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The Superfluous Position

Make sure every title has a necessary and definable role.
June 15, 2009
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/202288
He was an editor. That's how it started. I worked at a small multimedia company that publishes tourism guides. Six months after I started, this editor was given a new role: creative manager of content. No one knew what this job meant--or what he would be required to do. But we all knew he thought he was better than us, more creative than us. His new job, he thought, was to teach us to be more creative.

Bad bosses in history (and film)
Bernie Ebbers, Chairman of WorldCom
. Claim to fame: Mississippi motel-chain owner turned telecom tycoon
. Claim to infamy: $11 billion accounting slip-up; conspiracy; fraud
. Current status: Inmate #56022-054, Oakdale Federal Correctional Institution, Oakdale, Louisiana

Genghis Khan, Emperor of the Mongols
. Claim to fame: United nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia
. Claim to infamy: Conducted reign of terror
. Current status: Unmarked grave, Asia

Bill Lumbergh, Division VP, Initech (in 1999's Office Space)
. Claim to fame: Immaculate TPS reports
. Claim to infamy: Fostered soul- crushing corporate culture
. Current status: Inside the warped genius mind of Mike Judge
Not long after that, we had a meeting so he could introduce something he called the Idea Lab. To him, the Idea Lab was a magical place where you could read magazines and tour books and just get away to do some brainstorming. In reality, it was a cubicle across the hall with a stack of old magazines where you got some serious personal reflection done. In one of his first meetings as the creative manager of content, he used the time to display a flowchart depicting what the Idea Lab was and how to use it. We were stumped. When he instituted a monthly two-hour show-and-tell at a local coffee shop, we made excuses why we couldn't attend.

I wasn't the only one who thought his new position was absurd. We were all a little irritated by the new creative manager of content. No one said anything to our department director, but we wondered how our co-worker landed this newly created position. It probably had something to do with him being a pet to the higher-ups. The president of the company--or "innovation director," as he was titled--absolutely loved the soon-to-be creative manager and his brainstorming. When the bosses heard his shameless self-promoting, they bought into it and puffed it up. He was due for a promotion, but the company used him as an experiment instead.

The biggest problem was the role itself. He didn't have a clear job description. He was constantly looking for something to do, for justification for his ridiculous title. Soon he became simply "the brainstorming guy," and he was only working on one book while the rest of us were working on three. He was trying to find his niche in the company, and the rest of us were doing the actual work. We were trying to edit books, and he was handing us a diagram . . . that he worked on for half a day . . . with a flowchart on how to brainstorm . . . in the cubicle next door . . . which was the Idea Lab.
--As told to Scott Gornall