Friday, June 13, 2008

We all float down here

Last year I had a woman boss, we'll refer to her as Psycho K. Psycho K was unpredictable, a poor communicator, and would throw anyone under the bus to save her own butt. In February, Psycho K left The Center for greener pastures.

One of my teammates, we'll call her Confused N, really wanted a shot a management. Confused N has years of experience, had been at The Center for a few years, had saved Psycho K's bacon numerous times, and had recently completed her Masters in Business. So, our new CIO decided to give her a chance as interim team lead.

What a disaster!!! Just because you have the knowledge, doesn't mean you have the skills.

The last few weeks our team has grown more and more discontent. Confused N is always late to meetings, highly disorganized, and has real problems communicating up and down. Our team meeting this week evolved into a scream fest (mostly me screaming at her). She decided that we needed more time to pursue the line of thinking that we were having none of, so she scheduled a second meeting for the next day. That meeting lasted two hours, ending with her admitting that the seven of us strongly disagreed with her and that we would not be following her vision, but that she still felt that she was right.

This morning, three of us found ourselves tasked with having to write business cases for projects by first thing Monday. Projects whose goals we were unsure of, whose urgency we did not fully comprehend. To 'assist' us, she sent us all a three page article on how to write an effective business case.

When she came in this morning (more than two hours after most of the rest of us got in) she asked me how my business case was going. I replied with a bristle that I had no idea what the project was that I was supposed to be justifying. She got very angry at me and said that the entire two hour meeting yesterday was specifically about that project and that everyone had bent over backwards to give me the supporting information for the project, whioh she then started to rattle off from her notes. I asked her if she could send me those notes in an email. She then got VERY angry wanting to know why I hadn't taken the notes myself.

I clammed up. The details she was rattling off were brainstorming ideas that we all were tossing about. I had no idea that she expected ME to draft a project plan from those ideas. The crux of the meeting really was us all fighting off her idea that all the data analysis work that I do could be scripted so that other people could help me do my job. Everyone disagreed that the level of analysis that I do could be scripted with anything short of an AI. This was the point that we all agreed on, except for her.

We did briefly touch upon one improvement that could be made in the process, which would be to beef up and centralize our logging infrastructure so that multiple disparate logs would live in one convenient, powerful, location.

After our screaming match about 'the project' this morning, where I agreed to pull SOMETHING together, several of my coworkers approached me about my project and the other two that had been assigned over night. Everyone agreed that she is in utter panic mode, that she can't communicate, and that she is alienating everyone.

In the last two months, so much about her behavior is starting to mimic Psycho K's. We are beginning to think that the job turns everyone into an irrational non-communicative monster. [ Hence the quote from Stephen King's "It" ]

My teammates are upset on two levels. First, they do not like what's become of Confused N and how she's attempting to manage us. And secondly, I am the next most senior person on the team. I help everyone. Most of them have expressed their fear of what's going to happen when I bail. Confused N and I are at such odds, that they are sure that I'm headed out the door. And, I have to admit, if an opportunity opens up somewhere else in our organization, I'm out faster than a greased pig.

At least it feels good to know that the bulk of the team appreciates my contributions and thinks that I, in particular, am being treated more than unfairly. C'est la vie, eh?

Beep, beep.

1 comment:

Julie said...

I know you're not asking for advice, but something in your story reminded me of what things were like at my old job.

Confused N sounds a lot like my old boss, except that in addition to being borderline insane, she's also perhaps incompetent.

My old boss would frequently make very vague requests of me, even though he had something very specific in mind. Therefore, after panicking for hours, days, or weeks over how to placate him, I'd finally say to myself, "there's no sense in agonizing over this - he will hate anything I give him, so I'll just do the lamest thing I can, from which he will be able to focus his comments and give me more helpful feedback."

On the other hand, I think Confused N has very little idea what she wants from you, so she just might be content with anything you come up with. Since it sounds as though you can't be sure what she wants and she may not even know herself, I suggest that you write this thing exactly in your vision rather than try to anticipate hers. Then cross your fingers and hope for the best. :)

Since she's in panic mode, she'll probably be so relieved to have something in writing that she may not even bother nitpicking; but if she does nitpick, at least she'll be nitpicking your ideas. (I feel a lot more annoyed when I write down what they tell me to and then they disagree with it, as my ex-boss used to.) Good luck.