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I'm a regular person at my employer -- no one reports to me. I report to one person, he reports to one person, and so on. But near the top of the chain, there are a few hundred Senior Vice Presidents (SVPs). Individually, each SVP may be a reasonable person, but as a collective, each feels as though they need to show themselves as superior to each other. This results in cliques forming among the SVPs, fighting with other cliques, grandstanding in front of anyone who will pay attention.

Normally I would just ignore all of this and go about my duties, but lately the bickering among the SVPs has gotten worse, so much so that it can't be ignored at the lower levels. The corporate financials are in disarray due to the lack of a concrete spending plan. The leadership approved a cut to employee benefits and salary (for which they congratulated themselves as wise financial move despite employee benefits and salary only being a minor percentage of overall costs). Their latest inability to demonstrate leadership could result in forced unpaid time off for all the employees.

Because the SVPs are multiple management levels above regular employees, it is difficult to know if they are aware of the effect that their lack of leadership is having on the rest of us. What options are available to effectively communicate the negative effects that SVP in-fighting is causing to the rest of us?

How can this be communicated when each individual SVP is reasonable but the collective is unreasonable? How can a entry-level person get the attention of hundreds of people 10 levels up their management chain? Is there a way out of this situation that doesn't involve the workers voting with their feet?

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Welcome to the corporate grind. This is pretty much how corporations run. –  DA. Feb 11 '13 at 5:01
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Big companies and small companies have very different pros and cons. It sounds like you've just encountered one of the cons of working for a big company that you would never encounter at a small company. It might be worth seeing if you find the grass greener on the other side: although don't ever doubt that small companies have their own cons that you would never encounter at large companies. –  Carson63000 Feb 11 '13 at 9:44
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There are numerous studies that demonstrate that large groups of intelligent morally upstanding and pleasant individuals devolve collectively to simpleminded, unethical and distasteful groups when assembled together. This is human nature. The other problems sound as if you have a very top-heavy organization. The few productive people end up leaving quickly which further exacerbates the problem. In other words, this is probably more than half of all large corporations. –  maple_shaft Feb 11 '13 at 12:25
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With all due respect to all who dislike big companies: Are Google, Apple and Microsoft big companies? Is there anyone who never use products from big companies? Do you ever fly by airplanes? Are Boeing and Airbus big companies? Sigh. –  scaaahu Feb 11 '13 at 13:24
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@Carson63000, these problems happen at small companies as well as large. Small companies are often worse for corporate politics because the managers are personal friends and realtives of the owner. –  HLGEM Feb 11 '13 at 14:26
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3 Answers

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It sounds as if your company is in financial trouble. They are cutting benefits, they are considering unpaid leaves of absence (which are usually done to avoid layoffs which means they are at least trying to preserve jobs), layoffs cannot be far behind.

This kind of things will go on for a year or two until enough people leave with their feet (prompting a reexamination of how employees are being treated) or there are massive layoffs or the company goes under.

What can you as an individual do? First look out for yourself. Make sure your resume is up-to-date, start making contacts at other companies that have jobs in your field and possibly start looking. Even if you want to stay, start building that network that will help you find the next job as this one may not be around for long.

The best way to get a company out of financial trouble is to get them new sources of income and to help them retain existing sources. So for anyone who has something to do with customer service, the best way to preserve your jobs is to concentrate on giving excellent customer service. This includes jobs like programming where you don't directly talk to the client that often or ever. When you do your job to the absolute best of your ability and focus on doing the things that make the company money, then you are doing what you can to get the company back on its feet. Doing this also has the advantage of giving you the accomplishments and skills (and possibly contacts if you directly work with customers) you need to land that next job. May as well be improving yourself and getting more accomplishments while you look for a new job if that is your choice.

People not in sales tend to think that they have no responsibility to bringing in income or retaining customers, but this is simply a short-sighted view. I am a database developer but in the last year my work (and the work of people in a lot of different fields) was part of a big effort to retain 3 large but unhappy customers. We succeeded in turning around all the accounts but it took developers, project managers, customer service reps, business analysts, finance people. On one project there were close to 100 people involved in retaining the business and only 4 or 5 of them were in sales.

As a senior developer I have also helped sales win business by designing things the market was interested in, by providing cost inputs to bid on work, by reducing the cost to get a new client up and running (we are highly customized in our software) through building some needed stardardization into our customization, etc. My good relationships (and those that others in my company build, this is not a solo effort) with clients have helped us build a reputation in the market as being responsive to client needs. Every job has something in it to help the company or there is no need to have the job.

Read articles about the business your company is in and look for opportunities in them that your business can take advantage of. Even if you aren't in marketing or sales, you can send a note to the people who are with an article link and a suggestions about how this information can help us sell more product.

Make suggestions for things that will help sell more product. It could be iphone apps or a way to help them effectively and efficiently manage the government regulation that affects their business. It could just be ways to reduce bureaucracy to be able to handle their issues at a lower level and thus more quickly.

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I would never rule out voting with your feet. It is your responsibility and everyone's to ensure that they have a great working environment.

  1. How specifically is this impacting you getting your current assignments done? The answer to this question should be very important to your manager.
  2. In what quantifiable ways has this impacted the business? Have sales dropped? Are customer's upset (e.g. survey results)? There needs to be something tangible that you can present to your manager to use as evidence when they can champion solving this problem.
  3. Are you personally happy with this situation? If the answer is anything but yes, there is no better reason to look for a different position. At the end of the day, you need to be satisfied and fulfilled in this part of your life.
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+1 for having a work related discussion with the immediate manager. –  ryadavilli Feb 11 '13 at 6:37
    
I appreciate the suggestion to talk to my manager. But the man 9 layers below the SVP isn't really in a better position to effect change than the one 10 layers below. –  WorkerBee Feb 11 '13 at 22:24
    
@WorkerBee Even if your immediate manager cannot produce change, it is always better than going over your manager's head. –  Ryan Gates Feb 12 '13 at 2:33
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If no one expresses the problems they have to their immediate manager, there is no chance at all that the information will filter up to the level that is creating the problem. You do have to have people in your reporting chain who are willing to push information up though. But you are often unaware of how much gets pushed up the chain because you don't sit in on those meetings. If multiple first line supervisors start reporting similar employee problems, it does tend to get pushed up. –  HLGEM Feb 13 '13 at 16:21
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Everything that is unreasonable would happen but it won't last very long.

You should talk to your manager to express your concerns.

If there is an employee relations representative/human resources in your division, talk to them.

However, be careful when you talk to your manager/HR. They may not feel the same way you do.

In a big company such as yours(hundreds of SVPs), seeing the big picture is not easy. You may be seeing what's happening in your division and that is not necessarily the whole picture.

Generally speaking, if a big company is in that kind of bad shape, a lot of employees would be gone by now. There won't be that many SVPs. An SVP would be in a tough power struggle when his division has only a few tens of employees instead of hundereds. That's why I said in the beginning, it won't last long. People have not voted with their feet for reasons, unemployement rate is high, local economics is bad, etc. Or the main reason they stay is because it's not bad as you think.

So, talk to your manager first. He would know better than you(although he may not know much better). Then, determine your next step. Stay or find yourself a better job.

Edit Based on the info provided by OP, it's more than likely that the OP's employer is a retail business such as a world-wide bank, Walmart, etc. Even big software companies won't have hundreds of VPs, not to mention SVP. Have you heard that Google has 200 SVPs? Large Retail business tend to have hundreds of VPs. Each VP is responsible for one or more regional business. My answer above is pretty much along this line.

I happen to know a well-known bank which has thousands of offices around the globe.(I personally have no relationship with it whatsoever). In recent years, it lost money in its EU operation, particularly in those countries undergoing the economics trouble. It had to cut the salary and benefits for those employees in the impacted areas. However, it made a lot of profit in Asia and central/south America. So, the financial bottom line of that bank is okay. The business in EU looks bad. In this case, what would you do if you were the CEO of that big corporate? Your only option is to cut the salary and benefit of those employees in EU and hope that EU will eventually come back and its EU operations will survive. From the local employee's point of view, it's not fair. You would think that the whole bank is in trouble. Really? How come they made profit in Asia?

Being the employee at the lowest level, the only thing you can do is to perform your job well when you still have the job. Talking to your manager is a must. It's his job to listen to you. Doing anything above your manager is inapproriate. If you are extremely unhappy with extra work, etc, quit and find a better job.

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In banking industry in the US, a regional manager who manages 10 to 20 bank branch offices would have the SVP title. SVP sounds very high ranking but it's not necessarily very high. –  scaaahu Feb 11 '13 at 7:31
    
And they don't even have to be managers of offices. They may be a manager of just 30 people and get the SVP title. –  DA. Feb 11 '13 at 16:24
    
I suspect a significant reason my colleagues have not voted with their feet (en masse) is that this is the first job many of them have had, and they fear the unfamiliar job hunt process. I'm not convinced their non-voting is significant. –  WorkerBee Feb 11 '13 at 22:27
    
@WorkerBee You're the only one who knows your situation. I only provided general advice. If you're not happy with your job, talk to your manager. If you're still unhappy, walk away. I don't know your occupation and location, I can't give you specific opinion. I can tell you something else though. This is Chinese new year season, I just heard somebody back from China taking holiday break. If you have an i-phone, you need to know that it's made in China. There are hundreds of thousands of workers(including people from Apple) working very hard to get those phones to peoples' hands. –  scaaahu Feb 12 '13 at 4:08
    
@WorkerBee An average engineer(not assembly worker) in those plants in China gets pay US$1200 a month. Their work schedule is crazy. I don't want to say how busy they are. The only comment I made after I heard of their schedule was "it's not worth it.". However, they told me that if you quit, there are hundreds of thousands engineers waiting for your position. So, please consider yourself lucky. You still have your job. –  scaaahu Feb 12 '13 at 4:17
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