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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Ranking Riddles

Dear Shifra-

I recently began a job as a contract worker. I have been here for three weeks, and among the comments I have received from my boss and managers in the area is that I am doing a great job, and they wonder whether they can clone me so I can continue working here after my contract ends.

However, I am quite confused. I was hired to be a guinea pig for the position, to see if there is a long-term need for the position. I consider myself to be the absolute bottom rung of the totem pole. Yet, last week I was instructed to attend a weekly meeting for managers within the department. During the meeting I was asked to participate, and let them know what is going on in my area. I have an area? I guess I do, although I don't know what constitutes my area.

Today, it went to another level. My boss is out sick. The two art team managers are out right now, one for a meeting and one for some undetermined reason. The manager who just went to a meeting told me that with her gone, the boss gone, the other art team manager gone, all that leaves is me on the floor, and if I see any strangers wandering around here, I should find out what they want. The confusing part about that is what does she mean that I am the only one here. Apparently, between that and the team leadership meeting, which I now attend every week, I am not at the bottom of the totem pole. But how do I find out where I stand on the totem pole without appearing ignorant of my totem pole status?

Sign me,
Dazed and confused at work

Dear Dazed,

Ranking at work can be a very complex puzzle. The organizational charts for most of the companies for most of the companies I've worked for were considered top secret and every division had their own wildly different version.

So let's see what I can discern from your email mail...
Well it looks like you are definitely a "manager" since you are expected at the managers meeting (lucky you!) I should point out that being a manager does not always mean that anyone reports to you. It is quite possible to be a manager with no direct reports- apparently you manage an "area."

Just because you were hired as a test-case it does not mean that you should automatically assume you are the bottom banana, nor should your lack of seniority.

Did you ever find out what "the only one on the floor" meant? Did everyone physically pick up and leave or just the managers?

I think the best thing to do would be to talk to your direct manager or the person that hired you. I would focus on the establishing what your "area" is rather than your rank. Since your postion is only temporary it's more important that you are aware of what is expected of you (so that you can do your job well- something any boss will appreciate) than where you stand on the corporate ladder. Although it can be a strange and sticky situation not knowing where you stand, and sometime you just have to fake it till you make it. Be kind and courteous to everyone from the cleaning crew to the CEO. Don't step on anyone's toes but don't be a doormat either - respect others and respect yourself.
Hopefully you will find your place before you have to vacate it!



At 12:23 AM, Blogger debka_notion said...

I know some organizations have an official hierarchy chart and then an unofficial one that models what Actually happens, and should happen- which isn't always the way the formal system works...

At 10:10 AM, Blogger DTC said...

You also have organizations with three org charts:
what they want people to believe
what they wish it should be
what just happens

(sometimes #1 and 2 are not the same)


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