In the typical corporation, you will find many people whose main role
is that of "The Enforcer." Project managers who enforce
project timelines, human resource staffers who enforce work policies,
union representatives who enforce labor agreements and even IT workers
who enforce company standards, approved hardware, software and password
policies. While, in most cases, all of these items need policing and
enforcing, playing the role of the enforcer could be damaging to your
career as a whole.
It is a sad truth that workers in any sort of enforcement role are
almost universally disliked by co-workers beyond their own department.
Security staff may respect each other, but the general populous
of the company might find them officious or difficult. This is
an unfair characterization, but perception can be as important as
reality. If people perceive you as a problem or an impediment, they
will treat you as one.
You can easily see that if you are placed in the role of enforcer,
in any regard, you run the risk of becoming disliked, and eventually,
unwanted at your company. Furthermore, once you start down this
path, it is very difficult to reverse.
One of the largest problems with the enforcer role is that there
is often substantial disagreement between policies and the operational
reality of a company. Being responsible for enforcing unrealistic
goals and procedures makes enemies of both those above and below
Workers will see you as enforcing policies they cannot abide and
management will constantly question why its policies aren't being
you spend your lunchtimes in lonely thoughts about why everyone
Being the enforcer has concrete effects on your career, too. As the
person in-between, you will be the focus of complaints from above
and below. People will actively try to circumvent your enforcement
and keep you "out of the loop" on important decisions until
it is too late to change them. Finally, being an enforcer leaves you
open to the threat of downsizing, layoffs and termination. Face it,
if both staff and management are displeased with your work, who are
they going to mark for layoff -- you or their best friend and co-worker?
You have almost nowhere to turn for support. No matter how much you
might believe in the importance of your work, if others do not share
that view, you are doomed.
So, how do you protect yourself from this unenviable position? First,
don't seek out or accept jobs with a major enforcement role, if at
all possible. Once you are in such a position, for even a short period
of time, co-workers opinions will quickly form. This is especially
true if you are being called in to "clean up" an already
bad situation. You cannot imagine the animosity that will face you
as you begin.
If you must take on an enforcement role, you must have the complete
and unwavering support of your management. They must truly believe
in their stated goals, and be willing to deal with conflict, complaints
and crises that will result. If not, you will quickly be offered
up as a scapegoat to quell the complaints and anger arising from
If I were faced with taking on a role like this, I would do everything
in my power to include a contractual agreement, which allows me
a set amount of time to accomplish the stated goals. This would
include a large bonus, payable on my termination, should management
decide to abandon their initiative. Management must support enforcement
roles and not be given an easy way out when the complaints begin
to flood their email.
No matter how important the role of enforcer might be, for the average
worker it is a career minefield. Without continued support from
management and understanding from co-workers, enforcers are doomed
to be either
ineffectual, or too often, unemployed. Avoid the role of enforcer
whenever possible and enter into it only with the utmost care and
consideration. The continued success of your career depends on it.
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