It was definitely not a dark and stormy night. Rather, it was a bright and sunny summer morning that found me in my tomato garden when the phone rang.
“Professor Eldred, this is_______________(a very accomplished sales executive at a high tech corporation)…is this a good time to talk?”
Sensing the upset in his voice, I was barely able to say yes when he blurted out a confession, to the effect that he had “forgotten everything we had learned in our class” and apologized both to me and in a way to himself for not handling the situation better.
It turns out the situation was a poorly executed merger in which he and his colleagues were rapidly thrust into his new organizational unit. It did not sound to me like they were handling the transition well but I pressed further.
He described how his new boss totally dismissed their customer centric marketing strategy and behaved in other ways that reflected… “we will determine how to handle the customers and they are just going to have to go along with that…” approach.
After huddling with some of his peers, he concluded that this was not a company worth committing to. This is when he called me.
I asked if he was willing to continue there if things did not get better. “ No, definitely not.” I then observed that he therefore had nothing to lose by employing a strategy of confrontation. I asked him who he knew that was senior in the newly merged entity. Turns out he had met the second highest executive in the firm at a recognition dinner recently.
On my urging he called that executive the same night and reported the meeting he had endured with his new boss. The senior executive paused and observed “ This is not at all whet we intended in this merger, give me a call tomorrow.”
Early the next morning his new boss called and apologized profusely for the way he had handled that meeting, and pledged a completely different approach.
Within a day this student acquired the reputation of having the biggest political capital in the company.
Sometimes confrontation is the least risky strategy.
– John Eldred
* Eldred’s course on Mastering Organization Power and Politics was highlighted in an article, “The New Office Politics” in Fast Company Magazine, October 1999.