Being the Right Fit in Face of the Reorganization
28 August, 2020
I had a senior person reporting to me who loved the company and most of the work, but there was an evident misfit between their role and what they wanted to do. We were just in the preliminary stages of the announced reorganization, but I had to, nevertheless, take any prospective changes into account.
After our initial conversation, I realized that there was a professional development gap -- they were doing their work but this was not what they wanted and where their heart was. I understood too well that this may result in resentment that builds frustration and that his performance could become variable since his motivation was oscillating.
We had an open conversation during which I underlined two aspects of the problem that we should be looking at:
a. What that person wanted to do -- I would have them make an inventory of things they would want to work on independent of what the organization needs. This would be a sketch for an ideal role that the person would be excited about.
b. What the organization needs -- I would make a list of what the organization needs short- and long-term. Then I proposed to have a conversation juxtaposing those two lists looking for overlap. Once we would start matching those, we could identify what were the real opportunities that could fit this person. It took some back-and-forth fine-tuning but toward the end of the conversation, we had a well-defined role proposal that might either make a person really excited about or help them understand that it didn’t align with their career goals.
Instead of firing people who are no longer the right fit or doing anything that would undermine them, have an open conversation, and offer them to consider the existing opportunities. A person may accept what is being offered, but also may decline; if they make sure that they will have an appropriate transition.
This approach allows both signals to be conveyed and that there is no conflation around what is the right fit for the organization and what is good for that person. In this particular case, the upcoming reorganization initiated many of those conversations, and the one-on-ones with this person were part of a broader reorganization planning and discussions and dovetailed with those efforts.
In the end, this person decided that they wanted to do more of DevOps and infrastructure work and that didn’t fit into our plans.
- People should be given space to reflect on what they really want. Oftentimes, they lack space to dig deep and see what is that they really want, let alone communicate that to other people. Don’t assume you know what people want. Instead, give them space that will allow them to share that and also refrain from projecting your desires and expectations on other people.
- People will often claim how they love to do whatever is needed to be done, but once you dig deeper you will realize that’s not the case. But they will not be able to articulate that without having space to do that.
- The reward of matching what a person wants to do and what the company needs is enormous. If you are ignoring it, you are doing a great disservice to both your company and that person. Avoiding that conversation would be costly for both sides.
- Don’t oversell the opportunities. Be realistic and honest, don’t reorganize things around someone by creating a one-off role that is doomed to be short-lived. Also, don’t overextend people to do things that are beyond their capacities at that time in their career.
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