Q. I was recently moved out of a management position and put in another location in the company that doesn’t require the same skill set as I was originally hired for. I was also moved without any reasonable cause, just a “management decision.” I had an exemplary record and recently had an excellent review. Now there is talk of moving me again into a position I would most certainly not be qualified for if I applied for it off the street! I enjoy working for this company, but the politics and moving without cause is getting unsettling. I should add that this is a four-year institution of higher education.
A. Your situation sounds unsettling, but not that unusual in our current economic climate. Employers, including those in higher education as well as other industries, are struggling to be more efficient with their current resources.
Many of my clients – even the most smart and ethical organizations – are being forced to make very difficult decisions. Some are not filling open positions that would be ordinarily filled with few approvals. Some clients are downsizing and eliminating positions, while others are reducing workweeks in one or all areas. Some are aggressively reviewing compensation and benefits plans. Still others are moving resources within the company to where they are most needed.
While unsettling, your employer may perceive you as a flexible asset that can easily be transferred to another department and bring value to more than one area. Although you may feel that you are being “moved without cause,” your employer may view it a bit differently. They may see it as preserving a role for you somewhere with the institution when others may not be as fortunate.
Typically, an employer can change your role and your responsibilities as they see appropriate. (There are some exceptions though that may apply. If you are a member of a union, covered by a collective bargaining agreement, or have an employment agreement that discussed your specific job duties and role with your employer, you may have some recourse.)
Employees don’t always like changing responsibilities, especially if this change is sudden, confusing, or unexpected. One way this could have been handled differently was if your employer had provided a more detailed reason for the transfer. Imagine if your employer had approached you with the message of:
“Sue, you are a wonderful employee. Although I know a Data Analyst is not your ideal position, I think with some training, we could capitalize on your analytical skills that you honed in your role at Financial Analyst. We really want to retain you and Finance needs to reduce their headcount by six employees. Your pay and benefits won’t be affected. Can we count on you to move into this new role?”
During the last six months, I can share with you that many of my clients have had several very long meetings where personnel decisions were painstakingly evaluated, carefully analyzed, and then finally several significant personnel decisions were reached. Many of the employees not privy to these discussions do not realize all of the factors that influence the final plan. Factors may include the company’s ability to acquire financing, declining sales, or changes in the external environment that have affected the company’s product or service. Educational institutions have certainly been impacted by the recession from both an enrollment perspective and concerns over shrinking endowments.