Navigating Hierarchy in a Fortune 500 Organization with Rhonda Okurowski

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Rhonda Okurowski, a leader with over 20 years of experience, recounts a challenging period in her leadership when she started at her first Fortune 500 organization.

The Story

Upon starting her new role, Rhonda began meeting with each one of her 14 team members one on one. When her team raised concerns about inadequate compensation despite increased responsibilities, Realizing the limitations of middle management in addressing pay-related matters, Rhonda brought these issues to her director.

As a result, her director recommended Rhonda look into it and present him with the findings.

As Rhonda started fulfilling that request, she worked with HR to start a pay analysis for her team’s role. Fast forward about three months into the process when her director scheduled a meeting with her.

Rhonda’s director criticized her for reacting to her team’s complaints and for triggering higher-level inquiries as a result of the pay analyses. After what felt like a “talking to”, she was excluded from meetings and conversations, which persisted for over a year until a new director came on board. Luckily, Rhonda was able to reestablish herself with her new director and they had a renewed focus – navigating COVID in the hospitality industry.

What Rhonda Learned

Reflecting on the experience, Rhonda expressed regret for not understanding the company’s hierarchy but she doesn’t regret advocating for her team. She’s learned to ask more questions when assessing trustworthiness in new reporting relationships and to understand company policies and procedures, especially in a management role.

Rhonda also discusses the challenges of transitioning into a management role within a new organization, emphasizing the significance of asking questions and being approachable. She reflects on her leadership style and the difficulty of advocating for her team in a large corporate setting.

Her Advice

Lastly, Rhonda ends with two pieces of advice for fellow managers. She suggests having a colleague or mentor who has experience in where or what you’re lacking or need guidance in. Also, laugh at yourself because you’re going to mess up.

You can connect with Rhonda on LinkedIn.