Thursday, March 12, 2009

Indifferent Promotion

I have worked for my current... well... what should I call it?

I hesitate to say company, since it has been several companies over my time here.

Product group maybe? That is as good as anything I guess.

I've worked with the same product group for well over a decade now, through various ups and downs, acquisitions and mergers.

I came on as an individual contributor, but in two and a half years I ended up as a manager with my own group.

And there I have stayed.

At points, staying in the same spot has seemed like a good thing. I seemed to survive layoff after layoff during the bursting of the first tech bubble. I got through reorganizations and the inevitable trimming of surplus people after acquisitions. I've made it through bad times.

On the other hand, when times have been... better... I have stayed put. Meanwhile, anybody brought in or promoted to management seemed to go straight to Senior Manager. Often these were people with considerably less experience, direct reports, or responsibilities.

I began to ask my boss about how I could get promoted to senior manager. Time and time again he agreed that people who were being given Senior Manager titles did not deserve them as much as I did. But nothing happened.

Some years we were at a company where promotion beyond manager required the approval of a committee, some of the members of which no longer worked for the company, making it hard to get a quorum.

At other times HR said I was not being paid enough to be promoted to Senior Manager, and since those were generally times when we were giving out 2% raises, getting there seemed a long way off.

And at some times it was just better to keep my head down, since everything looked like it was going to change the next day, and not necessarily in a good way.

Eventually we were bought up by what I would call a "real" company, a big company with where rules were not quite so ad hoc. I thought this would be a good thing.

In many ways it was not. Rules went from ad hoc to Byzantine. My connection with the company felt a lot more tenuous; I went from being in a meeting with the CEO once a week to being so many jumps from the CEO on the org chart that I have never seen him in person, I have seen one of his direct reports once, and I don't see or talk to anybody on a regular basis who actually works at corporate HQ. And I found out that big companies have crap benefits for the rank and file because, as I was told, "They can."

Still, one thing worked out my way.

In my position, with my responsibilities, I was required to have access to a specific internal email distribution list.

However, the rules for that list required that an employee must be at least level M1. I was only level L3.

My boss (an N2) tried for some time to get this fixed. Not having access to this list was impacting my work. However, IT was adamant that the rules for this distribution list were set in stone and they would not allow exceptions.

He went to his boss (an O3), who also tried to get the issue resolved. Eventually he came back to my boss and told him that he just made me an M1, since that was easier than working with IT.

M1 is, of course, the level of a Senior Manager.

So my boss called me into his office and gave me the news. I had been promoted to M1 so I could access an email distribution list.

I had to laugh.

My wife seemed less amused when I told her.

I explained to her that I had cracked the system! I explained that there was nowhere to go but up from here! I explained that my next promotion was assured!

All I have to do is find the right email distribution list and make the case that I need access to it. The rest is just details.

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