11 May 2015 19:36 IST

Think before you turn into a corporate annexure

Many organisations have not invested in growing talent internally

The corporate scene is no better than others when it comes to the churn in the management cadres. It is not as though attrition is an issue only in the lower rungs of the organisation. In fact, in many organisations, the churn at middle and senior levels is quite high too. Senior level departures are due to various reasons. Some of the more frequent ones include: (a) lack of culture fi; (b) differences with the boss (c) rust-out (boredom) or burn-out (stress) (d) bigger responsibility ( e) the entrepreneurial bug (f) significant upside in compensation and stock options and (g) personal circumstances. These are understandable and given that in a growing economy, opportunities will be plenty for talented senior managers, such a churn is hardly surprising.

Lack of leadership talent

There is also just not enough leadership talent out there to meet the needs of aggressively growing corporations. For a variety of reasons, many organisations have either not invested in growing talent internally or have lost management talent to competitors. Especially in the so-called sunrise industry, we witnessed a huge surge in the demand for management talent. For example, the retail sector, telecom, banking and insurance and perhaps even in airlines and energy, we have seen significant expansion thanks to privatisation. All this needed was a large number of qualified and experienced management bandwidth.

Corporate Annexures as phenomenon:

The focus of this article is not so much on management churn but the trend of ‘next-level herd’ leaving as well. When a senior manager leaves to take up a CXO job in another organisation, we notice a tendency across sectors for a whole bunch of next-level managers from the same company to follow him or her out a few months later.

This is due largely to a high-degree comfort factor. The senior manager invites a bunch from his previous team or organisation. Contrary to public stances, these senior managers take that they are very proud of leading a competent team in their new organisation, their actions speak something else. They seem to trust the bunch they worked with earlier more than the bunch they get to work with in the new organisation. The oft-touted reasons for such ‘wholesale download’ include technology, expansion demands and the like. The reality is pure chemistry and comfort in addition to any other plausible explanation offered.

Buy-one, get-three-free

I have witnessed many such cases and the interesting consequences that follow. In one such classic case, a senior executive moved out to another place as CEO and soon a few next-level managers followed, in what I would like to call a ‘buy one, get three free’ equivalent in leadership movement. All this was well so long as the CEO got along with the promoters and the Board. In this specific instance however, when the CEO’s relationship with the Board took some unpleasant turns, he had to leave and soon the heat was on the whole pack to make their exits. What appeared as a great career opportunity for a whole bunch of people soon became a serious career threat. The CEO told the pack to look around and find other jobs the same as he was doing. But this time, he was not sure where he was headed!

Why the herd mentality?

This is some kind of a herd mentality we notice even among seasoned professionals. While this has worked for some, it has hurt many others professionals because they did not think their plans out. There is no denying that people work for people and good leaders have always enjoyed strong loyalty from the teams they have managed. But there is a clear difference between working for a great manager and being branded as his or her annexure! And being known and branded as an annexure where you tend to follow your manager mindlessly wherever he or she goes comes with several risks, and more often than not has done more damage to the career of such ‘annexures’ than any good.

Good leaders actually dissuade their team mates even when a desire is expressed by these corporate annexures to follow the leader.

Professionals do and must draw comfort from being professionally competent and valuable, not from being loyal to another individual to the extent of becoming overly dependent on that individual forever. Success in a new environment depends a lot not only on comfort with the boss, but even more so in winning the collaboration and building an effective chemistry with other colleagues. In becoming a corporate annexure, one’s career trajectory is no longer built on objective criteria, but rather subjective and often weak relationship. The fortunes of the boss then decide the fortunes of the annexure.

As your boss packs up, so you do! And soon your reputation in the industry as an annexure is so well established that your chances of standing on your own become very slim.

Build your self-esteem and grow:

The temptation to be a corporate annexure is very compelling. It guarantees you a job as long as your boss keeps moving and making progress. You don’t have to go through mind-numbing multiple interviews. You get a decent raise without even asking for it. You do not come under probation as your boss knows you well. Your colleagues at the new place do not refuse cooperation knowing your status as an annexure. The advantages can be endless, or at least appear to be so.

All this is fine so long as your boss is going great. But even the mildest crack in his status should cause a tremor in your path.

Great careers are built on self-esteem, hard work, continuous upgrading of skills and competencies and an employee’s comfort without the boss being around. This can be a lot less risky and lot more rewarding.

As the famous saying goes: “When you lift one end of the stick, you have no choice but to lift the other end of it.” So, think hard before annexing yourself to a leader.