In his most recent one, he regales the reader with a variety of tales from the corporate and agency world in which executives who were promised one title and one set of responsibilities were, instead, given a very different mandate (one with less power and greater risk of failure).
Spetner cites his own situation when he labored at Nissan. At the time, he reported to the head of North America operations. But, one day, the CEO of sales and marketing took him to lunch and told Don it was “…now your job to convince senior management that communications needed to report to sales and marketing instead.” Spetner refused, and the CEO proceeded to make Don’s life miserable for the next two years.
He also shared the story of a friend of his who heads communications for a very large financial services firm. This poor guy reports to the CEO, but is caught right smack in the middle of a power struggle between the CEO and chairman. If Spetner’s friend pleases the CEO, he gets crucified by the chairman, and vice versa. He plays through that pain every single day (Note: in my opinion, life’s far too short to be miserable).
I can relate to these stories. I was twice told I would have full responsibility for, first, PR, in one integrated agency and later, full responsibility for running an entire division of JWT. In both cases, I ended up with lesser roles and needed to weave my way through political minefields.
The Spetner tale is must reading for any PR major in college. It’s also helpful for any PR professional making his or her way up the corporate or agency ladder.
Be VERY attentive to the offer being extended to you. And, never, ever accept a job that doesn’t spell out in excruciating detail both your title and responsibilities.
Even then, you’re still likely to find yourself caught in a living hell. It’s been said before and it will be said again: people quit people. They don’t quit organizations.
So, remember, what you hear may not be what you get. And, be prepared to play with pain if you do find yourself in an untenable situation. You may choose to do what Don did and ride out the tsunami. Or you, may decide to follow my course: bail on the bullsh*t that was being shoveled out at the big agencies, and start your own firm.”