Monday, March 21, 2016


[Edited to Add: In case you're joining late, I'm watering the Omnivore's plants while he's away and he left his computer logged in]

If figured I had shot my wad with the insulting the IT Departments, but it turns out I know something else, after all.

Sharing is caring.

Pop Quiz, Hotshot.

That’s a Speed reference. I’m doing what I can to class this joint up.

Here’s the quiz. It’s a moral question:

You’re the manager of a small department. Bob works for you. Bob is nobody’s idea of a superstar. He’s a C+ guy on a good day. Get’s a “D” on bad day, when the people you need to please complain about him.

But he mostly adds value; gets the job done. Knows important stuff. And those complainers? Clients are whiners. If you have clients (and as Saint Dylan says, you’re gonna have to serve somebody), you know it’s true. And if you’re one of mine, reading this, I’m talking about all those other whiners. Not you. You’re a fucking peach.

Back to Bob. Bob’s alright. You go out after work, he can mostly keep up.  He’s fun. Good guy -- he’s a family man. Got a wife. Got a little one. Standup member of the community. And work-wise, not everyone’s a jedi. C’s a passing grade, yo.

Bob’s Getting Laid Off

Boss comes in this morning. Tells you he needs a minute. Close the door. Yeah. We’re right-sizing the department. Gotta make some hard choices. Actually, he’s spared you the hard choices. He tells you he’s already made the call.

It’s Bob! Bye, Bob! Say hello to -- at Bob’s age -- Long Term Unemployment. Bob’s off the Island!

Boss doesn’t like Bob. Doesn’t like the cut of his jib. He’s got all kinds of professional reasons. Those complaints. The mediocre work. All that. But he’s not shy about it. He just Doesn’t Like Bob. So rather than give you a little sovereignty, he’s making the call himself. Eight months from now, when the firm announces, Bob’s out the door.

I could ask you if you spend precious political capital to Save Bob, but that’s easy. The answer to that one is “No.” It wouldn’t work. You’d annoy the boss and you’re not changing anyone’s mind. Trying is just burning goodwill. So no. You’re not going to try to save Bob, because there’s no saving Bob.

Here’s the harder question: Do You Tell Bob Anything?

Bob’s got months to find another job. Bob’s currently gainfully employed. He looks good on paper. He could make the jump to lightspeed and get out of there. Keep providing for his family. Escape the soul-sucking death-trap of mid-life unemployment.

You could spare him all that.

But it’s a fuck of a risk. What if Bob goes nuts? What if he spouts off about how unfair this shit is? What if he goes to HR? Or hires a lawyer?

If Bob Talks, You’re Boned

You weren’t authorized to say anything. Boss told you because you need to be ready with a replacement in the wings. And maybe because even though you don’t get to make the key decisions about your department, he wants you to feel empowered a little bit.

Maybe he heard that was good at the management training seminar. Who knows.

But there’s no way in Hell he wants you saying anything to Bob. You’re not supposed to feel a sense of responsibility to Bob. You’re not supposed to treat underlings the way you’d want to be treated. You’re not supposed to worry about what’s fair or what’s right.

You’re a manager. You’re part of the firm. You’re not supposed to think about any of those things. At work, in your role? You’re just a microscopic cog in his catastrophic plan.

If he finds out you burnt him, what he’s got planned for Bob is gonna look like a day at the fucking beach compared to what he does to you.

So, said the Dungeon Master, What Do You Do?

Your options are pretty straight forward.

  1. Say nothing. Let each look after his own. Bob lives by watching at work, he dies by watching at work. He shouldda armed himself. This is safe
  2. Tell Bob. Maybe not tell him, but hint at him. Give him a nudge. It’ll have to be a good one: remember, every C+ worker thinks he’s an A-player with unfair management. Bob knows the whiners aren’t happy, but -- you know -- they’re whiners. And he’s been getting the job done. His formal feedback (perf review) is mostly positive. He’s not on any kind of performance improvement plan. And he doesn’t know the boss hates him. You’ve been shielding him from that.

Telling Bob is the right thing to do. It’s what you would want done in your case, right?

Do Unto Others?

You’d want some kind of warning.

But it’s risky.

So do you do the right thing, or do you cover your ass?

The Answer: Kill Hope

You tell him the boss doesn’t like him. You’re allowed to share that -- it’s performance feedback. You don’t sugar-coat it at all. You don’t soften the blow. You make it hurt like hell. You can’t break your boss’s confidence and tell him he’s on the block. That’s not integrity.

But you can let him know he’s in a pit he literally cannot dig his way out of.

This isn’t going to be easy or fun. No one wants to hear it’s hopeless. No one wants to hear they’re screwed. You’re going to want tell him something -- something to mitigate the pain. You’re going to want to assure him; give him something to hang on to. Some light at the end of the tunnel.

But there is no light. The boss isn’t going to change his mind. There’s not going to be a miracle. Either he leaves on his own, or he gets unceremoniously thrown out the door.

You want to do him a favor?

Break the news over his head like a 2x4.

Any Hope you leave is going to twist itself in his mind into something toxic and destructive. If you leave Hope alive, he’s going to start working harder -- trying to perform his way out of this. He’s going to start coming in early. Leaving late. Saying “Hi!” To the boss. Being a good team player. He’s going to try to prove and redeem himself instead of spending every waking moment trying to find a way out.

Hope is generally a good thing, but in this scenario?

It’s nobody’s friend.

This, by the way, is also the right way to break up with a girl. Don’t leave on let’s-be-friends terms. Don’t say you’re ‘taking time’ or you ‘need space.’ Tell her it’s over, it’s never coming back, and it was never as good as she thought she it was. When she reaches out to you afterwards, don’t answer. Kill Hope like you’re Pandora with a butterfly jar. The sooner she gets over you, the better it is for everyone, and if you leave hope alive, it just gets in the way.

You’re welcome.

1 comment:

  1. With IT and Management in the bag, maybe finish this off with Consulting for a 'Dilbert triple crown'?