Someone’s been Reading The “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives

Could it actually be true? I’ll refer you to the chapters titled Salary Norming and Ration that Pesky Vacation (posts dated March 22 and August 3, 2007 respectively and categorized under The “Double Secret” handbook). In fact, check out all of the other chapters if you’d like. This is a classic. It probably encompasses the entire handbook including the chapters I haven’t even written yet!

The holidays are right around the corner and our division’s designated paid holidays are listed as December 24 thru December 28. These five paid holidays for 2007 were published back in late 2006. As has been customary for several years, our office is to be closed. Managers and employees alike have made plans well in advance of December. Perhaps some holiday travel to visit relatives or a short mini-vacation. It really doesn’t matter. Other than in polite conversations, no one even bothers to ask anyone what they will be doing. These are paid holidays after all and people have just gone about making plans around them. Some employees (yours truly included) still have unused accrued vacation time coming. Perhaps some have even scheduled it now to extend their holiday time off. Of course carryovers to 2008 are prohibited by company policy. What could the Scrooge’s at corporate headquarters have dreamt up this time? You guessed it, a top-secret initiative that only now on December 5 is being trickled down to only a few select division managers on a “need to know” basis only. Although it affects the entire division, the initiative is so sensitive that it must remain confidential right up until the transaction is complete. If you’ve kept up with my weekly posts, you might guess what that transaction is as well as its timing. I guessed it two month’s ago. Our division is being sold and the closing date is set for December 31.

The conundrum facing our corporate honchos is that a tremendous amount of work must now be completed at the division level and in very short order to facilitate the transaction. But who is to do it? No one will be around and virtually no one knows what’s going on. To top it off, most if not all will view the initiative negatively or, at a minimum, with a huge amount of anxiety. How can they get all of this work done? If the tactics that I’ve seen employed so far are any indication of an overall strategy or plan, I’d say that there is none – just another typical knee-jerk, last minute reaction.

When given the abbreviated and details free official “word” last week by my corporate level “matrix” superior, my first question was, “What will happen to us – the managers and employees of the division?” At first, there was no response. I was given lists of information requests with a very aggressive timetable for completion. I then pressed the issue again but this time for some insight into how the transaction would affect me personally. The only response I received was that I would be part of it. Get it? No other details would be forthcoming until the transaction was complete. Those details would be in the hands of the other party to the transaction. That was really comforting. I could not believe this cavalier and matter-of-fact attitude about the whole thing. What in the world is about to happen to us?

After scanning the timetable, I reminded the official of the upcoming holiday schedule and the lack of time. The tone of his response implied that I was part of the corporation’s management team and expected to act in a professional manner. There were deadlines to meet. If that meant working through the holidays and foregoing time off, then so be it. I then attempted a dialog with the chap to determine exactly what, if anything was in this for me. I could already imagine what was in it for him. His position the corporation was unaffected and he might even qualify for a nice bonus for pulling this off on schedule. Would I somehow be compensated for any of my lost vacation or holiday time? These were company paid benefits after all. I was subtly reminded that I was already a well-paid middle manager and that part of my compensation included going above and beyond for the corporation. I guess I could have retorted by asking exactly which corporation I was to go above and beyond for. I then stated that I would accomplish whatever I could within the “working days” that were left.

Shortly thereafter, I was asked if I would travel to one of our sister division sites to oversee the completion of some business affecting our division. This business has to be closed out before the date of the transaction. The travel would involve having to begin the trip either extremely early on December 26 or even late on Christmas day and leave me out of town for the remainder of the week. You see the other division is on a different holiday schedule and their offices would be open during that time. I was told that I was a “key” resource and that my sacrifice would be greatly appreciated. I asked if my “sacrifice” would be somehow rewarded monetarily. When I received no reaction, I declined the request. I already have plans.

Yesterday, super-secret teams were assembled consisting of the “selected” division managers and support staff from headquarters and other company shared services groups. The teams were given assignments to support our division’s “transition.” Everyone was sworn to secrecy. The aggressive schedules received very negative reactions from some corporate and shared service team members. You see they have plans for the holiday period as well. To placate the growing hostility, I’m sure that those team members were guaranteed that any planned unused vacation time could be held over to 2008 and that they would receive compensatory time off for any designated holidays worked. God knows whatever else they might have been promised. There was a lot of politicking going on. I again asked about what arrangements were being made for us division employees who were in the same boat but had no one to bargain with. The corporate level “matrix” executive assembling the teams seemed puzzled. He had neither thought of that nor received any instructions about it. He guessed that we were on our own and would get more information after the transaction was complete and details were announced. How inspiring.

So now, as we “selected” division managers determine the resources necessary to support this “transition”, it seems that we’re going to need the help of certain members of our staffs. How do we do that? I went back to my corporate level “matrix” superior and asked for some guidance. The response was to use a cover story that would justify a request for staff members to change their personal schedules and/or work on the division designated holidays if necessary. We are to avoid letting out the secret at all costs. That’s fine. What about their foregone vacation days and holidays? They’ll be sure to ask. My superior was silent. “I don’t know,” he finally responded. “Well don’t you think we should find out?” I blurted. I have yet to receive a reply.

For a corporation with so many SR Vice Presidents, Vice Presidents and Directors of Human Resources, one would think that a detailed plan had been formulated to cover these contingencies. The devil is always in the details but those details are always the province of us middle management types. Yet, we have no authority or even enough information to make commitments to our staffs. Just make it happen. That’s right.

Ever wonder from where I get the material for the handbook? Look no further. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

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