Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Second Guessing

It has been a rough week at work. We are getting ready to implement the database for my Boss's Daughter and things have not been going well. There have been late night e-mail chains, emergency conference calls and lots of people pointing fingers at each other to avoid the blame.

I am not one of those people. As far as I am concerned, we are all in this together. I could certainly try to push off my share of the responsibility onto others, but its just not worth the effort. The Daughter's database is broken and our implementation is going to be late. Do you think she really cares whose fault it is?

That said, it is interesting to watch all of the corporate politics play out. Let's take my Boss for example. She is the classic Monday Morning Quarterback. Even though we have been working on this project for months with little or no assistance from her, as soon as things go wrong she is all fired up on the e-mail demanding to know why we made every little decision along the way.

Armed with all of the most current information, she keeps asking why we were not able to see things that are so clear to her now. Of course things are clear now. Considering they have already happened. Anyone can have 20/20 hindsight. But 20/20 foresight, now that would be something really impressive. And if I had that, I certainly would not be wasting my time building databases. I would buy myself a lottery ticket and be happily writing my first novel in a cozy little cottage in Maine.

In addition to my Boss, there is the Power Monger. This woman is a Vice President over the data management side of the business. Like my Boss, she has been with the Company forever. As soon as our project started to have issues, she could sense the power vortex forming within the team and she used the crisis to garner as much of it as she possibly could.

The one good thing about the Power Monger is that she is aggressive. Unlike my Boss who just sits back in judgment, this woman is going to make something happen. She is summoning all of the resources in the Company, sending urgent e-mails (with the red exclamation point) and facilitating meetings. The Power Monger is going to save this project and increase her visibility in the Company at the same time.

All of this project drama has left me second guessing myself. I have always been highly competent and well-respected at work. Whenever I start a new job, I am able to quickly adapt to the corporate culture and become almost indispensable within the first three to six months. But with this job, I am still struggling after almost a year. There is just so much information and I feel like I am constantly chasing down people to get what I need.

I am an intelligent person. The problem with this company is that it does not value intelligence; it values knowledge. The people who are most respected in our company are the ones who have been there the longest. They know our products inside out and have an institutional memory that goes on for decades. For a new person like me, there is no way to compete with that. And no way to ever catch up.

A woman walked out on our project today. She was one of our Data Managers, which is basically a staff level person who loads the data and creates the basic model for the database. This woman was not particularly competent at her job and she is definitely one of the many contributors to our current database disaster. So I can't really say I am sad that she is gone. But I do wish I had gotten to see her leave.

According to my sources on the 8th floor, she went out in style. Apparently she had a doctor's appointment this afternoon and wanted to leave at 2:00. But the Power Monger had given her an assignment and told her she could not leave until it was finished. So right around 2:00 there was a big scene at her cube.

Her manager told her she would have to cancel her appointment and stay to finish the task at hand. At that point she began to slam down papers on her desk and started shouting "I am so sick of this place! I don't need this fucking job. I am the only one who does any work around here anyway. To hell with it!" And then she stormed out.

When I heard about what happened, I thought of how many times I have wanted to do the exact same thing since I started working at the Company. And even though it probably sent shock waves across the 8th floor, I bet there were more than a few people who quietly smiled and thought 'You go, girl!' as they heard her ranting and raving from her cube.

Despite her lack of professional skills, this Data Manager is a human being. But the Company doesn't care about that. It is just a relentless machine that pushes people to their limits, all to maximize profits. No one should be made to feel so desperate and frustrated that they have no choice but to abandon their place of employment.

Personally, I have a new level of respect for this woman. After all, she stood up to the Company and got to say the things we all think about at work, but would never dare to speak out loud. And I bet at that moment it felt pretty amazing.

I wonder if the Data Manager is home tonight second guessing her own decision and worrying about how long it will take to find another job.

No matter what happens, that woman became a legend today. Her spectacular exit will be talked about at the Company for years to come, just like those urban myths that are passed along on the e-mail chains that my mom keeps forwarding to me. I always wondered whether those stories were true. Now, I guess I know.


Anonymous said...

Boy I wish I did that . . . how many times have I wanted to just scream and run out. . . too many!

Anonymous said...

How fun would that be ... for about as long as it takes to get out to your car and realize what you've done. But a great 10 minutes in the meantime!

LOVE the line about valuing "knowledge, not intelligence". Sad but so true.