Whose 'Badness' You Prove Could Be Your Own

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A blog posting linked at Hacker News and the ensuing discussion reminded me slightly of a managerial faux pas of my own right after college. My mistake and what the author describes look very different, but I suspect they share similar errors:

Hand it to him in this condition, unless he knows you can solve it. (Image via Pixabay.)
The final insult came some weeks after that. I got my performance review and my boss had decided to use this little event against me. He actually said something along the lines of "Rachel should not leave little things unresolved just to see if the rest of the team will fix them".

Got that yet? He took what I had set up as a little pseudo-managerial experiment to see just how lazy these people were and turned it against me. Meanwhile, nothing happened to the actual people who were lazy!
The title of the post, "Prove the Badness of Coworkers at Your Own Risk," hints at the similarity. (I wasn't out to prove that anyone was not doing his job, but I see now how I might have appeared to be trying to.) Both reading the piece and again after looking at some of the comments, I wondered things like, "Why didn't the author decide run her 'experiment' (if at all) after pointing out the issue to more than one teammate?" and "Why didn't she further pursue how she had ended up being the default person to solve the small problem she did?" These questions feed directly into her admonition of being "absolutely sure your boss is on your side" before running such an "experiment," and could have led to a richer lesson for junior managers.

The form of that lesson is something I once heard years ago that helped me understand what happened in my case, and that was, "Don't bring problems to your boss; bring solutions," or words to that effect. In my case, I'd surprised everyone at a meeting with a problem I noticed during a routine inspection. Even worse, I hadn't looked into the problem or spoken to anyone else about it or thought of how it might be addressed. This obviously irritated my bosses and one of them tasked me on the spot with fixing it. My life -- and that of my small team, who did rise to the occasion -- would probably have been easier if I had done those things, and I wouldn't have looked foolish or confrontational -- or both? -- at that meeting.

One assumption you can usually make safely is that your boss has a lot on his mind, and will appreciate your input on a proposed solution on those occasions you can or should get assistance tackling a problem yourself. And, if there is a problem you can solve, he will appreciate you bringing it to his attention after your have solved it, have good headway, or at least have a well-considered plan of attack to report along with it.

-- CAV

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