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Jobs for old managers?

How Contractors Can Successfully Manage from the Outside

Source: Knowledge@Wharton
By Staff

old managersWharton management professor Peter Cappelli ran into a former student who noticed an increasing number of managers being hired on contract. These weren’t consultants or people angling for full-time work, but contractors who were being handed over control of company employees to execute a project or tackle a problem.

Despite being outsiders with no personal connections or networks, these contractor-managers were doing a terrific job. “They don’t have anything to gain by taking credit from you,” Cappelli said. “You can trust them much more than you can trust your own boss by revealing problems. They’re not going to punish you for that, but do you trust your own manager not to do that?”

If contractor-managers don’t want any credit, and they aren’t interested in getting their foot in the door at a company, what’s really in it for them? Cappelli explained that most of them are retired or in the late stage of their careers, they have amassed a certain amount of knowledge, and they want the flexibility that comes with being an independent contractor.

“It’s an interesting self-selection,” he said. “They are people who aren’t necessarily young and hungry, not desperate for work. What they appreciate is the ability to have some choice over what they do and how they do it.”


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Nick’s take

Peter Cappelli’s survey reveals that outsiders can be the best managers at a company. More important: An uptick in contract management jobs may be a boon for retired (older!) managers who still want to work. Cappelli also points out the gotchas in such jobs. But if I were a retired manager or an unemployed manager of any age, I’d be looking at consulting firms that fill such jobs. Cappelli names one in the article.

What’s your take? First, can an “outsider” manager really pull off what insiders can’t? To my point, could this be a good career channel for unemployed managers — especially retired ones?



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  1. I base a lot on experience and observation.
    I’ve seen this scenario play out in two different ways with outside managers hired on a consulting or contractual basis-
    1. In a few rare cases, the individual has integrity, and gives a good faith effort, and views it as what is the “greatest good for the greatest number of people”.
    2. Mostly, it’s been slags, dolts, and donut dunkers who bilk said employers, do nothing, blow smoke, and draw a paycheck.
    Scenario 1. My current employer hired an ex CEO from my former employer, my current employer’s competitor, to act as a consultant and outsider manager. I knew the guy, and I watched him eliminate the dead wood employees, including managers. To his credit, and knowing him, the guy got me out of a rut, and got me a raise (I’ll never see another one now). But after a year, he told my employer that my employer’s son did not have the chops for the job, and there was no more that he could do for my employer, and he resigned (sadly).
    Scenario 2. My current employer brought in an outsider manager and bean counter who’s a chain smoker, and takes upwards of 15 smoke breaks daily. Employees pull all sorts of shenanigans, and they go unchecked. Things fall through the cracks at every turn. I see little to no added value, personally. Said individual in this example is now a regular full-time employee.
    They get their panties in a twist on here, but that’s reality.

  2. Ever read “Dangerous Company”?

    Shows how many “consultants” ruin companies while collecting MILLIONS in fees.

    • @ Chris-I’ll grab a copy of “Dangerous Company” and read it. Thanks for the heads up.
      Your words are spot on correct, and calls out what a scam a lot of this consulting shingle hanging is.

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