You’ve seen it all in your career, your certain of it. It’s not often that you’re surprised by events or actions taken by Executives or Boards of Directors. Certainly not when you’ve always been a top performer. But there’s always those outliers.
Outliers like when you accepted a new job at a new company. A huge promotion in theory. But the new company had new rules with new views on business. Rules like shipping hazardous products, selling vaporware to Wall Street and blaming your under-paid, under resourced employees for not meeting the number. Ring any bells?
It usually doesn’t.
So when you started and held your first team meeting, you were shocked to hear all of your direct reports bemoan your changes. Changes they asked for. You thought: “what is wrong with these people? I am giving them what they want.”
“Oh, sir” a skeptical voice cried out, “Look here.” By the sound of her voice you imagined the worst. The corporate equivalent to a whiny 4 year old complaining about the meal you’ve just served up. Bad news. A skeptician possibly. But you never imagined this.
“Things don’t change here” she said. “I’m not doing anything new ‘cuz every time I do the boss gets fired and I have to start all over again. Our last boss lasted one day”
“One day?”, you blurt incredulously. “How many managers have been in my position in the last 2 years?”
“I lost count, but I remember four of them”, she said.
Your due diligence on the company never revealed this hidden fact. In fact you heard a series of stories about former employees that had abused the authority granted to them by the executive team. Losers, leeches and louses. You felt sorry for the company. Genuine compassion!
Alas, all’s not well that starts well.
You remember thinking, “Let’s try to keep an open mind.” So you did. But even you must have known what a longshot this was.
It did start well. They were throwing virtual parades in your honor. Building shrines to your ideas and welcoming your delicate management style.
You don’t have any specific memories of the end and context eludes you. But the grumblings started in month four. First it was a Board Member who didn’t like one of your slides. A mouse and cheese reference that worked on paper but offended the Board Member. “He took personal offence”, you learned later, “to your use of cheese and rodent to explain the concept of enticing the channel to sell our products.”
Then it came from the CEO in a review meeting. A schizophrenic character and a case study on the rather fraught nature of Freud’s structural model of the psyche. His review of your first 180 days was marked by one’s and fives. Nothing in between. Comments such as, “this young man has delusions of adequacy” were matched with, “you are the smartest person I’ve ever met”.
“Odd”, you thought, “but okay, I can learn from this.”
By the end of the meeting the CEO laughed which made you laugh. He closed with, “I know I should have brought some of these items to your attention sooner, but I figured I’d let you get your feet wet first.”
“Seriously though, I want you to run this place when I retire. I need to find my replacement and I think you’re the right fit”, he said. “What do you think? Are you up for it?”
He watched closely for your response. An engaging gaze that studied your face for any clues of defiance. You tell him how honored you are and that you will not disappoint him.
“One more thing though before you go”, he said almost absentmindedly, “I want you to apologize to your team for pushing them too hard. They think you’re using them to make yourself look good. They think you’re after my job. Silly huh?”
You try to hide the confused look on your face but you’re sure it appeared. Subconsciously probably. “Well, okay”, you say, “I’ll make arrangements.”
“No really”, the CEO quipped, “I want a progress report. Let me know weekly to whom and how you apologized.”
You agree to the bizarre terms and return to being productive. Productive but apologetic. Meetings within meetings that started out with a request for your team to do things more efficiently followed by an apology for doing your job.
Thirty days later after the last apology was made and the last report was given to the CEO, you’re employment was promptly terminated.
A short explanation was given. Something along the lines of causing a stressful work environment. A lawsuit waiting to happen. You see your stretch goals and tasks were creating longer work hours. And who wants to work harder?
Does your team work longer than 7 hours a day? You’re probably a bully.
(Cross-posted @ Seek Omega )