Almost eight months ago, I accepted a job on the leadership team of a midsize company. This job was a step up in responsibility, because it would allow me to lead a larger team. I supervise three managers, who in turn supervise other junior staff.
Today my boss, the CEO, informed me that she is going to start having one of the three managers on my team (Joe) report to her directly instead of to me. Joe’s job is not changing. The reason my boss gave is that Joe works more frequently with her, and Joe prefers to report to the CEO instead of me. It is true that they work together a lot. My boss is very involved in Joe’s work because she likes it, and in fact has been taking on a lot of tasks that I, as the team lead, should have been doing with him, but was never given the chance to do. I told my boss that I was against this change and listed several reasons why I did not think it was a good idea. But she’s going ahead with it anyway and says she hopes I’ll stay on and grow from the experience. From her perspective, this is a minor adjustment that I should not be upset about. My title and salary are not changing, although I don’t think the title now fits my role.
However, I can’t help but feel angry with both my boss and Joe (I know he had been requesting this almost since I first arrived). Since I won’t be responsible for Joe’s area of work, the job is now very similar to the role I left when I came here. I feel humiliated when I think about people finding out about this change, like it reflects on me somehow. And I’m hurt that at the end of the day my boss didn’t care enough about my feelings to shut this down.
I would like to know if you think I’m overreacting. I am thinking about leaving this job because I don’t see how I can continue to work with two individuals when I feel so betrayed and disrespected. Additionally, now that the team is splintered in this way, I don’t see any path forward in terms of career growth. I’m very upset because when I took this job, I intended to stay for several years. I don’t want to start the job-hunting process all over again. But I don’t know if I can get over this.
Putting your feelings aside for a minute (we’ll come back to them, don’t worry!), does the change make sense from the perspective of the organization? Is it reasonable for Joe to report to the CEO? If they’re working together frequently, it might be logical for him to report directly to her rather than having you in the middle, particularly when it comes to things like delegating assignments, giving feedback, and assessing his work. If that’s the case, it’s important to acknowledge that in your thinking, since it might affect your overall sense of what’s happened and why. A change that makes sense for the organization even though it’s not great for you is different from a change that doesn’t even make sense.
If the new arrangement doesn’t make sense for the organization, then it’s worth figuring out why it happened. Was Joe lobbying for the switch as a power grab? Is there some kind of bias at play, like that he didn’t want to work for a woman (the CEO is a woman too, but her power might outweigh that in his mind) or someone younger than him or someone without X background? Does Joe have the CEO’s ear in a way that you don’t? Does the CEO favor Joe or favor people who are like Joe in X way? Is she just not a very good or fair manager? Does she undervalue you in particular? It’s worth trying to figure out what’s really behind it, because then you can look at that reality head-on and decide if there are solutions you could be happy with aside from leaving. For example, if it’s true that the CEO is biased toward Joe, could you find other champions of your work in the organization’s senior leadership who could counter some of that bias? Or if the issue is that she undervalues you, could you find ways to raise the profile of your work in ways she might find compelling?
At the end of all that analysis, the big question to ask yourself is, do you still want the job as it exists after this change? If this had been the job from the beginning, would you have accepted? Do you still want it in its current form?
If you don’t still want the job in its new configuration, then it makes sense to start looking at other options. But if you would like to stay and are just struggling with your emotional response, those feelings could be pointing you toward actions that aren’t in your best interest. To be clear, it’s understandable that you’re feeling slighted. A piece of your job that you cared about was taken away, and of course you’re worried that people might think it reflects badly on you. But it’s very unlikely that your co-workers see it as a big deal. You’re almost certainly thinking about it a lot more than they are (because no one ever thinks about someone else’s personnel moves as much as they think about their own), and your colleagues are likely to assume that Joe is reporting to the CEO simply because the CEO finds that more efficient, not because you couldn’t cut it or failed in some way.
Keep in mind, too, that although you’re hurt that your boss didn’t care enough about your feelings to stop this move, an individual employee’s feelings generally shouldn’t be big drivers of reporting structures. That’s making the decision personal when reporting changes usually aren’t.
Ultimately, the key to making a good decision for yourself will be to take the emotion out of it as much as you can and to be clear-eyed about what happened, why, and whether this is still a job you want. There’s no shame in deciding you can happily stay, if in fact you can … and there’s no shame in deciding to leave either. Just wait for the sting you’re currently feeling to wear off before you do anything irreversible.