Tech & Work

The turtle employee


When I was a kid, one of my many pets was a box turtle. Glenn, by his very nature, wasn't very gregarious, but he had a certain charm. If you set Glenn down on the ground and watched him, he would creep along at, well, a turtle's pace. But if you turned your head for a few minutes and looked back, he'd be several yards away. I never knew if this was just some kind of time trick due to my attention being distracted or if, when I wasn't looking, he sprouted some Nike-clad feet and hauled ass. Anyway, I was too Type A, even as a child, to spend too much time studying the phenomenon.

Many years later, I managed a team that included a human turtle. This man was the most laid-back person I had ever met. Not only were his physical movements slow, but he took a long time to verbally express his thoughts. In other words, he drove me (The reigning Queen of Impatience) monumentally crazy.

This is not to say he wasn't very capable and very good at his job. He was. Like my old buddy Glenn, it would sometimes appear that he wasn't getting anything accomplished on a project with a deadline looming. But when the deadline time came, he would invariably meet it. He really didn't do anything wrong, it was just the mixture of our personal styles that pushed me to the edge of an aneurism, and, I'm sure, made him want to push me off the edge of a cliff. But we agreed to disagree and went about our work lives.

The problem is, his perception within the company extended beyond our little "Tortoise and the Hare" interaction. His outward slowness became a perception problem for him in other areas of the company.

For example, when he was qualified for management positions that opened up in the company as time went by, he would apply for them. (I had steadily promoted him within the job category he was in, but he, understandably, wanted to move into management.) The problem was that the people filling the management positions didn't perceive him as a dynamic go-getter. Judging him by his demeanor alone (because they never heard any complaints from me), they made the assumption that they couldn't expect high levels of productivity or timeliness from him. It was unfair, but he couldn't rise above the preconceived notions upper management had of him. It was yet another unfortunate example of how others people's perception of you can affect—both positively and negatively—your own progress in a company. Anybody had any similar experiences?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

0 comments

Editor's Picks