Friday, March 7, 2008

The Glass Ceiling

Well - I haven't been online much this week - I had the worst flu I've had in quite some time. I missed two days (in a row) of work, which is almost unheard of for me.

My work philosophy of late has been to try and understand why things happen as they do. Instead of expecting things to make sense, the right people to get promoted, etc. - I'm trying to understand why certain people remain in control. What is it about them that makes their performance acceptable.

I don't want to write too much, in case at some point this ends up on someone's desk (like dooce).

Just that my attempt is to look at things as an opportunity for learning.

From Scott Adams' Dilbert:
Dogbert: If you give a man a fish he will eat for a day.
But if you teach a man to fish he will buy an ugly hat.
And if you talk about fish to a starving man then you are a consultant.

My department/company has needed to make changes for the past six years (as long as I've worked there). Most of us knew/know what needed to be changed. But - they've hired an outside consultant, who knows how to make pretty graphs (and sell everything to upper management) - and now the changes are being made.

What I'm learning from this? Many managers won't/can't listen to their own employees' suggestions - and even if they do, they can't sell those suggestions to upper management. This may just be related to certain management styles.

New Employees Get the Offices

From another well established place I worked some time ago, some co-workers mentioned that the best thing to do was to leave the company and come back. They gave two or three examples of people who left for a year, returned, asked for (and received) 10% + raises. Working year to year, that much of a raise was highly unlikely.

My past three managers have worked in cubicles like my own. They all had management experience. They had around 5 - 10 direct reports. They worked lots of overtime (it was a thankless position, one I was NOT interested in). They were sandwiched between unreasonable demands from management and their own employees (not me!). Anyway, they all left - either transferred or left the company. Although they all joked about moving to an office, offices were requested and never received.

Their replacement just got moved to an office this week.

For some large companies, the politics of offices are notorious. The only reasoning I could come up with was - two of the prior managers had been promoted from within - and they were both women. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think it was simply a black and white discrimination issue (by any means).

But all these factors blend subtlety together. And the new manager (luckily, not my manager) on the first day made it clear that when he hired on, he expected to have an office - not a cubicle. I think he also has business cards (again, another "sign" of authority) - although he's only worked for the company since January.

Strings were pulled - and he got his office.

I do work in a company where there are quite a few women in management. I just have been watching this office situation with interest - as an opportunity for learning.

Do I think that sometimes women can be as forceful - but at what price?

If I were to hire into a new company, and in my interviews demand an office, and throw a fit when I didn't get one (he didn't throw a fit, just made it clear that a cube wasn't acceptable), what would that say about me? Is there a difference in how women and men are perceived in such situations?

I would say, emphatically, yes.


Freckle Face Girl said...

I think you are very right about there probably being 2 issues: 1- companies usually take their current employees for granted
2- people think that ask for things to gain respect while women ask for things because they are needy.

I believe that a certain amount of job hopping helps with climbing the career ladder. Negotiating what you want prior to being hired is the best way to get the office, "better" title, & a higher salary. Unfortunately, new employees are always more exciting than promoting within. People just get used to thinking of someone in a position and can't imagine them moving up.

Freckle Face Girl said...

Sorry - #2 was supposed to say:
people think that men ask for things to gain respect, while women ask for things because they are needy. **not fair**

Aerin said...

FFG - It's true! I agree with all your statements. And sadly, I agree with the statement about men and gaining respect. It's sad that the world is still this way.

Anonymous said...

I remember the cube farms when I was an employee. Cubes are a terrible assault on us introverts. I went from pretty much having my own office to having to be in a cube farm after a reorganization and my team ended up in a different department.

Offices in the new department were very political. I was the only female engineer in the new department and most of the men were very chauvinistic. The director was not subtle about being displeased to have a female engineer thrust upon him.

I was very proactive and taught my team to be likewise. We averted and avoided many disasters in the specific area I was in charge of by staying on top of things and prepared. Director would never give me nor my team any recognition or credit whatsoever. He would have the audacity to tell us that we were just lucky.

However, some other guy has a big blow up because he was too lazy to consistently apply standard security measures and the director gives him a commendation for staying up all night to fix the disaster he created. It was absolutely ridiculous. It was a horrible environment, the director had some issues and didn't want anyone else to know as much as he did, so he would pigeon-hole everyone. Try to branch out and he would freak out. Really starts to affect the psyche after a while. Leaving was probably the best thing I ever did in my work life.