Yes, today is a multiple post day. Just had something happen and I kind of want to spin a story around it. There may or may not be a point. We’ll see how it goes.
I must provide background but I’ll be as brief as possible. In college, there was a lady a year behind me but because we didn’t take any classes together, I knew her name without really knowing her. But we were going for the same degree.
Flash forward a year or so and we end up in the same town but at different jobs. As the life wheel turns, I get a call from a recruiter and go to work for the company that just kicked me out. So we are now working in the same place but in different departments and different buildings so our paths don’t cross many times.
Moving forward in time, we end up in competition for the same position. It fits my skills better but she gets it. I find out later from an inside source that it was more of a political decision. She had strong support from a manager with more pull than the manager who favored me and the director didn’t want to make waves so she did the politically correct thing. It happens.
Well lets spin the wheel to another point in time after several restructurings and downsizings and my star has risen a little bit. As a “reward”, they decide that I should be given a direct report. Guess who it is? Yes, the same lady who had been the preferred choice a couple of years ago. Awkward!
But I’m not the type who really carries a grudge and, besides, I couldn’t blame her for working the system better than I did. Later, when I took over managing another group, she got carried along. With all the corporate stuff going on, my group was an amalgamation of three different groups that had been lumped together.
Like every person, she had strengths and weaknesses. She’s a little high strung and gets stressed out very easily about workload. Fortunately, I’m kind of the person who stays calm in the midst of a manufactured work related storm. So I got to be the calming influence to shift priorities for her and tell her that it was OK if Project B was a little late because we really needed Project A. That kind of stuff.
One of our other major differences is that when presented with someone asking a question but only having about half of what you needed to know, I could make some assumptions and give them an answer with appropriate caveats. I felt totally comfortable dealing with a certain level of uncertainty. But it created a lot of stress for her and it would usually end up in a place where she couldn’t get all the information and so she wouldn’t provide an answer and the person looking for the answer kept pressing for one.
I’ve always felt that everyone has some skills that are useful and that the best thing you can do as a boss is find a way for them to do the things they are good at. Then, they are successful and they feel good and stuff gets done. If someone had career ambitions, then you start trying to push them into things that they aren’t comfortable with but will need for where they want to go. If someone is perfectly happy at their job and really has no interest in going elsewhere, then you try to just grow them deeper into the skills they need for the position. And I could partition the work in a way where she could focus on certain things and I’d field the less defined stuff.
Over time, I brought her into some of those discussions but I knew it wasn’t her strong suit. As long as there was someone who could do it, then why add to her stress level and take away from the things she did really well.
OK, that’s probably more of my management philosophy than you needed to know.
Why am I writing about this? Because I get a text from her today saying she had a difficult day and that she missed me and me expertise. Also that I had done so much that I didn’t get credit for and that I had done so much and she couldn’t believe they let me go.
I have no idea what it really going on. We are going to lunch to talk about it some more. Why? Because if I can help, I’m going to. But I suspect she is in an argument with some folks because they want an answer but don’t have all the information she needs. I could be wrong. We’ll see.
So how do I feel about all this:
Actually, I have a hard time feeling that way. It would be one thing if the bigwigs who made the decision were suffering in some way but I know they aren’t. The fallout comes to people who are left behind who had nothing to do with the decisions.
But I also know that the reason I was deemed “expendable” is in part because I wasn’t an aggressive self-promoter. I’ve always been happy to yield the spotlight to others while I’d go on to work on the next thing. When they did the reorg a couple of years ago, they chopped a lot of the people above me who knew me from years and knew what I could do. The newer people just saw someone who didn’t call attention to themselves and just assumed I wasn’t worth keeping. (OK, it might be more complicated than that but they like the people who quote the buzzwords in management staff meetings. That’s what gets you noticed)
I guess I don’t have a moral to this story. You’d think I’d be telling you to promote yourself all you can but I’m not going do that. For me, the thing about the corporate politics was that I didn’t want to lose myself. No promotion is worth that. I think you have to be true to yourself. But you kind of have to be ready to accept the potential consequences.
Maybe the other moral to the story is that in corporate life, you never know where you’re going to end up. It helps to be nice to everyone just in case.