The imperitive for restructuring, downsizing or merging, be it local councils or NHS trusts, looked like a boost for the careers of interim managers.
‘When progress falters and popularity zeros your status as an interim manager can become an obstacle’
After all, if you are thinking of doing away with the post of chief executive then a temporary appointment may buy you the time you need. Alternatively the type of leader you need to break up the old structure is not necessarily the person best suited to bringing people together in a new partnership.
Traditional organisational wisdom is that experienced interim managers are good for steadying the ship or holding the fort in periods of upheaval and uncertainty.
However, when progress falters and popularity zeros your status as an interim manager can itself become an obstacle. People think you are not going to be around much longer and that you’re not a proper leader. Those who oppose you are bolder in the knowledge the chair and the board are not wedded to you.
These seem to be the circumstances behind Chelsea’s interim first team manager Rafael Benitez’s outburst at a press conference after an FA Cup tie last week.
‘All senior managers are now considered to be like football managers, only around for a couple of years’
The former Liverpool manager felt it necessary in the face of continued criticism and public hostility to defend disappointing performances by telling us he had the backing of the senior Chelsea players and the confidence of the chairman and the owner. Naturally fans and pundits were not convinced.
The problem for interim managers is that short periods of major upheaval and dramatic change have been replaced by ongoing transition. Once we have dealt with this service review, management restructuring or budget crisis it will be immediately replaced with another.
All senior managers are now considered to be like football managers, only around for a couple of years. So if everyone is temporary no one needs to be “interim”. Hence Mr Benitez’s criticism of his employers for saddling him with that job title.