asked to take over the S/w
    Dev (large) Department. He shared this with me, smiled and said, I’d like to take the job, but I won’t until they admit it’s FAILED, not until then. If I take if when it is midway to the bottom then they blame the failure on me. I’ll take it when their pants are on the floor and then I’ll fix it. (He got what he wanted & he did fix it) While the organizational size is different, same principle.

    The license to clean house is also important. Not an inference, but eye ball to eye ball assurances from Board members. Because speed is of the essence & any politics, and other personal obstacles invite failure. The CEO needs to assess, do triage and move deadwood out & new blood back in at Warp speed. Starting with going back to those A Players that left.

    Another example along these lines. I know a Project Manager who specializes in “Project Recovery” She hires on to fix failed projects..the oversimplified definition of failed is failure to deliver per schedule. She has a respectable track for success. And she accomplishes it with the mostly the same people on board when it failed. The difference is leadership. (She charges accordingly..recovery and catch up is heavy lifting.

    Some wag said “Business is akin to war” And in war leadership is what it’s all about. Change 1 person & the same troops that had their asses kicked can turn around from a terrified failing low morale mob to an ass kicking force to be reckoned with.

    Finally it’s a good opportunity. the person will have a shot at experience not the same as a start up, or definitely not the same as managing status quo. But learning to be a turnaround leader. A reputation that has a lot of street value.

  18. Read The Excellence Dividend by Tom Peters Go to Tom
    He can give you pointers on taking care of employees that will take care of your customers
    So you win.

  19. Slightly off topic. I didn’t think recruiters could get any more out of touch. But it has.

    I regularly receive text messages from recruiters as a first point of contact. No email. No phone call. Just a blurb. Hey I have this job you’d be perfect for. Text me back if you are interested.

    I don’t understand why they are so afraid to pick up the phone or even just draft an email. These are not Indian scam centers using a Voip line either. But established agencies like Robert Half, Michael Page, etc. The whole thing leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

    • @JP: A bit off topic but relevant. You’re right about this — recruiters no longer recruit. They advertise jobs by e-mail. Call it “the e-mail job board” business.

      Robert Half, Michael Page — they’re not recruiting any more. Those e-mails come from robots — does it matter whether they’re software bots or human robots?

      The recruiting industry on the whole has become a scam. Imagine being an employer and paying Robt Half a $30,000 search fee to find you job candidates via “the e-mail job board.”

      Until employers stop funding this nonsense, it’s going to continue. HR oughta be spanked.

  20. “She was fond of saying that our job was to make her look good (which it was, I agree with that) but she forgot that she had a major role in helping us make her look good.”

    There is an aspect of your job that you do not make your boss look bad (keeping s/he informed,etc) but in this case the boss has confused this with ‘making her look good’

    It is her own job to look good by making the group s/he manages as productive as possible, and, as noted above, knocking down the obstacles to success.

  21. Years ago, a wise older man, who came up through the ranks in the transportation industry, (and was terminated at age 62 after 44 years with the same employer because he didn’t have a college degree)told me “idiots hire and retain idiots”. I’m now 61, and I see exactly what he said. The old saying “sweet for sweet” plays in here too. I finally got it through my head that management is the reflection of the company and culture, and your colleagues are going to reflect said management. So the red flags I ignored in the past when interviewing (and being unemployed and desperate at such times) shows me the need for vetting employers carefully. I’ve seen this down-hiring getting more intense over the years, and vey commonplace.

  22. As others alluded to, this is very commmon, especially with large corporate clients. Basically, the “investors” of these companies aren’t doing their due diligence by demanding accountability and efficiency. That’s because the market we have now is composed almost entirely of gamblers, not actual investors in the true sense of the word. When was the last time you heard of an “investor” of a company actually redeeming his shares directly from the company, itself? The answer: Only when the company is bankrupt…which is too later in most cases.

    And yet ironically, it’s going to take mass bankruptcy to finally rout all this corruption. Not to be political, but as long as the FED continues to bail out the corp giants, the hiring corruption will continue. Hence, when you have a sham financial system, you will inevitably get sham hiring.

    If there was any advice I could offer, it would be to avoid the corps as much as possible and focus on smaller businesses (who are becoming harder to find these days). Above all, don’t be afraid to network with other similar professionals to yourself, even if they’re nowhere near management status. We have to rise up above this collective high-school popularity-fakeness and embrace true relationships if we are to conquer the times ahead.