A manager whose frugal values led her to waste nothing in a small startup is feeling out of step as the business expands. Does she still have a role to play?


The issue

Marcella was hired into a small team of a high growth start up. She impressed her colleagues with her conscientious nature and attention to detail. Her initiatives and processes were impressive as she would regularly identify opportunities for improving efficiency and eliminating waste.

Having often felt like an outsider in previous jobs, Marcella loved the company and their acceptance and gratitude for her contributions. The daughter of immigrants, Marcella felt strongly about her heritage and the values she gained watching her parents carefully use and reuse things so as not to frivolously waste their good fortune. She genuinely believed in this motto and would try to incorporate it into her work, even if it was something as simple as reusing paper or watering plants with water that would otherwise be dumped. But as the company grew and Marcella was promoted into supervisory positions, she started to feel that her values were aligning less and less with the evolving culture.

Though no one said anything to her about this outright, she felt her efforts to run things lean-and-mean were no longer seen as an asset, but rather were derided as annoying and small-minded. More recently, Marcella has been trying to be more casual to fit in which has resulted in her feeling even more awkward. With recent rumours of an acquisition, Marcella is anxious that it will no longer be a place where she can feel genuine in her management values and priorities.



The interventions

Elizabeth Barrakette

Executive and business coach

Company cultures do change over time, particularly as companies get bigger, their workforces become more diverse and their principles evolve with the demands of corporate imperatives. There are definitely instances when cultures are so misaligned that individuals have to consider other opportunities. However, it’s not clear that this is yet the case here for Marcella.

Marcella has expressed that she’s feeling her frugal and efficient approach is not appreciated, but we don’t know if this in fact is true.
On the other hand, her feelings of disconnection are genuine. There’s a coaching opportunity for Marcella to dive into what scenarios trigger her feelings and what she can do to mitigate them.

She and her coach can also explore what other options there are, or what margin of compromise she can tolerate, for her to feel comfortable and true to her values while still allowing for some flexibility for how others may want things done.

Even more so, there’s a team building opportunity that should not be overlooked. Creating a situation where individuals share a bit more about themselves, where they came from and how their decision-making is impacted by their backgrounds, would make great strides in bridging the cultural divide. This would then facilitate a collaborative effort to jointly identify some key initiatives that align with the more common values and/or priorities of the group.


Salma Shah

Executive coach and coach trainer

Being yourself, feeling accepted and being perceived as capable and adding value in our role translates across to psychological safety and a sense of belonging and inclusion.

Marcella had often felt like an outsider in previous roles, however this time it was different. On joining the organisation she felt appreciated and recognised for her contribution. She is great at processes and improving efficiencies however there has been no mention of her people skills.

I’d be curious about how she feels about her role as supervisor. Has there been any support as she has transitioned into this role. Did she actively want to be a supervisor or was it just the next step? What are the expectations of her role?

I would be curious if the new role which is no longer playing to her core strengths has also resurfaced old feelings of not belonging and exclusion from past work experiences.

Her lived experience may be impacting the current situation. Especially as she has no evidence that her approach is no longer an asset. It would be worth holding the space for this to arise during coaching.

It would also be useful to approach this coaching scenario with empathy for her lived experience of not belonging and psychologically safe. Then an exploration of her understanding of her role and the organisation’s mission and vision.

This is potentially a personal development opportunity to build her management and mentoring skills. Is there an opportunity for her to delegate? Her previous role seemed to be aligned to her core values, skills set and personality. Could she still stay true to her values and incorporate them into new skills? Is there a coaching opportunity to reframe how she sees her role yet still feel authentic?

As businesses grow so do people, and there could be a scenario that because Marcella isn’t feeling safe she is in flight mode.