Revisited: You Have the Power

Revisited: You Have the Power

This article was originally published here.

15 years later, I finally figured it out.

I remember when I thought I didn’t have it. I remember sitting at my desk. I had a view of the parking lot. It was nice.

I spent the last few weeks contacting my supervisor’s boss about an upcoming speaking gig she committed to. Simple enough, right? No answer. No emails. No return calls. The deadline was here. We needed answers. This was my chance – my supervisor’s boss was in the office and I would not be ignored. I was ready to impress with my project management skills. (Don’t judge, I was new). When I finally got on the phone with her, I was verbally (and harshly) criticized for not contacting her (even though I did many times and had record of it) and almost missing the largest speaking opportunity of the year.

I felt like I let the entire company down.

Flash forward – I remember my father was in the hospital. I was told I had to travel by my supervisor. Oh, and travel was never part of my job description. The project wasn’t staffed correctly and they were scrambling in another department. I politely explained that I was unable to travel and be away from my parents right now, given the circumstances, and pointed out other ways I was volunteering to support the firm during this time outside of my current department. I pointed out I was a team player and reminded them of the other ways I go above and beyond and that I was ready to help.

Not good enough. I was told that this would go in my file for not being flexible. I always received EXEMPLARY on my performance reviews, so why the threat?

I accepted a new position. I didn’t know I was replacing the current marketing department leader until I started on my first day. It was awkward being introduced to someone with the same title. It gets better. That department I was going to manage? It was laid off. I was now a department of one.

I was deceived from the second I stepped into the building for the interview.

I was hired at another firm to build the marketing plan. Exciting time for me. People were happy. Co-workers were nice. Butterflies and rainbows.

Then it happened. I was in a corporate meeting with all the executives and the SVP told everyone all marketing was stopping. This was news to me. Marketing was doing great, actually. The SVP explained I would be working on legal contracts and other items. No marketing. Nothing else.

In an instant, in a room of leaders within the company, my job temporarily changed right before my eyes. This was also news to my current supervisor.

My decade of marketing experience working with agencies and other successful programs was of no perceived value.

In a meeting about a marketing project and was told I would be “accountable” for a lead generation program where the # of leads generated was going to be 500% above industry standard. No research could back up the # of leads. No budget. This project was going to fail in the current state and was a bad idea in the current state. I was told my questions and comments around it were unacceptable.

Never accept that your advice and insights do not matter.

I was once growled at when I began asking further questions to help guide a project – and the individual stormed out of the room afterwards.

I was once asked to give a sales strategy and I pointed out a problem with current sales operations. We had the numbers to back it up. The sales leader told me that was off limits and we wouldn’t talk about it. He was afraid to fix the problem that was costing the firm hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The offenses went on.

The budget is frozen so we can make our numbers.

We need to grow marketing 100%. Here’s a budget that’s 75% lower that before. That’s not being innovative. That’s called being cheap.

The marketing budget needs to be reduced because other departments aren’t making their revenue goals.

We can’t invest in this. I can’t tell you why, but that marketing tactic doesn’t work, and I can’t prove it.

We lost clients due to performance issues in other departments, so let’s cut marketing. My administrative assistant can handle it all anyway.

All marketing people are like real estate agents. You do the exact same thing and think you are better at it. (I almost accidentally spilled my water in his lap on that one during a lunch meeting. It’s okay, he was a sales VP, which means he is an overpaid car salesman, right?)

I’m going to interview you, but I want free marketing consulting in this call and I am not going to tell you any of my challenges. Yikes.

Hang with me. This article isn’t just intended for marketing people. It’s not about complaining.

Don’t miss the point here.

It is a statement of power, a call to professional arms, and a declaration of indepen…oh wait, that is taken.

It took many years, but I finally figured it out after sharing my stories and listening to the true stories of other people.

You have the POWER. I have the POWER. WE HAVE THE POWER.

  • You have a choice how and where you invest your valuable time.
  • You can learn from bad or weird experiences, but they don’t define you and you don’t have to live in them.
  • We all have horror stories. We need to make sure we have more success stories.
  • You are skilled and valuable – and you deserve to be treated and paid as such.
  • You aren’t owed the world by your employer, but you are entitled (ya, I used the e-word) to work smart, to be empowered, and not operate out of fear.
  • You have a voice – ask why, don’t allow yourself to be blamed for other peoples’ mistakes on sales, performance, poor time management.
  • It’s not your fault your email, phone call, request for help was never heard.
  • Better employers, healthier cultures, and happier place are out there. No one owns you.
  • You have the power to say no. Employers do it all the time. You have boundaries.
  • You are human. Humans make mistakes, have feelings and are VERY imperfect at everything. Embrace it. Use it. Own it. Release it.

From a Marketing Perspective . . .

  • Marketing people are investors. Let the experts take care of sponsorships, budget spends, events, media buys.
  • If we tell you we need to invest in a specific campaign – listen to us. Be open.
  • Marketing people should be treated as marketing agencies. They work differently. They are creative. They shouldn’t be constrained by another department’s screw ups.
  • Just because you don’t understand marketing, doesn’t mean it is a waste of money and is the first budget to be slashed. You hired experts. It probably isn’t our fault performance is down.
  • Don’t ask for a free strategy session or in-depth marketing advice during an interview or meet and greet, unless both parties agreed beforehand and some type of trade or compensation is in place. I wouldn’t ask you for $100 when first meeting you, why would you ask me to work for free?
  • Don’t think just because we work in marketing means we cold-call, make direct sales, etc. I wouldn’t ask your sales manager to write copy, launch a campaign, SEO a website, perform graphic design, etc. It would be horrible. 

Don’t mistake this for a rant. This is a revelation. A caffeinated keg of empowerment.

We have a choice. We have the Power. Now, go use it for good.


Matt Swain is a marketer, teacher, reader, father, writer, and a consumer of all things pecan-pie. Read more, contact me, find out about my marketing or hire me at Follow @bringtheswain

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