Q. I have spent 25 years with my employer and over the years have been given increased responsibilities.
I have worked hard to develop my subordinates. Now the people reporting directly to me have developed to the point where they are fully capable of running their own departments with little or no supervision.
However, the company is in trouble. It is not going out of business, but we do need to cut expenses in the worst way.
Here is where it gets interesting: I believe my job could be eliminated.
My four subordinates could report directly to my boss -- he has only four people reporting to him now, so span of control would not be an issue.
The efficiency of our department would actually improve because of the reduction in the time it takes for him to communicate his needs and priorities to my people through me.
My problem is that I am three years from retirement.
I am also three years from having some investments mature that would be needed to supplement my retirement pension. So I need to work a while yet.
I think my boss would see the viability of my proposal if I suggested it to him, but he isn't likely to think of it himself.
What should I do? Should I bring it to his attention -- at the benefit of the company but against my own interest? Or should I just lie low for three years?
A.As an employee-manager, you clearly know what is right. At the same time, nobody can expect you to quit and forfeit your own retirement pay to save your company money.
If your company has an early retirement plan that would pay most of your retirement benefits, that could help you reconcile the two conflicting needs.
If that is the case, tell your boss to help you with a soft landing in return for your help in reorganizing your department in such a way that it will save your company money.
If the company doesn't have such a plan, I can't urge you to walk out on a financial high wire on your own volition.
Q. I work for the Department of Defense in a fairly high position. I have a boss who conducts herself in a very unprofessional manner.
She berates employees in front of co-workers and, at her best, is very condescending to everyone she works with.
She has four people working for her; two of these she chose herself. These two she doesn't treat in this manner.
Her manager not only doesn't do anything about her conduct but even frowns upon employees who complain about her.
Besides leaving, what can I do about her conduct?
A. Push back. You get paid for your work, not for taking abuse.
The next time your boss acts in a manner that offends you, stop her right then and there and tell her that if she wants to continue to conduct business, she must act businesslike.
Do this in a normal conversational voice, neither lowering your voice nor raising it.
Remember: Bullies thrive on cowards.
Q. Last December, I was asked to accept a buyout at a local utility company. I was a manager there, with 15 years of service.
Since then, I have sent out three to four re'sume's a week on average.
All I have had back is a handful of responses telling me that they would keep my re'sume' on file.
Just to keep myself busy, I've accepted a job as a salesperson at a department store, making $6 per hour.
But this won't do: I am 41 years old and have four children.
I have gone to employment agencies with no luck there, either.
I have had professionals look over my re'sume' -- this brought no great insights either, except that they think that I may look overqualified for most jobs.
I am willing to start much lower than what I made at my previous job -- I have a good 20-plus years of work in me and a lot of good experience.
But how do I get a start?
A. Both of you suffer from not fitting the mold that the people who evaluate you expect you to fit:
"A re-entry woman is supposed to start as a clerk," "A fresh MBA is supposed to be in his or her twenties," and nobody knows what to do with a seasoned middle manager who is willing to work for much less than he or she made at the utility company.
What's happening to you is common to all individuals who apply for a position against "type."
You must steel yourself to persevere but you should also try interviewing techniques that may help break down these casting barriers.
Try, for instance, calling attention to the unusual nature of your situation right at the onset of your interview.
Tell your interviewer that you realize that they don't ordinarily see people of your age or experience applying for such jobs and then proceed to explain how come you came to be in this position.
Dealing with this issue up-front may help the hiring person relax and evaluate you on your merits.
A reader comments:
"You recently recommended that a government employee quit if the Mickey Mouse aspects of the job make him bitter. Don't be so quick to recommend such a thing.
"There may be many reasons to hold on to such a job; for instance the job market in his area may be weak, or perhaps this person has good pension benefits if he was worked for the government for a number of years.
"Many people put up with government jobs in spite of such annoyances because they really enjoy the work and they feel that it is something that needs to be done. I am a teacher, and I fit into this category.
"I and many of my friends hang on to our jobs and even buy our own classroom materials from our own -- not very well-lined -- pockets rather than wage a war against the Mickey Mouse games of our school districts and principals."
I take my hat off to you and your friends and encourage you to hang in and do what you believe in. Obviously, you can ride over the needless hassles of your workplace.
But should it ever turn different, should you turn bitter yourself, I think it would be better for you to take your innate energy and enthusiasm elsewhere than to infuse a new generation with that bitterness.
Andrew Grove is chief executive of Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., and an author and lecturer on management. Please send questions to him in care of the San Jose Mercury News, Business News Department, 750 Ridder Park Dr., San Jose, Calif. 95190.