21st Sep 2011

Respect? Some jobs are thankless..

On a recent assignment we engaged with Joan, the new Marketing Director at a mid-sized software company. Joan found the initial weeks extremely tough as it became apparent that the marketing department had a low pro?le and poor reputation within the business. 

In her opening session with First100, she asked ‘how can a marketing team have a low pro?le?’. Clearly her predecessor had not set the world alight, but the issue ran deeper than this. For over ten years the company had been run by ‘sales guys’. Marketing was considered only as an afterthought, which staffing and resourcing reflected. The result was that talented marketers moved on, and quickly.

Fortunately, Joan has the force of personality and the flexibility to tackle this problem head on. But there are companies, and even industries, where whole departments are treated with thinly veiled contempt. For example HR professionals working in Higher Education have a particularly hard time. Academics are loathe to engage in many HR initiatives, and many believe they can operate outside the con?nes of employment law.

So, what does it take to thrive in hostile conditions?

Apart from the obvious thick skin and tenacity, a willingness to engage is important. However, the capacity to accept the limitations of your situation is even more crucial.

One HR Director at a prominent UK university told us that her team had to accept that at best, they would only ever be seen as partners to the business.  Their lot is to be perceived as a necessary evil: box tickers if you will. This is not to say that hostility towards HR professionals is restricted to the higher education sector. At present, we are working with the new Talent Director at a well established pharmaceutical company who is withstanding similar hostility.

Bob had been headhunted from a rival company, and all the way through the recruitment process had been promised large budgets and the remit to make signi?cant changes to the company’s talent operations.

However, when he met the CEO in his first week, Bob was informed that  there had been a revolving door of candidates who had failed in this role. The CEO also made it apparent that the organisation would work just as well with no-one in the role, and that he would have been happy to leave the position vacant. Hardly a ringing endorsement at the start of your appointment!

Bob has had to work extremely hard to convince the CEO that a coherent talent strategy is both desirable and necessary. He has had to use his social intelligence shrewdly, in order to win over a very sceptical CEO and illustrate the bene?t of developing a strong internal talent pool.

Hey, that's my Idea!

Bob has been successful. So much so, that when he recently attended a meeting of the leadership team, he became aware that many of the recommendations he had shared with the CEO, were now being trumpeted as the latter’s own initiatives.

This demonstrates that even if you have managed to win respect, it is dangerous to assume that you will receive credit for your ideas. Unfortunately, unscrupulous people abound in the workplace.

Roll with the Punches

Parting words of advice: the next time you feel disrespected in the workplace, remember to separate the ‘personal’ from the ‘functional’. Whether you operate in ?nance, sales, marketing, or HR, there will be people in your organisation who neither understand nor respect what you do. It is not always about you as an individual…and even if it is, try and put it behind you and move on!

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