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You were the boss -- now you're not

  • Story Highlights
  • With the economy downturn, some former bosses are back at the bottom
  • "I must admit to initially dreading the 9-to-5 routine," former boss says
  • Move from boss to employee can come with growing (or shrinking) pains
By Anthony Balderrama writer
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Not everyone's new role comes in the form of an industry or company switch; they come within the same company.

Not everyone's new role comes in the form of an industry or company switch; they come within the same company.

If you've ever watched daytime talk shows -- and it's OK to admit that you have -- you've seen that some of the biggest crowd pleasers are the before-and-after episodes.

You know, some dowdy guest who always dresses in ill-fitting clothes that went out of fashion 20 years ago gets all glammed up. Suddenly an ugly duckling can go out in public and blend in with the other attractive swans.

The appeal for viewers is that we're rooting for the underdog. We watch them transform from the underdogs to the champions. Or, as one show's topic put it, "I Was Fat, Now I'm All That!"

As a society, we love to see the people work their way up and persevere against all odds. That's part of the reason so many job seekers take entry-level jobs with the mind set that they'll one day be the boss. We know we can work hard and rise to the top.

But what happens when things change and we're no longer the head honcho? This economy's shaking up companies: Some people are being moved into new roles, while others are moving to new industries.

Former bosses are finding themselves answering to someone else and no longer giving orders to anyone. It doesn't mean they did anything wrong; it's just the result of the times. But that doesn't make it easy to accept.

The new job is the easy part Sam Weatherby was the vice president of training and development for a notable bank in the Midwest. As the bank went under, Weatherby was let go. She went through a lengthy job search in order to find the right match. Ultimately she took a job as a CEO's administrative assistant.

"I make less than half of what I used to," Weatherby says. "To say that I am overqualified would be an understatement. But I am grateful to be working."

Although that mind-set makes her new role palatable, it doesn't take away all of the sourness.

"Was the transition easy? Sure. Was it hard to swallow? You betcha!" she says. "I knew I could do this job with my eyes closed. I now struggle with not being challenged enough, scared that my mind will turn to mush."

Weatherby continues to look for other work, within and outside the banking industry, and she acknowledges that the market is competitive. Until then, she at least has this job.

Entrepreneur to teammate

Vicky Smith's experience is similar, except she owned her own business for 17 years. A combination of economic conditions and personal circumstances made her low income and lack of benefits too much to bear.

She decided to find a conventional job that provided for her and her family's needs. She began doing marketing and promotions for a urology practice, which is a definite change of pace from owning her own wholesale light manufacturing company. Though she still runs that business, it's no longer her primary occupation.

"I must admit to initially dreading the 9-to-5 routine, having to answer to someone else and not being in control of my own situation," Smith says. "The work here is fun, supportive and filled with wonderful co-workers and doctors who truly have created a wonderful place to work where we all feel valued and appreciated for our contributions."

Yet, as happy as she is to work in a place she enjoys, she's still adjusting.

"I will acknowledge that sometimes it is hard for me to accept that I do not have the final word, must have my decisions and actions approved at the higher level and do not have control over expenditures or activities that sometimes seem viable to me but are deemed not to be suitable for the practice," she says.

And the other perks -- one of the primary reasons she took the job -- are also worth the struggles.

"For the first time in my adult life I received paid holidays this year, am able to provide insurance for both my sons and myself, and contribute to a retirement program," Smith says. "I still remember fondly those days of being the boss and making my own hours. But life is about change and I am grateful this opportunity came along for me when I needed it most."

Internal shifts

Not everyone's new role comes in the form of an industry or company switch; they come within the same company. Mansoor Ehsan was the manager of business development overseeing a dozen employees when the economy began to falter.

Although he didn't lose his job, he did have to take on a new position where he reports to a project manager and now no one reports to him. In fact, many of his former subordinates became his colleagues.

"The difference that I have felt is that now I feel more relaxed," Ehsan says. Part of that relaxed feeling comes from not having to account for his team of employees when he reported to his superiors. "I used to [answer] for 15 people in front of management, and now I represent my own self."

Other newfound perks have come in the form of camaraderie. His former employees, now colleagues, are more relaxed around him, too. He notices it in the way they jokes with him and developed friendships.

"Previously, I was their boss and we [had to keep] some kind of distance," he says.

Although the move from boss to employee can come with growing (or shrinking) pains, Ehsan raises a good point.

Not only do you still have a job when many people don't, but you probably have better relationships with people who once felt intimidated by you. In a job market where who you know is often the best way to jumpstart a career, having more friends can't be a bad thing.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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