In-house Incites: Bait-IN-Switch


Pay attention. If you listen hard you’ll hear the other shoe dropping. As in-house designers, we’re all aware of the outsourcing/offshoring tsunami of career-killing corporate shortsightedness and greed in action. Well there’s another less visible wave of beancounter headcount cutting going on at the expense of our profession and the companies we serve – title deflation and responsibility inflation.


Here’s how it works. A company has an in-house department with seasoned experienced managers at its helm. These creative directors and team leads also happen to have higher salaries than their younger reports and more expensive benefits (vested 401Ks, more vacation time etc.). From the beancounters’ perspective, they might as well be wearing florescent bull’s-eyes on their backs.

The Finance pinheads, in their cost-cutting mindless budget reducing bloodlust, figure that firing them will save the company money (which it won’t when all that institutional knowledge walks right out the door taking all time and cost cutting efficiencies with them).

Now trying to fill those vacant positions with equally experienced designers and design managers would defeat the purpose because the new hires’ salaries would be as high as the professionals who were fired. So the trick is to bring in less experienced folks and drop them into a sink or swim situation (without the tools, training or experience needed to succeed – thus setting them and the remaining team up for failure).

There’s one problem, though. In the corporate world’s obsession with hierarchy, new staff can’t be brought in at the same titles and levels as their canned predecessors. A whole new level and group of positions needs to be created. HR quickly addresses the problem and advertises openings with new fancy titles that semantically and financially allows for the dumbing-down of the in-house team’s most critical asset – their leaders.

What you end up finding in the job postings section are positions with different names and markedly lower compensation than the original positions that were eliminated but with exactly the same set of responsibilities and expectations as the original positions. Who said that business execs aren’t creative?…

7 thoughts on “In-house Incites: Bait-IN-Switch

  1. Jessica

    Ahhh, how true.
    Corporate obsession with hierarchy has never been more evident than in my in-house position. In-house design being a previously unprecedented role in my company, they’re struggling with labeling my position in a way that keeps the costs effective— I am the ONLY in-house creative for 5+ national brands and am expected to do everything from advertising, brand standards, promotions and trade show materials to package design, and… tahaaa. I am a “marketing assistant.”

  2. stop the presses

    Yeah. Or they decide that the under-dressed receptionist should do the annual report because “the clever girl” found a “cheaper and easier” way to do it –
    wait for it-

    in Power Point.
    Go ahead and throw-up a little- I did.

    Now, being the comm. person, I let it be known that this was inappropriate. Am now on the boss’s bad side.

  3. NewGuy

    or… the position you trained for for over 20 years is vacated by retirement. And after some talk of hiring from outside (instead of promoting you), the position languishes and you are leader by default. Then, only after inquiring, you find you ARE the new leader with all of the retiree’s responsibilities and NO salary increase even though they were making roughly twice what you make…

  4. Jessica

    @stop the presses:
    You can’t see my face, but it’s a mask of horror. How much more undervalued could you possibly be!?
    I think Powerpoint should be banned in the corporate environment. I’ve been asked on numerous occasions to do design work in Powerpoint “so people can edit it,” since everyone has access to the damn program…

    Wow. “Oh no, you got the job by default, you just didn’t get any of the perks.” Slap in the face…

  5. Joey

    Just had my annual review and, after 23+ yrs of “exceeds expectations,” I got a “meets expectations” with the caveat that “quality” was rated a “2” out of “6.” No warning or discussion during the year. No dialogue about what the problems were. Just “I’m hearing that people are complaining that everything looks the same.” Uh…BRANDING? And, “Oh, proofs come back with changes that aren’t made.” I know these comments are from 2% or less of the entire staff of this large organization and even those complainers have had their butts pulled from the fires more than I can count on two hands by my team.

    But then my new boss laid the big one me…
    They took 4 jobs my group was working on and secretly gave the same jobs out to a design firm to work on at the same time. Without my knowing, we were in a contest to see which designs staff liked better. Two of the four came back in favor of the design shop, one was in favor of my team and the other no one won.

    It gets better…. Then I was given the name of the design firm and all their accolades and that they were a “younger group.” My group’s ages are 53,52,52…my production manager is 65.

    Then I got the story of “long-timers” like you cost the company more in benefits and salaries. It’s more of a “financial” decision and “the way the economy is these days.” When they add up all the salaries and benefits, my group ends up costing more than outsourcing all the work to this small design shop who charges more an hour than we do. Then I hear, “Well, they charged $75 hr plus 2 designs with the first 2 rounds of corrections free of charge and then $75 after that.

    If you have to work with the staff we do that makes corrections as they go, it’ll really end up costing a lot more than our $40 bucks an hour.

    Last month, we recorded a record 210 jobs in and out in January. These jobs are shared between 3 designers. I doub’t any respected design/marketing & media specialist group is going to want to put up with the insane deadlines and lazy staff we live with day in and day out.

    What I can’t impress upon my new boss is the value of experience, our overall good reputation with staff, our responsiveness and congeniality while getting incredibly ridiculous deadlines on high design projects. In addition to this, how many “personal” projects we do during the year in between getting the real work done.

    Any ammunition to this argument would be greatly appreciated since I wasn’t given a timeline on when or even if this was going to happen. We’re all in limbo until they “do more looking into” getting rid of my department and team this next year.


  6. edr3

    Then I was given the name of the design firm and all their accolades and that they were a “younger group.” My group’s ages are 53,52,52…my production manager is 65. Then I got the story of “long-timers” like you cost the company more in benefits and salaries. It’s more of a “financial” decision and “the way the economy is these days.”

    BULL! I just read your post and almost choked on my breakfast! I wouldn’t be so worried about the change in “exceeds to meets expectations” though. The real serious issue you have is the overt and woefully illegal discriminatory comments you had to endure from your supervisor’s stupidly naive jabber mouth! This burns me up to my core the nerve!

    I’m curious, did your supervisor make these comments in writing or were they said to you during your review? Either instance is illegal, truly it is! Have you mentioned that these comments were made to you with any of your colleagues at work? If not, you need to immediately respond by filing a grievance with your HR department. Document the occurrence in Evernote ( If those comments were made during your performance review, I would address your dissatisfaction with those statements in your comments section of the review. Then I would privately contact your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and meet with one of their attorney’s to clarify if you were discriminated against under the laws of our great country.

    Employers truly need to educate their managers on what is and is not appropriate/legal things to say to employees in the workplace. As a manager your personal feelings need to stay out of many of your conversations with employees. Even if they are planning to downsize or cut costs this manager stupidly articulated to you that it is mainly because you and your team are “old.” That is very, very, very wrong and not how company’s operate in this economy without getting slammed by class action lawsuits. It’s just as wrong as saying it’s because you are a woman, black or disabled.

    Your manager at the very least deserves a severe reprimand or worse. This manager is seriously a law suit waiting to happen for your company. Hell, if your team is cranking out 210 projects a month – successfully and with good quality – pack your toolboxes and leave. This manager will get fired when that monthly bill comes in over twice as much as it would have cost to keep your team in place. Below is the EEOCs definition of Age Discrimination along with their national website address. Please update us and most importantly be careful in how you proceed, this is a very precarious situation. Be strong!

    Age Discrimination & Harassment
    It is unlawful to harass a person because of his or her age.
    Harassment can include, for example, offensive remarks about a person’s age. Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted). The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

    Age Discrimination & Employment Policies/Practices
    An employment policy or practice that applies to everyone, regardless of age, can be illegal if it has a negative impact on applicants or employees age 40 or older and is not based on a reasonable factor other than age.


    1. Joey

      Dear EDR3,

      Thank you for your response. I haven’t been able to go to work without a serious pit in my stomach after all this.

      I have talked to a couple of people who’ve said the same thing about reporting it, getting with the HR director and filing a grievance.

      I will check out “” and get this in the works.