Big Lawsuit

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2 years 3 weeks ago #1909 by Oldbooks1
Replied by Oldbooks1 on topic Big Lawsuit
I once was unlucky enough to be in charge of a technical unit that reported to a boss who had no technical background.

The boss had a potential product idea he wanted to market to clients and told me it needed to have certain properties. After looking carefully at what that would entail and discussing in detail with colleagues I concluded it was simply impossible.

In trying to explain the reasons why I quickly realized the boss simply could not understand the technical details. So I said, "look, what we are trying to do here is like adding 2+2 and getting 5 as a result." The response I got amazed me: "My job is to decide what should happen, your job is to make it happen and I do not have time to waste on silly details."

Needless to say, the product never saw the light of day.:lol:
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2 years 3 weeks ago - 2 years 3 weeks ago #1912 by Isamorph
Replied by Isamorph on topic Big Lawsuit

Oldbooks1 wrote: I once was unlucky enough to be in charge of a technical unit that reported to a boss who had no technical background.

The boss had a potential product idea he wanted to market to clients and told me it needed to have certain properties. After looking carefully at what that would entail and discussing in detail with colleagues I concluded it was simply impossible.

In trying to explain the reasons why I quickly realized the boss simply could not understand the technical details. So I said, "look, what we are trying to do here is like adding 2+2 and getting 5 as a result." The response I got amazed me: "My job is to decide what should happen, your job is to make it happen and I do not have time to waste on silly details."

Needless to say, the product never saw the light of day.:lol:


It must have been hard having Steve Jobs as a boss. Kidding aside, your above description sounds strikingly similar to passages from Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs, passages telling of Job's outbursts against his engineers when they would tell him something could not be done, or at least could not be done in x amount of time. Yet many of these same engineers said that Jobs brought out the very best in them even though they often thought he was unhinged and hated him. But sometimes Jobs was flat out wrong and would admit,days after having berated his employees, that he had been wrong. I suppose we all have had our share of insanity to deal with in the workplace. What some of us will endure for a paycheck. And I would venture to say that the former Google engineer who allegedly absconded with protected Google info now wishes he had not changed workplaces.

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2 years 3 weeks ago #1913 by Oldbooks1
Replied by Oldbooks1 on topic Big Lawsuit
One of the common metaphors where I worked was the boss was like the captain of a ship.

Some of the ones I had to deal with over the years did seem to fit the type.

Here is a photo of one of the nicer ones. A charming type who was intensely focused on the mission.
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2 years 3 weeks ago - 2 years 3 weeks ago #1915 by Isamorph
Replied by Isamorph on topic Big Lawsuit
Intensely focused, indeed. All too often such intensity does not end well for all involved. But it may provide the makings for a good story.


Oh--and here is a link to a long, but very informative profile that "New Yorker" magazine did a few years ago on the Google/Uber engineering genius who is now under the gun. www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/11/25/auto-correct

:blink:
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2 years 3 weeks ago #2054 by Widsith
Replied by Widsith on topic Big Lawsuit

Oldbooks1 wrote: What seems to happen a lot of the time is the old Peter Principle at work. People are very good at some things and then advance as a result of that to a position in which they are not at all well suited to the requirements for success at that level. At that point they become ineffective and often are very difficult to deal with even while climbing the ladder they were delightful people.

Many years ago I witnessed exactly this happening to someone I knew. At the time I was part of a small organization. One person--I'll call him X--had been the head of a department for a few years and had done an excellent job. He was a friendly, relaxed and very intelligent person. Everyone liked him and we all got along with him just fine. But then he was promoted and became the big boss who ran the whole operation. The changes in his personality were swift and alarming. Almost overnight he went from being friendly and relaxed to intense, driven and impatient. Anything less than total agreement and compliance with his decisions was treated as disloyalty. Meetings that previously had been pleasant and productive became tense and confrontational.

I remember one meeting in particular where X thought that some people had been slacking off in meeting a particular requirement. In the past this would have been handled with a quiet reminder of the rule and the expectation that everyone would follow it. Instead, we walked into the meeting and X handed each of us a printed memo which stated that the rule would be obeyed by everyone without exception or else! (It actually used the words "or else.") Another person whom I'll call Y (and who was a relaxed, easygoing person himself) politely and respectfully pointed out why a few people might, for good reasons, have difficulty in meeting that requirement on occasion, and suggested that their circumstances ought to be taken into account. X replied with a snarky comment that took what Y said completely out of context and essentially implied that Y was a traitor to the principles on which the organization was founded. Everyone else at the table sat in stunned disbelief at this open hostility. Y, to his credit, chose not to reply in kind and merely smiled ruefully without saying anything else. X then gave a few more orders and dismissed the meeting.

I remember another occasion a few weeks later when I encountered Y in a hallway. He asked, "Did you see X today? I saw him a little while ago and he had a hunted expression, like something was chasing him. Poor guy, he always seems so stressed out these days. I feel sorry for him." That pretty well expressed what I and the others thought too.

I moved on from that place to another position later that year. X also moved on elsewhere after that and I lost track of him for quite a long time. But a few years ago I got a LinkedIn invitation from him and accepted it. Since then we've only been in contact online, but as far as I can tell he's back to being his old, friendly, relaxed self. In his online photo he looks older but otherwise much like he did when I first met him, with a cheerful smile and a look of enthusiasm. It's a far cry from the nervous, worried frown he always wore during that last year that I knew him in person. I can only conclude that he found a place where he "fits" much better and enjoys his work now.
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2 years 3 weeks ago #2060 by Oldbooks1
Replied by Oldbooks1 on topic Big Lawsuit
I can certainly relate to what you have said as situations that were quite similar happened in my organization as well.

Where I worked, which may indeed be representative of other places, the model was team member/team leader and then higher management.

As a team member, you basically worked independently and really only dealt with the team leader who had previously been a strong performer and was promoted to the leader position. If you, in turn, exceeded expectations consistently you did become a team leader.

It was only when you got to that stage you realized you were totally unprepared for the new role. Instead of being expected to excel yourself, your job suddenly was to get others to do that and arrange for the coordination of different contributions so that project deadlines were met, budgets managed, and relationships with clients and others were properly managed.

For some, this was just a bridge too far and they cracked under the pressure. For others, it was possible to recognize the problem, take advantage of training and coaching resources and reinvent themselves to cope with these new and very different responsibilities.

Eventually, new approaches were introduced including 360-degree feedback. That proved to be too much for many to handle since it is not easy to hear in a blunt way what exactly direct reports think of you as a person and how they perceive your effectiveness. Some did respond appropriately and became better at managing relationships, setting goals and motivating others to produce on time and on budget.

There definitely was a major improvement as the years went by but what it also clearly showed was that not all star performers should move up. Of course, the downside of that is once these star performers recognized that career progression was now limited they ceased to be motivated and often became problem employees. Overall, however, there was noticeable progress.

Of course, none of this applied to the top management who continued to believe in their omniscience and pretty much made it clear that is way their way or the highway. Until a way is found to make similar changes at the very top, toxic work environments will still exist.
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