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Voted Off the Island - Corporate Style....

Remember when reality shows were fresh?  Back in the day when Survivor was the big Kahuna?  Long before Trump started giving people "the Cobra" on The Apprentice, people were getting voted off the island on Survivor..

..and getting voted off the island happens all the time in the workplace...

Think for a couple of seconds and you'll agree you've seen it happen.  The typical version of getting voted off the island is when a manager who's incompetent or has severe conduct issues finally wears out their welcome.  Whether it's a lack of competence or crazy (but consistent) misconduct, dissension among that Voted off the island manager's direct reports builds over time, finally erupting into a flurry of employee relations issues across the team.  Once someone like you gets involved (you're HR, so you'll get to go in and figure it out), it's generally too late.  The natives have spoken, and the situation is irreversible.  Whether it's a resignation or termination, the situation can't be overcome by apologies, focus groups or any other solution.  The manager's out.

Of course, managers can get voted off the island by their team for just being around too long.  Abrasive styles and ego-driven managers with lots of talent can simply wear out their welcome.  It's not about competence or misconduct in these cases, it's about shelf life and staying past your expiration date.

Want a real life example of getting voted off the island because the natives are tired of your act?  Try this account from Fortune Magazine regarding former Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler:

"For Jeff Kindler, it was a humiliating moment. The CEO of Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical company, had been summoned to the airport in Fort Myers, Fla., on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010, for a highly unusual purpose: to plead for his job.

Three stone-faced directors, Constance Horner, a former deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; George Lorch, an ex-CEO of Armstrong World Holdings; and Bill Gray, a former Philadelphia congressman, weren't there to debate the direction of the company. The board had spent a frantic week in an urgent investigation: A revolt had erupted against Kindler among a handful of senior managers, and the directors were trying to figure out what was going on. One possibility: an internal power grab. Another: a CEO who was unraveling.

Led by Horner, they confronted Kindler with questions about his management and his behavior. Had he routinely berated subordinates? Did he really bring senior executives to tears? And how did he respond to charges that his leadership style, a sort of micro-micro-management, had paralyzed Pfizer?

A questioner of prosecutorial intensity, Kindler was used to being the interrogator. But this time he had to respond, and his answers seemed only to harden the board members. Kindler insisted that just two executives were truly unhappy. Most of his team thought he was a good boss and had done great things for the company. What was the directors' basis for concluding otherwise? Had they reviewed his sterling performance evaluations? Spoken to his executive coach?

As the meeting continued -- it lasted more than two hours -- it became clear that Kindler had little chance of saving his job. Perhaps, he finally said, it was time for him to resign. The directors, who seemed ready for this suggestion, told Kindler they were prepared to give him a far more generous settlement package if he didn't take the fight to the full board. Kindler agreed to think it over and flew home."

The full article is required reading for any HR pro who considers themselves a student of the game related to organization politics.  GO READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE.

Why would I put that in CAPS?  Because at some point in your career, you're going to have a group of employees come to you saying that they can't work for Sally anymore.  Sally's likely to be a good to great performer who has some... let's call them personality/style issues.

You call it a coup.  A revolt.  

I call it being "voted off the island".  It's one of the most complex organizational issues you'll ever face.

Good performer.  People hate her and try to vote her off the island.  You'll need all the skill and savvy you can summon to deal with this employee relations situation.  

Comments

Puma Outlet Store

Don't get the wrong idea! I'm not talking about knowing my audience Biblically (though there are writers who've been known to try). I just need a clearer picture of your wants, your needs, your desires, your shoe size, your feelings about bottled "chocolate milk" that could stay on a 7-Eleven shelf well into the next millennium without spoiling. (Hmm...maybe I'm more curious about Yoo-Hoo than I thought.)

Toby Elwin

A vote of "no confidence" is a pretty powerful vote to pull off.

For a board to get this involved it must have been more powerful than profits or thought to directly impact profits (my thoughts, no evidence).

Thanks for the great takeaway using a compelling story.

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