A Job Without a Title

When I was demoted/layered/whatever-you-want-to-call-it a few months ago, I was told I’m being moved to a new role, reporting to a new person, and didn’t have a say in the matter. As I was about to head into my maternity leave and was gracious to survive last year’s PIP by the skin of my teeth, and some information I knew via the grapevine via my colleague having already replaced me in that position, I knew it wasn’t worth fighting it. My choices were to agree to the change and do my best in the new role or to move on. With my stock package it makes no sense to move on, at least not now, but I’m still struggling with how it was handled and feeling like I failed myself yet again despite having done some really good work last year.

Of all the flubs in my demotion, I’d say the one that hurts the most is not actually having a new title. I was pitched the new role in a way that surely was HR- and legal-approved in advance of my leave (it’s not a demotion, it’s moving you into something that you can excel at!) I was clearly removed from direct contact with my then boss as much as possible–she seems to appreciate my work at a distance and prefer to not have to meet with me on the regular. My new position was not fleshed out. That too was pitched as my having the opportunity to build something from the ground up. However, my plans were ignored, my budget and project proposal not seriously considered, and any ideas I had brushed to the sidelines. It’s clear this role is not a priority and seems to be created for the illusion of not demoting me one month before my leave. Which, given the amount on the table I have to earn this year due to stock appreciation, I should be beyond grateful for. It just hurts. It hurts because I don’t even know what title to put under my name. I don’t even know if I’m still at the same respective level…

My boss initially wanted to have my annual performance review early, before I went out on leave. Then it got pushed a bit. Then I went out on leave earlier than planned, but I didn’t hide the fact that this might happen. So as it stands, I’ll know in a month, via my paycheck, if I managed to get a bonus last year. I should also know if I received any sort of stock refresh once that hits my account. I’m not expecting it, though. And that’s fine. I know they’re throwing the stars and the moon at my colleague who now has my former role. He is smart and hits deadlines so why not? Last year I eeked by with a standard cost of living raise (~1.5%) which was, of course, better than nothing, but also a clear reminder of how the company views me and the value I bring to it. I’m not sure if anyone who keeps their job at the annual performance review gets 0%, so I’m assuming the 1.5% is for the lowest performers in the company who aren’t asked to leave. That’s incredibly motivating.

I know it’s not just me. It is just me in that I fucked up majorly a few times last year in ways that could have been avoided. I know that the way things run is a bit all over the place, and to survive you have to just make sense of it all and have a ridiculous amount of confidence to make it seem like you know what’s going on so everyone else believes that you do. I just want to do good work, and that requires time to get the appropriate information. People to collaborate with. Perhaps a boss who cares about any of my work other than is it done on time and did anyone complain that I’m running late. While deadlines matter, a lot, some context for any delays might help. Or some support to brainstorm and come up with answers vs leaving me on my own and saying because I couldn’t handle it on my own I clearly don’t have leadership potential. Maybe she’s right. Maybe I don’t even care anymore about “leadership potential,” but I do care about career path so far as being able to pay my mortgage and not going a thousand steps backwards in terms of reasonable salary expectations over the coming years. As I approach 40, it’s clear that there are two directions to go here–up, or flatline.  I guess it’s the mom track. Or the ADHD track. Or the you-don’t-belong-here-but-you-occasionally-do-good-work-so-we’ll-keep-you-on-the-sidelines track and get rid of you when we don’t need you anymore. You’re easy to cut.

Apparently leadership requires a hyper focus on doing the things that have the greatest visibility and ignoring all of the problems that need solving. I tend to get fixated on fixing vs on making myself look good. That alone is a problem. So why am I not fixing that one?

I know this year is just a year and I’ll do whatever it takes to make it through. I’m so fortunate to be in a position where, as long as I don’t totally fuck things up (or get caught up in a massive layoff) I should be able to survive from now until Jan 1. But then what? My new role has no legs. It’s not like I’m going to stay at this company for 5 years in this new position and be successful. I’ll always be at the bottom of the pile when it comes to requesting budget and getting support of ideas. Even my boss isn’t sure what to do to support me as he also can’t get budget buy in for my projects that he thinks are important. Funny that when I joined the company 3 years ago I was in the weekly departmental leadership meetings. How far I’ve fallen.

It is just scary because I still don’t know what my career is. I have some idea of what I want it to be, but no idea how to get there. And I’m old now. Like, not old, old. But old enough that changing careers at this point is hard. Hard when you’re a mom of 2 young kids and want another and realize your career is 30 years more, max, and that’s maybe 6-10 different jobs, or less, until you’re retired, if you retire at typical retirement age. Those years will speed by in a blur. That’s life. You want to do something meaningful. There’s so little time left. But you have to pay your mortgage. And you’re not actually good at anything. Except writing incredibly long blog posts about how you’re not good at anything except writing incredibly long blog posts.

So, I’ve got this year to survive. And survive it, I will. Knock on wood. But then what the fuck do I do?

 

 

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One thought on “A Job Without a Title”

  1. I was “demoted” for a seven year stretch from running the company to becoming the government affairs guy. Similar title and same pay but no longer in the core loop of the company. I simmered for a short period and then decided to make the most of it. I basically commuted to Washington DC with a big expense account and had the best time learning the city and working with all the famous people. Later when a new CEO took over they brought me back to my former job, a promotion but much harder work and more pressure. Much more pay and much harder work, but still it was a cool opportunity to have a new start. Now in retirement I look back on the time I was moved to a parallel but also less central role and wouldn’t trade that “demotion” for anything. I realize your situation is not mine, but looking for the silver lining totally changed my reaction from one of a little bit of hurt and grief to a sense of adventure. Change brings opportunity.

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