Should You Take the Interim Role? The Other Shoe Drops.

Interim roles frequently have hair on them. They are imperfect jobs where you toil in a state of “pretend”  for those who hope temporary will become the “real” job.

Last week’s post Career Quandry: Should You Take the “Interim” Job surveyed the landscape of people taking interim roles when their boss vacates his/her role. Inspiration for the piece came from Yahoo’s appointment of Marissa Mayer as their new CEO coming on the heels of the expectation that interim CEO Ross Levinsohn would be tapped for the permanent role.

Yesterday Kara Swisher of All Things D reported that Levinsohn will be leaving Yahoo, no surprise to see a talented person in an interim role leave after not getting the job on a fulltime basis that they held temporarily. Levinsohn’s exit farewell and Mayer’s graceful thank you note from All Things D are as follows:

“I wanted to let you know that my time at Yahoo has come to an end. It has been an incredible journey for me and I could not be prouder of what we accomplished over the past few years helping define Yahoo as a leader in digital media and advertising. Yahoo is an amazing brand and company, and I leave knowing we did all we could to help inform and entertain more than 700 million users each month. Leading this company has been one of the best experiences of my career, but it is time for me to look for the next challenge.

– Ross”

“Subject: Thank You to Ross Levinsohn

Do Not Forward

I am writing to let you know that Ross Levinsohn will be leaving the company at the end of July.

Ross has been an important and powerful contributor at Yahoo since he joined in 2010. During May and June, Ross stepped into an incredibly tough role as interim CEO and did a terffic job — he really helped keep the company moving, closed important deals, and assembled a very talented team. I am very grateful to Ross for his leadership and work throughout his tenure at Yahoo. His contributions will be missed.

Ross will be in Sunnyvale tomorrow (Tuesday, July 31). Please take the opportunity to drop by and thank him for all he has done for the company. I hope you can join me in wishing Ross well and letting him know how much you’ve appreciated him as a colleague.

– Marissa”

What one (at least this writer) would expect to see next is key staff in Levinsohn’s area – formerly Yahoo’s America’s unit of sales and marketing – departing Yahoo in the next few months. Senior sales exec Todd Grabowski announced his departure, for example, this week coincidentally with Levinsohn’s announcement.

Levinsohn’s departure is covered by a separation agreement (here), standard for most executive departures where you’d like to ensure that good things are said by all parties going forward.

Cut to the chase?  Interim jobs are tricky, frequently thankless, and have more than their share of risks versus upside reward.  While sometimes they can help “prove” that the interim job holder merits the regular role, at the very top of organizations there is added peril that the devil you don’t know – an outside candidate – looks more attractive to hire than the devil you do know – the person promoted to the interim role.

Author J. Mike Smith is a executive, career, and leadership team coach, helping individuals, start-ups, teams and groups perform significantly better. Over the past 25 years as a senior business executive, J. Mike has worked with Fortune 500 companies such as Genentech, AT&T, and Visa. You can learn more about J. Mike at Life Back West.

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