What's Your Problem?

I started my career in marketing comms in two medium-sized companies.Because of their size I worked alone (reporting periodically to the marketing VP and the MD), being solely responsible for the creation and full management of all projects and initiatives. This gave me all-round experience, which I brought with me to my current position with a large company.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It has hundreds of members of staff and countless departments. As a result, I am no longer fully responsible for any project, as each department takes care of specific chunks of each one, leaving me with a tenth of what I used to do. I guess you can't do everything yourself in a large company, but I have worked hard to become good at my job and now I feel I am abandoning hard-earned skills. What do I do? Do I express my concern to my manager? Do I bear it until I get promoted? Do I go back to smaller companies?Your advice would be much appreciated.

A. I know how you're feeling. I've seen the same thing happen from the agency side. It was always our bigger clients who had more marketing staff, more projects - and above all, more hierarchical layers. So at every client meeting, we'd expect to see not just Jake, but Sophie, Grant and Beverley as well, each expecting a pairing from the agency. That meant we had to field not just Linda, but Mac, Aziz and Wally as well, even when there wasn't much reason for them to be there.

I bet in your previous companies you were used to having one-on-one meetings with your outside agencies - and a clear decision taken by the end. Now you'll be one of three or four.

It may not feel like it at the moment, but some of this experience will prove to be valuable. It's seldom publicly admitted, but if you want to make progress in a large and complex company, learning how to get things done quickly and efficiently is an essential secret skill. So note closely how others seem to manage it and learn.

All that may sound depressingly devious, but give it a go anyway: it can be fun and it works.

At the same time, you should certainly talk to your manager; but have a good, long think before you do. The problem you face is the inevitable result of your company's size and structure, and there's not a lot your manager can do about that. So don't just unload your frustrations, but go with a positive proposal as well.

Suggest that, as well as your existing responsibilities, you should take on full responsibility for one specific project that you've identified.

It should be relatively small and have a clear end-date.

If they're prepared, as they should be, to give you a low-risk chance to show what you can do, you could soon break through and start to enjoy your work again. Don't chuck in the towel yet.


JEREMY BULLMORE has been creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London and a non-executive director of both the Guardian Media Group and WPP.

Address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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