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Tough Call: The Middle Management Tightrope

Your direct supervisor wants to stay the course, but the corporate office wants to make some changes. What would you do?

When you graduated from college a decade ago, you had your choice of plenty of job opportunities. But you didn’t want a job. You wanted a career. That’s why you went to work with a strong local building material dealer. What your chosen industry lacked in flash, you believed that it more than made up for in stability and staying power. Looking back…you were right.

A lot has happened since you came on board as a management trainee. The housing market has been growing non-stop, and your company set new sales records year after year, until being acquired by a larger company last spring. At first, you were concerned about how you and your middle-manager role might fit into the new, larger company. Fortunately, the owners of your original company have stayed involved, so the transition to being part of a larger organization went about as smoothly as you could have expected.

Now that it’s been a year since the acquisition, there are some cracks starting to show, and you’re not sure how to proceed. Here’s the story:

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The former owners—who you still report to directly— want to keep doing things the same as they always had. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” is their motto, and they have a point. After all, the reason their company was successful, and what made it an attractive acquisition target, was all the things they’d done right for so many years. They built a strong company, with a loyal customer base and a solid bottom line.

As much as the people in the corporate office agree that their newly-acquired company does many, many things right, they still believe there’s room for improvement. Specifically, they’re looking at implementing more LEAN practices in your yard’s operations. They also want to update the technology platform, which they believe will boost efficiencies and profits, while helping to attract more young people to the company.

You’re on the same page with the folks in the corporate office, which puts you at odds with your direct supervisor who believes that these changes from the status quo are not just unnecessary, he sees them as a bad idea that would detract from your day-to-day operations.

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You find yourself walking a fine line of wanting to make changes that the corporate office is advocating, but not making enemies of your direct supervisor—who you work with every day.

What would you do?

  • KNOW YOUR PLACE. Your direct supervisor, having built and grown the business, knows a thing or Follow her lead.
  • LOOK AHEAD. With much of your career ahead of you, the smart play is to follow your gut and align with the corporate office.
  • MAKE IT HAPPEN. Help your supervisor see that these changes are going to happen, and do what you can to smooth the transition.
  • DON’T TAKE SIDES. This isn’t your battle. Keep your opinion to yourself, and go with the flow.

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What would you do?

If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to If we publish your reply, we’ll send you an LBM Journal mug.

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