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Published:August 12th, 2007 10:03 EST
Pushed Over but Not Knocked Out!

Pushed Over but Not Knocked Out!

By Simon Bailey (Mentor/Columnist)

I had dinner with a business colleague not too long ago, and she shared with me some fascinating stories about several of her colleagues. It seems these individuals had recently been “reorganizedâ€" in the organization. In her words, they were “remoted instead of promoted or demoted.â€" I practically screamed out loud the moment she said it. The light bulb went off in my head, and I said, “I have to write about this because I can so relate!â€"

When you are remoted, you’re offered a lateral move in the organization. Instead of pushing you out, they push you aside. In effect, you’re put out to pasture. How does one get remoted? I’m sure there are countless scenarios, but let me share three that I’m personally familiar with.

The first is what I call The Good Soul. This is the individual who is a solid performer and loyal employee – a “lifer.â€" However, new leadership comes aboard and, having no prior knowledge of the sweat equity given by this person, decides he or she isn’t a right fit. I remember a co-worker at one of my former employers. When I was promoted, the organization gave this guy my old job. But his new boss, the senior vice president, didn’t like him. He probably had the skills for the job, but the VP thought he was unpolished, a bit frumpy. He just didn’t fit the bill for what this VP had in mind. So, they remoted him to a different position working on “special projects.â€" Say it with me friends, “Uh huh.â€"

The next scenario is The A-Level Pain. This involves individuals who were once the darlings of the organization, a-level players who could do no wrong. They were high flying, well-respected key influencers who had the ear of upper management and could get things done. However, somewhere along the way, they fell out of grace. Perhaps they made a costly mistake or embarrassing political blunder. When I think of this scenario, “T.O.â€" comes to mind. In the beginning, Terrell Owens was one of the stars of the Philadelphia Eagles football team. But eventually, his antics and attitude off the field overshadowed his tremendous performance on the field, and he was traded (read remoted) to the Dallas Cowboys.

And finally, there’s what I call The Barnacle. In this scenario, the individual is almost the opposite of the a-level pain. This individual is typically not a good performer, often failing to achieve quotas, goals and deadlines. And yet, the organization keeps him or her on the payroll. Over time, as the poor performance continues, it becomes painfully apparent to virtually everyone that this employee either knows where several bodies are buried in the corporate graveyard or has a very good friend somewhere in top management. Otherwise, how could this employee with such dismal performance still be employed? When the situation eventually blows up, the individual is quietly sent off to some distant part of the organization. Case in point: the athletic director of a small university. He wasn’t even a b-level player. He didn’t have the right skills for the job and often made crucial mistakes in forming teams, scheduling, communicating with other schools, etc. And yet, year after year, his contract was renewed. Finally, he made such an egregious error that his performance could no longer be ignored. But instead of firing him, he became a “permanent guest professor,â€" filling in for other professors on vacation or out sick. Rumor has it that he and the head of the university go way back.

No matter the specific details, the common element in every remotion situation is that leadership, for whatever reason, can’t fire the employees in question. Maybe the individuals have done nothing wrong – they simply have a personality conflict with their managers or they weren’t the right fit. Or perhaps organizations fear lawsuits from terminated employees who have received nothing but “Meets Expectationsâ€" or “Exceeds Expectationsâ€" on performance reviews.

As far as organizations are concerned, the only real solution is to move these individuals someplace where they can do no damage. So, they are passed around the company. Over the years, their names keep moving in the org chart from right to left and left to right.

I know that most of you work in perfect organizations where these types of shenanigans and concocted situations never happen (smile…wink, wink), so perhaps I’m way off in left field. However, my purpose here is to inform and inspire (breathe life into) those who believe they have been remoted.

What qualifies me to speak on this topic? In my 20-year professional journey through six different companies, it happened to me. Yes, my friends, I was remoted, and I didn’t even realize it. I made a public relations mistake that turned into a political faux pas. The next thing I knew, I went from an office with a window and having an assistant to a cubicle and no assistant. The organization deftly took away my team and asked me to head up a special project – are you ready for this – to open an office in another city! Talk about being remoted! Ha!

Meanwhile, everyone around me was smiling as if everything was just fine. When I discovered the truth behind the move, I was enraged. You’d think someone could have pulled a brother aside and whispered a little something in my ear! Now, I can laugh about it because I know that being remoted was the catalyst that propelled me to leave the company and start my business on my own terms.

Have you ever been remoted? Have you ever had a sit-down with your boss and HR where they tell you about this great new position in the organization that’s a perfect match with your skills and talents? They assure you this new role will be a “great opportunityâ€" for you, much more so than your current position. It’s almost as if a meeting took place about you and your career and certain decisions were made. The only problem is that you weren’t invited to the meeting!

Now, let me clearly say this: not every lateral move is a remotion. Once again, not every lateral move is a remotion. Some moves within an organization truly are wonderful opportunities for you to learn new skills, gain exposure to leadership and connect more dots in your career path. The problem is that you often don’t know if you’ve been remoted until you get into the job (and on occasion, you may never know). Why? Because chances are, as far as you know, you’ve been doing fine. There are too many non-communicative managers out there who won’t sit down with their employees, put the truth on the table and tell them that they need to address some issues. Or, there are great leaders who are not allowed by their organizations to give employees crucial feedback in the form of negative performance appraisals.

If you think you might have been remoted or may be remoted in the near future, take some advice from someone who’s been there:

  1. Keep your head up. The first sign leadership looks for when they’re considering remoting you is your attitude. Are you engaged? Are you now non-participatory when in the past you were always the first to raise your hand? I know the wind has been taken out of your sail, however be proud and put some pep back in your step.

  2. Keep your nose clean. Use company assets and resources for business purposes only. If you need to surf the web for a job, do it on your own time away from the office. Stay out of the office gossip and far away from the rumor mill. You don’t ever want your name mentioned in a negative light, giving someone an opportunity to throw you under the bus.

  3. Forgo taking mental health days. I know you have sick time available and that you all of a sudden feel the need to take off. You’re not sick; you’re stressed out about the state of your job. I understand that. However, pull yourself together and stick it out at the office.

  4. Reinvent yourself. Perhaps it’s time for an extreme professional makeover. A successful makeover first begins on the inside and is then manifested on the outside. Start with the one key thing you could do that would make you more marketable and go from there.

  5. Reconnect with those who know you best. There are people in your organization that “get you.â€" Take them to lunch and ask for an honest assessment of your career and your “stockâ€" in the organization. There are many employees who have a “holdâ€" sign around their necks, so to speak – the company isn’t buying more of their stock. Others are high-potential employees who are designated with a “buyâ€" sign. Then there are those who have a “sellâ€" sign around their necks, and it would probably behoove them to find their happiness elsewhere. Which type of sign is hanging around your neck?

  6. Invest in your education. Are you behind the times with respect to your skills and abilities? Get current – and do it quickly – by taking some night courses at your local college or attending some professional development seminars. Learn everything you can about your company. Position yourself to be indispensable by cross-pollinating – finding out what’s happening in other departments and what value you can bring to those departments.

If, after some time in your new position, you put two and two together and determine that you were in fact pushed aside, you have two choices. One is to stay at the company and rebuild your image and your reputation by putting your head down and working hard.

The other option is to leave. If you’re certain this remotion is not in your long-term best interest and that it deflates your career balloon, then leave quietly. The honest truth is that not every situation is racially, gender, culturally or age biased. Kicking up a bunch of dust, making a ruckus, and crying racism, sexism, or whatever type of “ismâ€" you can think of doesn’t help anyone – including you – at the end of the day. On the other hand, if you truly have been wronged by the company, seek the advice of a lawyer before you run into Human Resources to “moonâ€" them on your way out the door.

My friends, I speak from experience when I say that, in the long run, remotion is a blessing not a curse. It all depends on how you choose to see it and use it.

Simon Believes…A remotion is an opportunity to step up and grow.