Leadership

When management is wrong


What should you do when management is wrong in asking you to do something?  You are closer to the situation and know why the requested course of action is doomed to fail.  Should you keep quiet and just do as you have been asked or should you speak up and explain why you think the idea is not a good one?  I suggest it depends on the situation.

In a previous post I presented a situation where a member of my support team refused an assignment in a staff meeting.  I unfairly left out many details that would have provided more clues as to what the best course of action should be.  Your comments proved that this issue is a volatile one seen from both viewpoints – IT Manager and staff member.

In this case I had asked a staff member, considered by upper management to be the least important member of the team, to document his work every day so that they could review, analyze and determine for themselves if his position could be eliminated. I was the middle manager trying to implement this unfair directive from the ivory tower.

Why was it unfair?  It was obvious that upper management knew nothing about the day to day workings of our team.  The company had recently been acquired in a hostile takeover bid.  The new upper management had been brought on for one purpose – to provide a more favorable return on investment to the shareholders.  That meant cutting positions.

Being the middle manager I was privy to this information.  The other team members guessed it for themselves without me telling them.  Tensions were high.  The team consisted of the support technician supporting about 200 desktops, the network administrator supporting about 25 servers, the MRP specialist and me, the IT Manager.

In addition to managing the department, I covered overlap of all three functions of my staff.  We were transitioning to Windows XP at the time and there were just not enough of us to get the job done.  The longtime employee providing the desk side support felt the pressure most keenly and now had to deal with the added stress of being micro-managed.

I knew that this request was going to set him off.  I also knew that in this situation, it was a grossly unfair request because he was carrying the most weight of the team.  He really was dedicated and was coming in at 5am just to try to keep a handle on the backlog.  He even resented the time I required of him to meet in our afternoon weekly staff meetings.

In this case, as several of you pointed out, I was wrong to make this request in the middle of the staff meeting.  I should have approached the staffer privately.  I said I would talk to him about the assignment later in a private discussion.  He was still fuming.  Noting his response, I acknowledged his comments and then quickly moved to the next agenda item.

I came in at 6:30 the next morning to meet with Harold and still had to wait a half hour for him to get off a tech support call to a vendor.  As I mentioned, he was a very dedicated employee.  When we finally got to talk, he let me have it.  He had read the situation correctly.  He knew that his job was on the line and felt much put out.

I listened patiently, assured him that his work was appreciated, generously praised him for the extra efforts in coming in so early to stay on top of his work load and apologized for asking him to take on the extra assignment.  Yes, I apologized.  I valued Harold as a part of my team and did not want to lose him.  He was appeased and life was good again.

What happened to me?  I got fired.  Not specifically for this incident at this time, but for several other failures to carry out directives from above.  Oh sure, the official word was that my services were no longer needed as we had just completed a large MRP migration project.  Nevertheless, I was fired and Harold continued on until his retirement this year.

I was out of work for six months while I searched for another IT management position.  I finally found one and have been happily employed for the last three years.  I turned down several offers because I swore I would never work for another publically held company again.  For you middle managers of public companies, I salute you for your thankless job.

Summary: I apologize for the long post but interest seemed to be high.  I refused to carry out an unfair directive from upper management and eventually got fired but kept my team intact and happy long enough to accomplish an important project.  What do you think?  Did I do the right thing?  What would you have done now that you know more?

Update: In case you haven't figured it out from the title, the management that was wrong in this case was me.  Read the conclusion of this post in part three: So tell me again why you were fired.  Thanks for all the comments.

73 comments
LeonBA
LeonBA

I had the experience of working for a team whose manager, like you, failed to respond sufficiently to unreasonable pressure from above and was forced out of the company for it. She was replaced, of course, with someone who did upper management's bidding, and the team was never the same again. I left the company a year later.

previso
previso

Middle management does not hold all the info necessary to evaluate a directive. Top management relies on brute force from the middleman to carry out the dirty work. The foot soldiers MAY know more of the authority structure than the middleman. "Can I make John Q. Do this?". The personnel office is just around the corner. Pay a visit. In my line of work I have been asked often to perform out-of-standards work. I know that when the s*** hits the fan, it will be my neck on the chopping block. I inform myself of the liabilities and require written sign-off before I go through. You'll be surprised how often priorities become unnecessary once a name is asked for on a piece of paper.

dogknees
dogknees

Tell them in the strongest language that you don't think it's appropriate, then, if the still insist, do it. We do have a professional responsibilty to our employers to point out the pitfalls, but ultimately it's their money and their business. Of course, if it's a listed company, it's a different matter and one should probably notify the board.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

And now I'm more than sure that it was but I'll reserve my finial comments till I see the last posting. While I've never been in a situation like this with a company that has been taken over I have been the guy brought in when they Take Over a Comp[any and have to deal with the old staff and I've never had a single instance of a Staff Member refusing to do as I ask them. But then again I've never so much as implied that I was less that 100% truthful either and I would never have asked something like this of one of my staff members. I feel that the position that you where in is a reason to Isolate your Staff from Senior Managements Stupidity and you should be prepared to place your position on th line to protect your staff. When it's all said and done it's your staff who have to do the Hard Yards and they need all the support that you can give them and then some more. Incidentally did you ever think that they [your staff] may have checked up on you to see what your reputation was? Col

transmkg
transmkg

My initial reaction after reading When Mgmt Is Wrong - shame on you Tim for not telling the truth n the original post. Then I read 60+ responses and despair that integrity is even in dispute as a man's most valuable character trait. So shame on most of us. Mr. L, no need to back down from your stand. That said, Tim, you did admit your mistake 4 years ago - and you were a newbie manager. Harold and the other guys forgave you and so do I. Now, let's see how I feel after reading why you got fired...

Arcturus909
Arcturus909

It would be interesting if someone did a study on successful middle managers and their integrity. In the long run, which managers are more successful? Those who tell the truth and don't sugar coat what comes down from above, or those who hold the interests of upper management as foremost and do whatever it takes to implement upper management???s agenda? I imagine this is fairly dependent on the type of personality of the upper manager(s) to whom the middle manager reports, and the type of company we are looking at. As an employee I have much more respect for a manager who tells it like it is. As this story indicates, I.T. staff in particular tend to be a set of fairly smart people used to analyzing things. Its a cinch that eventually such a staff working for a duplicitous manager is going to figure out the real motivation being what they are doing and will cease to accept anything they say as the truth. As an upper manager, I would think just the opposite. You work for me and you damn well better do whatever it takes to carry out my agenda. It is ultimately destructive to the middle manager???s staff???s morale and his own career to report all the bad things that upper management is up to to those under your umbrella. And eventually, I, the upper manager, am going to find out that you are revealing things I don???t want your underlings to know about and you face those repercussions. This is why I have refused any attempt to put me into middle management at the last three places I have worked. I want to keep both my integrity AND my job. :) All of this assumes, of course, that the objectives of upper management and the objectives of those in the trenches run counter to each other. This is the case most of the time, but not always.

Komplex
Komplex

Of course you got fired, you were obviously the dead weight on the team. 200 Workstations, 25 servers and an MRP specialist doesn't really need a manager. It obvious you were planning to throw the tech support guy under the bus. If he was as good as you claim, you would have easily been able to tell that to upper management.

Old Man on the Mountain
Old Man on the Mountain

honor". That quotes, taken from the movie Striking Distance, seem to speak to the heart of your concerns. From your description, the new owners were focused on cost cutting measures. As a consequence of that, they directed you to have your desktop person track his time using the designated software. While the wisdom of time tracking for his type of work is questionable, their directive is business-driven and not what I would consider to be "dishonorable". Had they summarily dismissed him without determining the need for his position, the matter would need to be viewed in a different light. As his immediate supervisor, you were intimately familiar with the work and knew his position was critical to the success of the business. That's the source of your dilemma. You knew what they did not and could not know from their position in the firm. My guess is that you would have preferred they ask you and then take your word for it. That's certainly what I would have wanted. Imagine though if the new owners did that with all of the middle managers. It's a near certainty they'd get the same story from them and then what? No positions would ever be cut, when some would almost certainly and sadly need to be. In situations like these, you and I tend to become irate and defensive at their seeming lack of sensitivity and common sense, while they in turn are faced with deadlines and objectives we know nothing about. Inevitably, there is plenty of blame to go around, and cooler heads must prevail if there is to be a satisfactory end to it all. Having faced similar scenarios, I would have explained to my support person that they're looking at all aspects of the business and need some metrics in order to make good decisions (hopefully). I would have expressed regret for the additional burden it will place on him and explained that it was in his best interest to comply and in doing so prove to the uninformed that his work is needed. You and I don't have to agree with or like what we're asked to do, but we are ultimately paid to execute the wishes of those in authority. We can hope that they will ask for and listen to our input, but it's not an issue of "honor" if they don't. Stupidity is not just cause for rebellion. Our loyalty is not blind but it is warranted unless they act unethically. My parting suggestion, both strongly and sincerely, is that you reassess your principles and your approach. Your dilemma hits very close to home, and conjures up memories of many foolish decisions and my angry responses. But all that got me nowhere. Only when the magnitude and frequency of these events became significant enough did I walk away. It was, I believe, the only honorable thing for me to do.

Absolutely
Absolutely

1. You were given a mandate, not a recommendation, by your new senior partners. You could have given your star more information, and it might have helped mitigate the initial response, but if he's as smart as he'd have to be to be your star, he would have at least had an inclination that new instructions were somehow related to the most major recent change in his environment, the new ownership. So I don't see that omission bringing your honesty into question. 2. You might have been firmer with upper management. It seems like he was the last person you could afford to lose, so an ultimatum "if he goes, I go too" might have been appropriate. They just might have been as impressed by your courage as Locrian_Lyric is. Or, they might have just fired you, as they did anyway. 3. You were in a tough spot, and I think your diagnosis of "collective ownership" is right on the money. Such short-term decisions, obviously contrary to the long-term health of the enterprise, can only be judged "tolerable" with diffuse, easily liquidated ownership shares. Good calls, some better than others.

texraj
texraj

It is difficult to forecast what is going to happen in the future. If you are really convinced it is fine you can do what ever you want. But if you are half sure or feel that a decision is forced on you you are gone. so you could have found a way to make your management know the real time difficulty that you have been facing due to their lapse in communication.

dipsat2004
dipsat2004

Well, you yourself said you were fired for 'several other failures'.We need to now what those failures were to understand better and know if you did the right things.

Tearat
Tearat

Well it looks like you were the one being tested

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

You should have just told your manager to do one. Or give 'Harold' a right good shafting and got a pat on the back. Looking after number one I can understand, dying by your principles I can. You appear to have attempted neither, and badly. Pathetic.

SiMahDan
SiMahDan

Discussion in support of the jr. team members record and work ethic and current workload with new management team before approaching jr. staff might have pacified your boss or at least minimized the impact of the request, perhaps saving both of your jobs.

kimwilsonowen
kimwilsonowen

Wow. What a great insight (seriously). These situations can so often have so many layers and we forget to look outside our own little box. Thanks for the 'rest of the story' style unfolding, that made me think.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

You can't break the law.It's usually grin and bear it---or talk to the secretary.

mgordon
mgordon

I have been somewhat inured to documentation requirements (Navy career does that, logbooks for *everything*). Documentation is crucial for many purposes and it comes as somewhat of a surprise (only a small surprise) that this group seems not to already have been documenting their reason for existing. Not many people where I work document regularly and it is not my job to compel it; but the few people that listen to my counsel document regularly and with detail. This goes into a MySQL database and I run various types of trend analysis, histogram, concurrency reports. For instance, one year I documented on average 44 hours per week for helpdesk. The operations officer decided that a single employee would be sufficient. Sure, says I, and we'll let Tucson call on Monday, Phoenix on Tuesday, and so on, an absurd scenario that illustrated that problems don't come on a schedule and therefore you cannot just slice the 44 hour average into neat daily packages. I was armed with a concurrency histogram showing at at times, up to four people were concurrently involved in answering telephone calls, interspersed with somewhat predictable quiet periods. The answer, therefore, was multi-talented employees that could work on website, engineering, documentation projects during these slow times. Since then we have arranged it sensibly; two or three people primarily identified as helpdesk; a couple of topical experts that take calls when things get really busy (or calls needing technical expertise). Nobody is "just helpdesk". We recently tried (again) to implement job descriptions. I've done about 300 different kinds of job last year according to the documentation. It is useful at times to be able to show what you do, in detail, never mind whether your company is public or private. As to the JD; yep, now I have one. Most of the things on it that are my job are actually given to other people, and most of the things I still do are not on the JD. Situation normal in other words :-)

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

I had a manager like you once, he CONSTANTLY fought for us despite our group being treated like crap. He rolled the dice with his career to protect me. Sadly, he couldn't and I was part of a group of layoffs designed to hurt HIS boss. But I call that man a friend to this day. You sir, are a credit to any organization bright enough to employ you.

sherin.emmanuel
sherin.emmanuel

A very laudable move on your part. A demonstration of good values and ethics too. Too bad there are'nt too many managers like tyou out there! Sherin Emmanuel

IC-IT
IC-IT

It sounds that the biggest mistake was in not convincing the "new" management that you had an effective, gainfully employed team in position and how and why each member was critical to THEIR success. You chose instead to putter around the real issue, which contributed to your own demise.

rmagalso
rmagalso

i think you did the right thing, after all whats matters is not to have kept the job, but to have contributed to the organization regardless of it known or recognized by the upper management. I agree, that it is a fact that upper management just don,t have any idea about the IT department and its functionality. I guess this is one of the challenges for an IT manager, to be able to bridge for upper management and team. regards, rym

Mr L
Mr L

Your mildly understated "left a few things out" is disingenuous to say the least, Tim. Let me try and recap the things we did not know from the first go-round: What you said: >> The assignment I tried to give him was to download and install a piece of helpdesk management software. I asked him to check it out, feed it for a few days and determine if it would work for our organization. >> What you meant: >> The assignment I tried to give him was to track his own actions and hours so I could report to Senior Management on the feasibility of cutting his job. >> In short, you lied to him. And you knew perfectly well that you were doing so, you lack even the excuse that Senior Management lied to you about their motives and you got caught in the middle. I've done my share of things I would have preferred not to do in my management career; I've had to terminate people, lay some off (harder than a term for cause, I assure you), push on already tired staff to take it up yet another notch at crunch time in a project, and deal with dysfunctional appraisal systems that force us into laughable reviews of good people. I've done all of that and managed to look myself in the mirror in the morning because I signed on for it all. I've done my share of things...but I have no idea how I would look myself in the mirror having done what you did. Integrity, it's one of those things that you are supposed to bring with you when you show up for work in the morning.

tim
tim

I joined the team of Tech Republic bloggers to be read. Anybody can write a blog. I know, I write several. But not everybody is a Tech Republic or CNET. It is the feedback that makes it worthwhile for me. Mr L and everyone else, including you, have added immensely to my perspective on what I thought was a simple issue. The fact that it has migrated to a discussion of ethics, integrity and honesty is heartwarming. I am very encouraged by the number of posters who feel so strongly about full disclosure. I now feel stronger about it myself. The advertisers on TR probably got a lot more traffic because so many were engaged with this dialog. I look forward to many more such discussions and hope that the participation is worthwhile to all.

tim
tim

I had to laugh because it's human nature, at least mine, to constantly ask myself, "As a manager, am I providing value to the company and if so, is it perceived only by me?" In this case, I was valuable to the company only as long as the MRP transition project was in full swing. That was my main function there. The IT Manager thing was dumped on me later. Read my third post on the subject, where you'll discover that I came to a similar conclusion. http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/techofalltrades/?p=124

tim
tim

Looking back at it now some four years after the fact, I think the biggest failure was my inability to read between the lines. There was a lot of implied communication from the new management and I just wan't experienced enough in corporate politics to 'get it'. You can read more about the other failures in part three of this post: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/techofalltrades/?p=124

tim
tim

I wonder if sometimes new management doesn't ask things of employees just to see how they will respond. Will they prove themselves to be team players - that is, on the management team, not the team of peers? I have seen it elsewhere. It's not always easy to read.

tim
tim

Hi Tony, Thanks for all your great comments on the post. You're right. It actually was quite straightforwad, wasn't it - Fire Harold or tell the boss no. I did neither and pissed them off. Lesson learned. Your analysis is right on. Good to see it from another's point of view.

Bob.Ricketson
Bob.Ricketson

On the broader issue of what motivates upper management. One responder asked, why this particular employee? Two juicy items from the "scavengers from above" point of view. 1. He was close to retirement. He's not only considered a money drain today but will be in perpetuity if we don't do something to kill his retirement possibilities. 2. His hours are from 5 am to 2:30 pm. The upper echelon is still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes up until lunch and not really ready to acknowledge the peripheries of the work environment until after their 3 martini lunch, sans the martinis (I guess they call them power lunches now). So basically they don?t even SEE the guy working so how much do they need him. Unfortunately it is the politicians, the hallway warriors and water cooler commandos that seem to make it to those levels where they then start to dial their laser sights in on which employees can be cut. They are a breed that have been poorly raised regarding any personal morals, concepts of what?s right and wrong, personal integrity and personal accountability. Their brains have been wired free of any degree of empathy so they seem to find it easy to ?downsize?, even enjoyable. Additionally, though the payroll aspect of a P&L is significant, there are other areas that can be looked at for cost analysis as well. But this implies that these upper level management personnel actually learned their business as they came up vs. honing their political expertise to the exclusion of all other skills.

tim
tim

Hi SiMahDan, There was discussion of each of the staff with the new management. What they wanted was amunition for the desired firing action. I could not provide details of all the tech support guy did as I had just inherited the IT Manager position. Thus the request for the installation and feeding of the help desk tracking software.

tim
tim

Yes, indeed what I wouldn't have given for a good system of documentation in the situation I was in. Of course, the system is only as good as the data it is fed. It sounds like you have got yours down to a science with histograms and concurrancy reports. All I wanted was for the tech guy to stop after every task and note that it was completed. I guess it's easier for a pure helpdesk situation. In this case, the tech was being run ragged by all the calls and pages. He simply didn't have time to write down everything he did let alone document how long it took, what the real problem was and how it was resolved. As far as job descriptions in a public company - what a joke! Mine was so far off that it didn't begin to cover what I really did. I asked for revisions several times and finally offered my own. The HR staffer was grateful and put it right into the offical job book without even checking with my boss.

tim
tim

Gratefully, I found a company that also appreciates my talent and customer service skills. Leaning on my recent experience described in this post, at first I was determined to do all the support myself. Management was kind enough to provide me with an associate even without me asking. There really are good companies out there. I am just a little jaded now to believe that they can be found in ones that are publically traded on the stock market. Thank for for the compliment. I would probably never make a good CEO or CIO as arbitrarily cutting staff to cut costs does not appeal to my way of doing business. To my way of thinking, you cut staff if there is no work for them to do, not when the workload is barely being met.

tim
tim

To bwilmont, Your analysis is right on. The worth of each member of the team had been well established with the old regime. The new bosses wanted someone to go and there was no way they were going to be denied. Every other department had to give someone up. Why should IT be excluded?

hcetrepus
hcetrepus

Integrity, it's one of those things that you are supposed to bring with you when you show up for work in the morning. I find this word to be so misinterpreted and varied by definition of its user in todays world, it isn't funny. Think about what that word really is suggesting... do you really "walk in integrity?"

rlcallaway
rlcallaway

Mr Malone: You surely left out some of the most important points. YOU did not initiate the assignment it was dictated from above and for a very specific reason. Had it been me I would have not passed the assignment on -- which apparently you did in other cases. YOUR job is to manage and protect your people and you failed to do this. So you got fired -- well that goes with the territory. Harold didn't refuse an assignment of yours -- he was resisting an unfair and unnecessary assignment THAT you should have resisted -- YOU failed him -- not vice versa. You blame the problem on "a publicly traded company" and presumably you will only work for a "private" company. As a very experienced management consultant I can tell you that family owned companies have just as many problems and maybe even more. So I think you misrepresented the original problem and the failure was on your part. I'm not sure how good of a manager you are if you see your job as simply being a messenger for senior management.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Took all the fun out of the discussion. I'm off to get a cup of Earl Grey, wash the bad taste out of my mouth.

kserritt
kserritt

Mr. L I completely agree that honesty is vital in everything we do. But where does judging, self righteous and riping apart someone elses character fall in your book? I see all to many times people hide behind the "I am just honest" excuse as a reason to be rude and say hateful things. You have a valid point but your delivery method is less than appealing.

tim
tim

I'll wade in here in an attempt to add some clarity. Being in management yourself I'll assume there are times when you have asked things of your staff without being able to fully explain the reasons why. That is a common occurrence from my experience. But was it a lie to withhold information? No, I don't think so. Does that mean my integrity is questionable? You be the judge. I have no problem keeping back certain pieces of information that would only cause greater damage if revealed. I look back with fondness on my years with the company where this little episode took place. Why? Because I still count each of the individuals I worked with as my friends. I know, the boss can't always afford to be one of the gang anymore. I had done my share of firings before I joined the company described in the post. One was undeserved because the owner did not like a certain employee on my staff. On that occasion I chose to do what I was told and have regretted it ever since. I fired her when she did not deserve it. I made up my mind to never do that again - fire someone without cause. Cutting costs by letting employees go just to provide a favorable shareholder report was just too much for me. Others can do it with no problem but in this case I paid the price with my own job. I'm OK with what I did by not specifically telling Harold that his job was on the line. He was astute enough to figure that out. He accepted my apology the next day and I never did get specific in my weekly management reports about how he did his job. I simply wrote that the demands and support needs of the employees were being met due in large part to Harold's efforts. Integrity is a tough call. I appreciate your comments. However, I submit that it is OK to withhold information and that is not the same as lying. We may need to agree to disagree on this one. Good speech. Thanks.

Tig2
Tig2

That there was more to the situation than met the eye in the first go-round. I applaud that he tried to deflect the hammer from his team. I agree with another poster that it would have been an opportunity to showcase the efforts of the whole team rather than to try to deflect. I have worked on projects where I found myself out of a job because I was more interested in telling the client the true nature of the situation than to keep going forward in an effort that was bound to fail. But at the end of the day, I would do the same thing again.

Canuckster
Canuckster

If you tell someone that they are on the edge after a take-over where new management is looking for people to dump, then you may well be making it worse for that person. They start looking for other employment, ostracized by their fellow workers and generally grim in mood and attitude, their dismissal becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It may be in hindsight, with an axe to grind, but the author clearly sees upper management of that firm as an evil entity. Not greedy in that beneficial, progressive way, but rather greedy in that petty, gimme now way that too many corporations adopt to bring in a good report for next quarter and not a thought to next year. I applaud his standing between the dragon above and his reports, (and happy for his brighter future with a more rational company).

Proud member of Vast right wing majority
Proud member of Vast right wing majority

It was a lively blog - we all had a chance to tell you where, when and how you were wrong. I am just kidding Tim - actually, most of us discovered issues we all may have, or have had concerning ethics, integrity and honesty. I wish there were more blogs like your's where the author participated actively and was as honest as you have been. Good luck Tim and thank you again!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

when you do it again. Never been in that position, and couldn't honestly say whether, self interest would winover being a nice but unemployed person. If jobs were tight, and it paid well. I've got to put food on the table, Harold's a gonner. If it was crap job, or it looked like a trend I could be on the recieving end of.... I've automated people I've worked with out of their jobs before now. Not somethig I wanted, but them versus my kids going hungry, didn't even require thought.

tim
tim

Oh man, did you nail it. I guess it's just the corporate raider mentality. They were convinced that the company they acquired was bloated. Of course we were defensive. We had a hard time switching gears from the old management style. Nobody likes to hear that they need to do the same job with fewer people but I suspect that is commonplace today. The new management did not 'see' the work of the early morning tech like I did. We were all targeted but he was the low hanging fruit in their eyes.

Proud member of Vast right wing majority
Proud member of Vast right wing majority

Management of corporations look at the bottome line - profit. Always have, always will. To think otherwise is foolish. However, politics do enter the equation and must be evaluated - but eventually, profit is the king.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Mike Bloomberg. He'd rather cut his own throat than jobs. When the last recession hit, he dumped some of his personal fortune back into the company to avoid layoffs. He's not hurting for having done that, and his people are loyal to him beyond belief.

Mr L
Mr L

...being human makes that inevitable. But if you are asking if I live my life trying to adhere to the core values, morals, and ethics I have chosen for myself...and do that in a consistent manner...the answer is "Yes I do".

tim
tim

You contributed a lot to the discussion Tony. Your comments were appreciated.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

a subordinate refusing an assignment isn't it? The truth is often cruel. I'm short, tubby and old. If you were polite you might say I was the distinguished well fed diminutive gentleman. However as much as I might appreciate this constructive flattery, I don't believe it. Mr Malone however appears to me to be lying to himself, which is dumb.

hcetrepus
hcetrepus

But was it a lie to withhold information? No, I don't think so. While I empathize with your scenario in your post, it was indeed a lie. A lie is the absence of the entire truth. Our society today likes to sugar coat what a lie really is, and give it other names. It is a lie to withhold information in the scenario you gave. It is also unfair. Nothing kills my morale faster than to hear middle management say "something is in the air but I can't say anything yet". For Pete's sake, we aren't developing cures for cancer, or making biological weapons...

Mr L
Mr L

So it's hard for me not to take that into account, Tim. I mean, you told all of us that the situation was dramatically different than it actually was as well. I appreciate the ex post facto clarifications, but still... And we will indeed have to agree to disagree, my job is not worth it to (as I define it) lie to anyone...and I've been in one management role or another with this firm for 16+ years. Fortunately (for them, or me, or both?) executive management has never put me in the position of asking me to hide a prospective job-loss truth from a member of one of my teams. None of this means that I have not had to withhold information, of course I have, but it's either not discussed at all, or addressed with a very direct "I can't discuss that" comment. That may sound a bit black and white to some, but there it is. In your shoes I would have been faced with a very difficult choice (in terms of what position to take with my management), but I would like to believe that I would have started by pushing my management hard to allow me to tell the truth. Failing that, well Tim, it's easy for me to say what I would do...

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

For some reason, good IT people always seem to get into the crosshairs of 'the suits'

Mr L
Mr L

The first set-offs are a direct quote from the starter thread where Tim explicitly states he...well, it's an accurate cut/paste, not a paraphrase. If you did read it, and understand that what he did was directly lie to an team member, and you really do applaud this duplicitous behavior, then I'll just go ahead and tar you with the same brush. I find it interesting that you equate lying to a team member with "standing between them and the dragon"...interesting ethos you have there. Lighten up? I'll do no such thing. This about respect and honesty and integrity, those aren't "light" subjects.

Absolutely
Absolutely

"I wish there were more blogs like your's where the author participated actively and was as honest as you have been." He's a real glutton for punishment if he ever does one of these again!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

higher up the tree. :D If it was just getting rid of deadwood, few would have a problem with it. Often it's Bonsai.... Manager X , boss I've trimmed the department down to one person. He's busy but he's grateful... Boss to booses boss, he fell for it we can get rid of him now...

ryumaou@hotmail.com
ryumaou@hotmail.com

Yep, as much as I hate to say it, when things come down to me losing my job or you losing yours, it's not all that difficult to decide. And, I've been in that position as a manager before, too. It sucks, but, well, there it is. Interestingly enough, I lost my position with that company later, also. But, what that taught me was to stay light on my feet. If the company is cutting other people, they might cut me, too, whether I trim out the deadwood beneath me or not! Sometimes, life just presents us with ugly choices and we do what we need to do to survive. And, anyone who says they wouldn't do just that has never really been in that position.

tim
tim

Well said. It's a lesson that is sometimes difficult to learn. We computer people sometimes get so wrapped up in our world that we do not see the big picture. Management just doesn't care about service packs and virus scans and optimizing databases. They are in business to make money and IT is just a cost center. Harsh and cruel but that's the reality.

tim
tim

What was dumb was allowing this to ever become an issue. I should have been more forceful in my defense of the desktop tech the first time it came up with management. It should never have gotten to the level where I had to ask Harold to track his activities. Anybody could see through that. I poorly managed the situation and was called on it by the tech. He was right and I was wrong. He worked his butt off and didn't have time for this kind of nonsense. I only plead the excuse of new manager, promoted from the trenches. Learned that one the hard way. Your comment on politeness was excellent!

tim
tim

I had to look that one up. I like that.

Mr L
Mr L

Pardon the response-delay, Tim...but of course I accept the apology. You certainly managed to get the pot boiling on several fronts with this pair of threads...I may need to drop in on your blog more often.

tim
tim

Hi Mr L, Your comments are right on. No offense taken. I messed with you guys and it was not fair. The second half of the story didn't show up until nearly 170 comments later. You contributed a lot of those comments for which I thank you. My only excuse was that I was travelling otherwise I would have guided the dialog with clues as it went along. I was shocked to see how many different avenues the discussion had taken. You just never know which posts will set people off. Please be assured that your comments were very welcome. It takes someone with an objective eye, detached from the situation to add insights that are not obvious to the original participants. I expecially appreciate your comment that you would have never allowed the confrontation with the tech in the staff meeting to come up because you would have ensured that it was taken care of with management beforehand. That is one of the best answers I got out of this whole dialog. I hope you will continue to particpate in future discussions.

Victorw
Victorw

Good IT... Bad IT, it doesn't seem to matter. Remember people, IT is to most companies overhead. We do not bring any money into the company. So when a company is downsizing or just looking to make a profit, IT is one of the 1st departments to get the axe. "The suits" as you refered to them have a job to do as well. Now I am not trying to defend the upper management... I have been gotten by them before myself. All I am trying to point out is that they are also being told what to do. ( aka. by the shareholders) As for the lie & the politics around it, I have to agree with Mr L. A lie is a lie no matter what reason is given to justify it before or after. Lying is generally considered wrong, for many reasons. Not the least of which is how do you trust someone that has lied to you before? With all that said, I will add one final statement. The position of middle management is one of the toughest positions out there. You have the unenviable position to be upper managements axeman, & at the same time you get to take all the resentment & bitterness (reasonable or otherwise) from the bottom level of the company too. Middle management it seems to me is just a punishment for something. Companies make you middle management when they need a scapegoat. Sorry if I rambled a bit there. Reliquishing the stage to someone else now.

Meesha
Meesha

Mr. L. you're correct that this manager sugar coated a lie. However, was it not within the context of what management is about at his level? Senior Management is often divorced from the line level issues. When the "board" or the "shareholders" say we want more money so make the cuts - just where do you think Senior Management is going to make those cuts. Always at the bottom then up. As a mid-level or line level manager it's down to my job or yours. Making my boss look good makes me look good. But my boss doesn't have to do the "mean" work only the decisions. If the mid-level or line manager fails to deliver the message in a corporate wrapped package, s/he is out the door eventually anyway. Often one senior manager (usually promoted by the "peter principal") is paid a salary the equivalent of at least 10 to 20+ times that of the Harold's of the world. And not for anything like making customers happy, keeping technology up, following management directives, etc. but rather for the one or two major strategic decisions that are made. On a value scale, I would rather look to cutting at the senior level while mentoring and promoting at the mid-level management - Win Win in my books. Not only can I satisfy my board and shareholders but I can also keep the corporate wheels turning without loosing customers or face. At the end of the day, the new line manager in this blog knew that he had to fulfill the senior management directive but how to deliver it was his choice. If he had not sugar coated the directive, his problems would have been immediately exacerbated and all staff, not just Harold, would have been on the phones to their account agents looking for another job.

patmurray12
patmurray12

You got fired because you couldn't be trusted by anyone. The big question for you might be whether you want to be a good manager or leader. We've already got too many of the other kind :-/ who will do or say anything just to keep a paycheck or to be the last one thrown overboard. The subordinate was ok with refusing the assignment - not because you didn't find a clever way of hiding the agenda - but because he'd probably seen you doing the same sort of thing in the past and knew you couldn't be trusted. He could do it in the meeting because his colleagues knew the same thing... "Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, "This is the real me," and when you have found that attitude, follow it." - William James

Tearat
Tearat

of omission Which make integrity very difficult You then have to decide who deserves your integrity or quit the job or get fired

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Surely Tim is not the first person to tell PART of a story to generate interest and discussion. I don't see it as dishonest, I see it as thought provoking, which I imagine was it's intent.

Mr L
Mr L

LL, if you looked at the original post and the thread (I know you were there) and you had to place on me one side or the other based on my comments there, which one would it be? Did I even come close to being critical of Tim's approach there? (rhetorical question so I'll save you the time: No, I did not) I did not become critical until I saw, here, that the previous thread was not truthful in a key area. Forget, for a moment, that he was less than honest with his team member...he was less than honest with every reader of the thread as well. He told us that the task that was refused was to evaluate help desk software...not a self-tracking RIF-evaluation project. Is that ok with you? Is that ok with everyone? Is there something I am missing that you all are seeing clearly, or did I in fact read that this is the Tale of Two Tales? In one, the team member publicly shouts his refusal of a perfectly reasonable task, and we are asked to chime in with our thoughts as to how to best handle that situation. In the other, the team member reads between lines we did not know existed, and publicly refuses to be part of his own RIF study...and the manager is inferred to have bitten the bullet for repeated acts of bravery defending his team from the Evil Executives. I don't get it, you're really ok with the mis-characterization, aren't you?

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Perhaps Tim can clarify, but from reading in between the lines... "What happened to me? I got fired. Not specifically for this incident at this time, but for several other failures to carry out directives from above. Oh sure, the official word was that my services were no longer needed as we had just completed a large MRP migration project." He wasn't RIFed, he was fired. Note he said 'for several *other* failures to carry out directives. In other words, the higher ups wanted his guy *out* end of story. He didn't say explicitly that he helped his guy dodge the bullet, but it's clear he didn't help the higher ups take aim. When the word comes down to 'document work', it means that they are looking to get rid of someone, that they are building a file to avoid all of those pesky 'wrongful termination' lawsuits. You've got an axe to grind with tim for some reason. Tell ya what, I'd sooner work for him than you.

Mr L
Mr L

...what you said. Right up to the point where you let honest start meaning multiple things. It means you do not lie. It means you do not make up reasons for someone doing something...wait...that's lying too...ok, it just means you do not lie. There are not enough rationalizations out there for this one. Honest=no_lie Acting with integrity means you are honest If we disagree on those fundamentals, then we disagree. I'm not perfect, by anyone's loosest standards, but I don't buy "well, lying in this case was an act of bravery and kindness and goodness"...I think that line of reasoning is flawed. If I really respect the individual who is under the microscope then I believe they deserve to know the situation they are in. Now that's just my definition of respect...it's apparently not yours.

Mr L
Mr L

I don't see where he (Tim) stepped in front of a bullet here. I see where we get the real picture vs the original post, I see where, I see where the tech in question did not get RIF'd, but I don't see where that has anything to do with anything other than an evaluation by the new management that he was worth keeping. Help me see what I missed, LL.

Canuckster
Canuckster

You didn't say what you would have done. But I gather you would have said to the man under the magnifying glass that despite being told all his life that hard work and effort will be rewarded, he may well be laid off for profit motives. Given that, in the end, the employee was retained and the manager let go, all worked out as it should have in a kind of Forestt Gump way. You can stand there with your all your respect and integrity and honesty, but I sense your efforts would have lost the good support techie and retained you. Then again, you would also have appreciated the new directors' honesty, intergrity and the respect they gave their employees. This is not an ends justifying means argument I am trying to defend. It is human beings managing and being managed. To tell a person that he may lose his job unless he can prove his worth to someone else may be honest but its not respectful. Choosing to use the manager to gather the criteria for information but bypassing their input lacks integrity if not honesty on the part of upper management. If the author, as the supervisor, had any influence would he have used it to retain someone he valued as a resource? Sure sounds like it to me, and in the end it appears he did. Doesn't the author state that he stood up to management a couple of times at a later date and that is why he was fired? I think that does speak to personal integrity and bravery and self-respect. Then again he may have been fired for not having the guts to axe his hardest working staff person. But with all your talk of integrity and honesty and respect something more bothers me. The question you didn't ask is why the new management singled this employee out without conferring with his supervisor. Was their intent a driveby layoff or were they expecting a problem and looking for a reason to trim middle management? Integrity and honesty and respect are not code words for acting like a bull in a china shop. They can also mean being human and true to one's self.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

Even if upper management had told him to lie about the reason, he had the choice of lying, or refusing to lie. On the other hand, maybe the whole thing was a test :)

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Really, Mr. L! The OP threw the dice with his 'own' job to protect another man's. Show me how that lacks respect or integrity, or even honesty, ultimately.