27 February, 2009

Some context

And while I'm being unmotivated, here's how The Invertebrate earned his name.

There was a process change I was trying to implement last year while I was Acting Team Leader.  It made my role easier, it made the role of the person placing purchase orders easier, it addressed some of the horrible legacy issues we're suffering with inventory and accounts, had no impact on the clients, and no impact on Ted E.'s job.

Naturally he fought it tooth and nail, because "That's not how we used to do it".  In fact it was ... kind of.  It hadn't been done properly or consistently, but it was being done.  Ted E. dug his heels in further, claiming there was a four-year-old written process explaining how it should be done, and that, by god, was how we should be doing it.

(When I finally found this apparent Holy Grail of business processes - it was carefully hidden - it turned out to be a poorly written scrawl by Ted E. about he handles a superficially similar situation that wasn't remotely applicable).

We went ahead with the change anyway ("It doesn't affect me and I don't like it" didn't cut it as a valid objection) and began phasing it in, letting natural attrition cycle out the older models.  Then The Invertebrate was appointed, and Ted E. ramped up his "It's not how we did it in the old days" spiel and turned it into a major drama production at the next team meeting. Fortunately he'd telegraphed what he was up to, so I had time to prepare my arguments (again) for why the change was useful and necessary and had no impact on Ted E.

The team meeting went reasonably well as a result: Ted E. blustered, waved his printed copy of his process, and stabbed his notepad with his biro while loudly declaring "We have a process!"  The Invertebrate wavered towards my suggestion, agreed that he could see the value and the sense in it, and seemed surprised and relieved that I had no problem with Ted E.'s process when it was applied to the appropriate situation.  Ted E. got louder and more hysterical.

The next day, The Invertebrate complained to another team member about having to make a decision.  "They both dug their heels in.  If one of them doesn't back down I'll have to decide what to do."  Which didn't earn him a lot of sympathy: he's the team leader, so his job is to make decisions based on what he thinks is in the interests of the team's ability to perform its role, not on the basis of which of his team members proves the most pigheaded.

I wrote a four-page business case outling my suggestion, it's pros and cons, implementations, risks, etc.  Ted E. continued the "I don't like it, it's not like the old days" diatribe and circulated the same copy of his irrelevant half-page how-to instructions.  Two of the team members were strongly in favour of the change, one was happy with it, and only actively opposed it.

The Invertebrate procrastinated.
After several weeks, he sent an email from home announcing his decision. He prefaced his verdict by stating that he understood the team was polarised on this issue (where "polarised" = "everyone affected is in favour; the one person unaffected is fanatically opposed"), and that the best solution was to make no decision at all for a few more months until the position I've been acting in on a series of fixed-term contracts was filled on an ongoing basis. At which point ... I don't know, maybe the successful applicant would make the problem go away by agreeing with everything Ted E. said to avoid further outbursts of middle-aged male hysterics.

Up until this point the Team Leader had struck me as wavering and very uncertain of his job and what it entailed.  Taking over a month to produce an email of such spinelessness and unwillingness to make a decision that might anger the psychopath-in-residence put this well beyond simple wavering and indecision, and so "The Invertebrate" was born. 

And I think even The Invertebrate had reservations about his decisions to make no decision: the email's security settings were set so high that it couldn't be replied to, forwarded, copied, printed or, well, anything really, except read.

And screen-captured, naturally.

But that, ladies and gentlemen, was the point where I decided that even if I applied successfully for my job of the last three years, there was simply no way I could continue working under the Invertebrate.


Sean said...

good luck on your new job.
be sure to get a job before leaving.

Argh said...

Well a new job to go *to* would be nice, but at this point I don't have one, my contract finishes in a month (I've been here on a series of fixed-term contracts since 2006), and I still haven't been told if I applied successfully for my job. So I may be walking out of here into unemployment ... but it's hard not to see this as the lesser evil.

Sean said...

Can you get a recommendation from anyone in that toxic office? It would be amazing if true, but also fortunate for you.

Speaking of toxic offices, check out this book for one solution:
Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results (Hardcover)
by Stephen C. Lundin (Author), Harry Paul (Author), John Christensen (Author), Ken Blanchard (Foreword)

In anycase, good luck, keep posting.


Sean said...

I suspect you have a different idea of worst boss than this web comic offers:


Sean said...

Sorry, try the webcomic at March 16 or so, worst boss title.


Sean said...

And you should leave.
The results would seem to be that the most irritating person in the dept will run over/rule the spineless boss and get what he really wanted -- the keys to the whole place and the title (but not the pay) of the boss.
This will create chaos and problems, but the situation will deserve its own result.

Sean said...

Serious help in decision making: