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Big Boss Week 3: Working for the Big Boss June 3, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Big Boss, Economic Downturn, Experiences.
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Part 3 of “Big Boss Week” on CorporateSpeak.

One of the easiest places for companies to make cuts is in middle management. Who needs a preproduction manager when your four preproduction specialists can report to the production manager? Who needs a local operations manager when everyone can just report to the district operations supervisor? Who needs a webmaster when the site is pretty much handled by the director of content development and the webmaster is just a figurehead toward the end*?

I work in a cubicle. No one knows who for, or where. I like it that way. (Photo by Tim Patterson)

I work in a cubicle. No one knows who for, or where. I like it that way. (Photo by Tim Patterson)

With big legacy departments like production, sales, and IT, multiple layers of management exist because the departments have been around long enough to amass middle management — usually people who get good at their jobs and get promotions because it’s cheaper than giving them bigger raises. But when it comes to new departments like web development**, there’s often just the peons, the webmaster, and the Big Boss. It probably started with someone in the art department hiring a web designer, and when the web suddenly became more important than anyone expected, that designer got promoted, got his or her own staff, and reported directly to the Big Boss so the Big Boss could demonstrate how important the web was to the company***.

But because no one really understands the web except “those techie guys who fix my computer when I download viruses from Napster”, no one bothers to build layers of management. It remains the peons, the webmaster, and the Big Boss.

Then the webmaster gets laid off, and the web department is slashed to just one person… who has no idea who his boss is****. I mean, sure, the Big Boss is the boss, and that’s the name on the checks, but who do I go to for all the administrative stuff my boss used to do? Who keeps track of my vacation days? Who schedules people to cover for me? Who do I talk to when I have a problem? Certainly not the Big Boss; the reason the Big Boss has the big office upstairs is to remain insulated from peons like me.

The hardest part of working directly for the Big Boss is answering questions like the ones in the previous paragraph. Often when a big company drops the axe, they don’t think about how it’s going to affect anything other than the bottom line. They leave it to the individual offices to figure that stuff out.

My office still hasn’t figured it out. I currently work directly for the Big Boss. Pretty much that only means two things:

  1. Don’t draw attention. The last thing I want is for the Big Boss to notice me. I just need to keep my head down, complete whatever projects are assigned to me, and not screw up.
  2. Don’t ask questions. If I ask too many questions about who I work for, odds are good I’ll get an answer I don’t like. Right now I just sit at my desk in the cubicle farm just off the production floor. I keep doing my job, and the checks keep coming in. Why buck the trend?

Of course, as you’ll see in tomorrow’s post, sometimes the Big Boss finds you.

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* I’m not bitter about how my boss has been treated by others in the company. No. Not at all.

** Which I’m writing about because it’s what I know, being a web developer/designer. But I’m sure you’ll still benefit from the example.

*** Often actually refusing to spend money or make forays out into new technologies like social networking until it’s too late. As That Guy said in the 1980s episode of “Futurama”, “it’s all… about… appearances.”

**** Yes, this has happened to me.

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