New Beginnings: How I Managed My Way Through an Organizational Nightmare

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I had worked for a large organization for a number of years, and was suddenly thrust in to some significant change. Our department was doubling in size. A small group of us had planned the new organizational structure, but not the people moves, and there was no guarantee of our own positions. I would likely be leading one of two teams. When I was called in and told my new assignment, I was dumbfounded. I wasn’t leading one of two teams – I was leading both. “But why?” I asked. This upended our entire organizational plan! Tensely I was told, “It was decided.” Translation: someone higher up decided. I’d been supervising 10 people. Now I was overseeing 25, with major chunks of additional responsibility. My old team of 10 stayed with me; we’d constructed a solid base of accomplishment which we began to build upon. And the new team of 25 didn’t just fly; we soared. Within six months we had become what everyone had hoped for – a high-performance team pulling off phenomenal results. The work, and how it was done, was being blessed.

Can Someone Please Tell Me What’s Going On?

And then, a potential train wreck appeared. Seven months into this new workplace, for no ostensible reason, my boss stopped talking to me. Like, overnight. I asked what was wrong: everything’s fine. But it wasn’t. I asked again, and again. Everything’s fine. Untrue. I kept the team on track; the results and the recognitions of our work continued to grow. In fact, some of the results were stunning. Fast forward three months later: with no warning, two sub-teams were suddenly wrenched out of our team. “I decided,” was the reason given. “It will make things flow better and provide a developmental opportunity.” Translation: I’m not going to tell you, even though we both know I’m not telling the truth.

Managing Through Organizational Chaos

The entire organization went into an uproar. Major mess. No forethought in the decision. Trying to fix loose ends; trying to help people understand and cope when I didn’t understand myself. I’d honored my people, led them to the best of my abilities, had a team that pulled off phenomenal results -- and then this. It was a severe testing time. It had been years since I had gone through anything even remotely like this, when bad changes are made for no discernable reason, no explanations are offered, just the exercise of brute force because someone could do it. All of which was more common in the workplace of the 1970s, not the 2000s. I spent a lot of time in prayer. I read the Psalms, especially those of David. I also spent time in physical therapy – the stress from work concentrated itself in my back. I arrived at the office one morning with such excruciating back pain I couldn’t move or turn without tears. Severely knotted back muscles had pinched a nerve.

A few months later, there was another reorganization. The old supervisor suddenly retired. Rumors ran rampant. My own job officially changed five times in a week-and-a-half. What finally emerged was this: I was now leading a team of six. Reduced work responsibilities. Apparent loss of “face.” And this was whispered: I had done my job too well. How do you rectify or learn from that? Strive for mediocrity? Anger. Frustration. Disbelief at how stupid people could be, how supervisors could feel threatened by their own teams performing well.

A New Beginning: The Decision To Heal

The temptation to whine and gripe about my old supervisor was huge. I didn’t entirely resist it. But then I realized that staying stuck in that rut meant I would continue to allow him to define who I was, what I did, and how I performed. My own healing started the day I began to force myself to pray for him. I had a new team, with new responsibilities, and not all of the responsibilities were well defined. Some of them portended conflict with other teams, because a lot of things had gotten “fuzzed up” in the reorganization. And there was residual mess left behind by the old supervisor – a lot of residual mess. I prayed more. Read more of David’s psalms. I began to shape the new job. Fortunately, the people working for me were incredibly talented, capable and supportive. We began to find some of the old “magic” of give-and-take to create something new. Although it was different this time – we looked over our shoulders a lot. Not at my new boss, though. My new boss was a blessing, far beyond what I was led to expect – by the old supervisor. The new workplace had to go through some detoxification. So did I. I ended up with more certainty.

The new workplace was certainly less stress, and a lot of that had to do with the new boss. The physical therapy helped, too, although it took several months. I found myself doing more of what I liked to do, what I was good at. And, the most interesting outcome of all, I found my “sphere of influence” actually expanding, being called upon for all kinds of things that wouldn’t have happened before. I ended up with doubt as well. That’s part of what the journey is about – who’d need a journey in the first place if everything was always certain? I never learned all of what happened or why, and probably never will. And it became less important over time. The workplace can be just as irrational as any other part of life; sometimes more so. Things can happen for the wrong reasons, but they happen – and there’s a plan in spite of that.

Post by Glynn Young, author of Faith, Fiction, Friends blog. Photo of Fishy Crackers by nAncY, used with permission.