OOPS! They Changed Your Boss Again?

OOPS! They Changed Your Boss Again?

800 371 Kamal Karanth

We all know that people do get frustrated with their bosses and leave. But my recent insight has been that more than the boss and his behavior, the changing of the boss is also disruptive. Oh! Yes the musical chair game with bosses comes via an intervention called ‘structural change’. Many organisations are in the habit of restructuring where people are shuffled around in the name of better alignment or customer focus. No wonder the ‘boss’ keeps changing frequently for few of us.

This is a new dimension to employee demotivation. If issues like remuneration, role, boss, promotions weren’t already distracting enough, we add this angle called ‘change in structure’ to complete the chaos. The famous politically correct motive for any job change is to say at the interview that there is a re-structure occurring in the organisation forcing change. Most interviewers like that answer as it resonates with them. But the interviewer forgets that the person who couldn’t adapt to the change in a familiar culture is now promising to align within a new one.

We all know what happens in any structural change. The weak lose and the influential win to get the seemingly good looking roles. Good looking roles can have ingredients like who you report to, fancy designations and the size of your new army (span of control). Last week one of my friends gave me a stressed call which related to his relegation to a role less that what he was expecting. When delving into the details, I realised that he was now reporting to the SVP instead of the CEO, although his designation, pay and scope hadn’t changed much. The boss had changed 🙂 There you go!

I’m sure you get to hear as much as I do about structural changes . Some organisations change almost every year. I reckon structural changes happen for the following reasons:

  • Merger or acquisition 🙂
  • New CEO/ sales head joining from outside (they have to show something is broken)
  • Market crash, so cut the losses
  • Expansion of business (the only good reason for structural change)
  • Underperforming businesses

In some of the cases above, the trigger is not external and so begs a question as to why the new structure should work. The same internal factors of wrong personnel appointed, poor staff morale, and inefficient processes may come to haunt the new structure as well.

Let’s plot the good vs the bad of this restructuring game:

The Good:

  • New energized team to execute new ideas/products
  • Reacting to the market conditions faster
  • Right personal in right roles (correction)
  • Weeding out non performers by rendering them useless

The Bad:

  • Will demotivate the staff who did not gain in this change
  • Actually any new team takes longer time to perform
  • Why wait to create a need a new structure for that
  • Creates more toxicity and anxiety amongst remaining staff

The explanations around restructuring is also funny, leaders tend to give long lectures starting from Darwin’s theory to Apple about changing to survive/excel. I believe many of these changes are initiated to buy more time from key stakeholders and to prove that they have addressed non-performance. Sometimes the structure change is to align with global structures. How can any structure which works in one country work in an another just because it’s the same organisation? After all the people, culture, and inherent market conditions are all completely different.

The classic structural change argument I still cannot understand is the geography vs vertical. Some of the organisations during ‘spring’ tend to align their structure based on the product or services ignoring geographical boundaries. As soon as the key influencer who insisted on that self-serving idea quits they align the structure back to geography with the argument that it aligns better with the customer. All the people who did not make friends with the geography head during the previous structure end up quitting though they might be doing the same job in the so called new alignment.

But I have to admit that structural changes are important to bring necessary alignments in the organisation, but any change has to be thought through, take key people getting affected into confidence, and give it some time to fructify before making judgements and further changes.

I am no ‘holy cow’ in terms of restructuring either. I have had my fair share of brainwaves on new structures. I recall some of my managers asking me every October with a grin, “Kamal, what’s changing next year?”. They had concluded that that was my only innovation capability.

The last time I made a structural change, hardly anyone in my team were ready to pose in the right direction, like you most look away when it’s too frequent!

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