Good job! You just got yourself fired

IT staffer's competence, skill, and professionalism don't bode well when a new CEO takes over a floundering company

Woe to the tech who does the job too well! Your expertise may convince naive bean counters that retaining IT staff is unnecessary when all systems are humming along seamlessly.

About two years ago, I was a consultant at a company where the IT manager found himself wedged between a rock and a hard place. I'd been working with this tech, "John," on and off for a few years and had gotten to know him quite well.

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I had first come onboard when the company was in its growing phase. I was called in to offer additional IT help, whether with projects or miscellaneous IT tasks, and was always impressed by John. He was a professional who drew upon his years of experience to handle oncoming crises calmly and competently, and he continued to find new ways to improve the company's internal systems and custom databases. Alas, these exact characteristics eventually rendered him obsolete to upper management.

The problems started with the arrival of a new CEO who lacked finesse and people skills. In my personal meetings with this CEO, he struck me as bombastic and borderline abrasive. The company started losing customers, and the word through the grapevine was that many of these clients found the CEO too hard to work with. They voted with their budgets and took their business elsewhere.

It didn't help matters that the economic climate was horrible, but losing customers to competitors spelled disaster. The company started cutting employees, whittling the workforce until it had shrunk by almost 75 percent.

The entire IT staff was laid off, except for John. I was seldom called in to work for the company by this point since it didn't have the budget for contractors. But the times I did go there, I was amazed at how well John held everything together. He was doing the work of several people, in a chaotic situation, yet it all ran smoothly.

Still, the company's budget woes continued. Eventually, John was told to take furlough days -- which led to part-time status.

The board was finally fed up with the CEO, fired him, and found a replacement. The new CEO walked into a company that was in survival mode. After a couple of months, the hammer came down: He fired John.

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