I enjoy my function and the overall goal of the company but I am motivated by career progression and growth in responsibilities more than anything else; my ultimate goal is to become a great senior level manager - so much of my focus, efforts and the experience and projects I take on are tied to that and how to get there.

I have been recognized for being a good junior manager and later a department manager, but there have been many changes, restructuring, acquisitions over the past year, that I somehow ended up being excluded from the closer circles of leadership and now I feel like a... "tiger in a cage".

I am expected to do more technical/individual work rather than managerial work; I am asked to do things without knowing why or having a say in the decisions, but when things go wrong I am asked why it went wrong and what I should have done; new managers take over my areas of responsibility and I am kept out of the loop. And I am somehow responsible for anything that goes wrong at very technical details... which I haven't even trained in.

It's important to note that I have a "passive" line manager, i.e. he hired me but I no longer directly work with him. Instead I report to multiple senior managers who assign me projects and tasks in various areas, for which I can use my team and external contractors.

They don't want to get more resources so I often end up working overtime doing work I never signed up for. There are business meetings about what we do, but there are no "1-on-1" meetings about my performance and career, except once a year with my line manager whom I never actually work with. I truly wish I could find some career guidance but there is nobody in the company who could give it to me.

The multitude of issues is really demoralizing me so much that I see no purpose in my day-to-day work, and my mind is elsewhere most of the time. I am sure I must have increasingly dropped in my performance without even being aware of it, only to be told off by my new superiors.

I am doing many mistakes I would have never done under normal circumstances and I am missing many opportunities I would have never missed under normal circumstances.

How can I restore my usual performance level, return to excellence and be great just as I used to be before this whole mess started?

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    I have been recognized for being a good junior manager and later a department manager who did you receive this recognition from
    – Brandin
    Aug 2, 2014 at 12:31
  • From my superiors and in my performance reviews and when I was promoted. Aug 2, 2014 at 12:34
  • You can either change your company or you can CHANGE your company. It's a demoralising situation to be in and having been in a similar situation I resigned. Aug 2, 2014 at 12:47
  • What do you mean by change the company? How could I do that? Aug 2, 2014 at 12:48
  • What is your goal in the company? Do you want a certain promotion. Focus on goals and how you can achieve them. That is how to avoid demoralizing situation.
    – Brandin
    Aug 2, 2014 at 13:56

1 Answer 1


This must be tremendously disappointing to you; you've worked hard to make a name for yourself and become a trusted team member, but now you're being used.

Unfortunately the behavior you describe is typical of ordinary 21st-century management. I'm thinking of the type of overpowering, overbearing executive who must impose their will on other people in order to establish their positions. Excellence in service to stakeholders (customers, shareholders, fellow employees, and suppliers) is less important than self-promotion. These folks are often the most powerful people; they like to be at the top of the pecking order. They're often known -- to each other and everybody else -- by the crude term abbreviated "BSD." (What's a BSD? look it up on the Urban Dictionary.)

Modern managers work hard to keep the rank and file individual contributors free of this dominance stuff; it's much harder to get work done when the whole team is demoralized, and lawsuits for discrimination are expensive. But the higher ranks of many companies are afflicted with this, and now you have arrived at the higher ranks so it's visible to you. You're in a world where alpha males jostle each other for dominance.

Your question is how to survive in this kind of environment. It takes being hard-nosed, thick-skinned, and patient. You mentioned a tiger in a cage. I invite you rather to think of yourself rather as a tiger-wrangler in a cage surrounded by tigers.

The good news is this: the tigers probably don't care about you very much. You're not yet big enough to be worth eating. Your job isn't at risk from the sound of it; time is on your side. You can afford to be patient. Take advantage of that.

A good move for you is to start observing their behavior in a detached way. Put on your tiger-tamer hat. Make observations like "Joe felt threatened so he asserted alpha-male status over George." "Jack is new so he's making moves to assert his dominance over me." You get the idea. Figure out what threatens, and what calms, each person. Keep these observations to yourself! You will learn from this.

In the meantime, start publicly praising your team -- the people who do, or ought to do, the work for which you take credit -- and relying on them. When the new BSD, Jack, tries to hold you responsible for some tech issue, respond by saying "I trust my team. Thanks for bringing this situation to my attention, I will pass this on to the right person." Alpha males respect people who brag about their tribes. If you do that -- if you brag about your powerful tribe -- you'll neutralize their aggressive behavior toward you. They'll realize you're worthy of respect.

It doesn't matter if the "right person" for the problem you offer to solve is you yourself, but never never reveal that.

Finally, don't take it personally. It's primal behavior. It's not about you.

Can you change the culture of this company? The skills and ethics that have brought you this far are centered around personal excellence. You will need to add the skill of dominance and the ethic of group excellence if you are to gain influence over the culture. It will take a long time.

Now look: If the S of the BSDs is completely out of control in this company, it may be time for you to move on. You have time to do that well. As you observe this behavior you'll learn to recognize it as you interview in other companies.

  • Thanks, Ollie Jones. A question I often have is, whenever these new managers try to assert their dominance over me, should I fight back and show who the real master is? Basically I am wondering whether I should be more outspoken, increase my voice and also take part in the whole competition rather than silently follow whatever all say. // Sorry, I might have not found the exact definition of BSD... what's the meaning of "S of the BSD"? Aug 2, 2014 at 13:20
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    Big Swinging (word for male appendage starting with D)
    – O. Jones
    Aug 2, 2014 at 17:43
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    I was going to edit the definition of BSD into the post, until I saw what it was. I kinda feel like we're drawing a lot of attention to this by making people have to look it up -- attention that may not reflect the professional environment we've worked so hard to build. Is it possible to use a more professional term or industry standard term in place of BSD? We are, after all, a site for professionals and hence should use professional terminology. Hope this helps.
    – jmort253
    Aug 3, 2014 at 19:28
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    The kind of behavior pointed to by the term in question is an unfortunate reality of the exercise of power in the workplaces we're all pleased to call "professional." Learning the term and its effects on the workplace was a great help to me 20 years ago when this sort of thing became visible to me in my career. If you ask, I will edit my post. But I wonder if we're doing our readers a service by sanitizing -- bowdlerizing -- our descriptions of workplace shenanigans. Let me know if you want it edited.
    – O. Jones
    Aug 3, 2014 at 20:10
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    Ollie, instead of sanitizing or removing content, what do you think about just adding a brief description in the second paragraph. A suggestion might be "...typical of ordinary 21st-century management. You know, the type of overpowering, overbearing executive who must exercise their power and impose their will on others." I suspect this could eliminate confusion and clarify things a bit, but without removing or altering your message, which you've done a good job of keeping subtle. Hope this helps.
    – jmort253
    Aug 3, 2014 at 20:51

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