CEO Power


The company I worked for in CA announced recently that they were laying off over a third of their employees.  They got a new CEO several months ago who was the first real manager the company had had.  The founding CEO suffered from a terminal inability to make hard decisions (e.g., replacing other founders who couldn't do their jobs).  The guy they brought in was good at the operations side of things, but lousy at making people feel like a team.  How someone can become a CEO with an anger management problem as big as his ego is beyond me.

Now they have a real manager, it appears.  It seems that he is listening, and making the hard choices.  The project that nobody believed in that never should have been started was finally killed.  Presumably a lot of the layoff casualties are coming off this project.

Ironies abound.  Now that they have a good manager, people are forced to leave.  After suffering through the bad ones.  And so much pain.

It is indeed painful to be laid off.  The papers have a sob story every week about it, in part because people never tire of hearing about these situations.  However, now that I'm in a job I love that looks like it will go on for some time, I find that the pain in these layoffs still grips me.  People who work hard, probably 60 or 70 hour weeks, and then everything they did is flushed.  The selective weeding out has already happened--those people who were in the wrong job, didn't have the skills, got lazy--and now it's cutting off limbs rather than trimming the fat.  Good people, hard workers, competent, being told the last several years of their toil will evaporate as if it never was.

Despite the claim that Wall Street loves layoffs, Wall Street doesn't love much of anything these days.  The stock got hammered again.  It's a few percent of its high, so the laid off people and those who stayed are all paying the price.

I don't like the blame game.  It is rarely productive, and often frustrating.  But I can't help wondering who is responsible for creating so much pain in so many good lives?  The managers whose egos wouldn't let them see the facts.  Yep, let's give them some.  The President whose ego an abrasive manner brought the company to a standstill.  A big helping of blame for him--some of these problems could have been fixed when he came along, but he made them worse.  The board of directors, who picked the turkey?  They surely don't get off the hook.  And as nasty as blaming the victim is, I fear there is some left over for those people who put their head in the sand and continued to work on a project that clearly could not succeed.  If countries get the kind of government they deserve, the same is true of companies.  A bit more backbone by several of the founders or board members could have made a huge difference.

But over it all, the sadness.  Such a waste.  A waste of talent, of investor's money, of time.  Good products sidelined because of power trips.  Good people losing confidence in themselves, taking on the blame, beating themselves up.  An emotional train wreck.

There once was a big CEO
Whose stack he'd continu'lly blow
Dumb products he pushed
While the red ink just gushed
Until finally he just had to go

The new guy stepped into his shoes
As they money continued to lose
The debris lay in piles
That extended for miles
It was time to start singin' the blues

So he got out his management axe
And cut everything to the max
Good people he threw
'Cause he didn't know who
were the keepers, and who were the sacks

Oh weep for the good and the kind
Who only their business did mind
One day, in their cubes
And the next, down the tubes
Now they wish they had not been so blind

Thank you for reading.

Copyright © 2002 Pete Stevens. All rights reserved.