Comment Rescue: Workplace Culture

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Patrick

Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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124 Responses

  1. Avatar Barry says:

    “You don’t work for your boss. You report to your boss. You work for the organization, which has goals. And when your boss’s misunderstanding of the goals is bringing you down, it’s probably also bringing the organization down. By continuing to work for the bad boss, you are digging your own grave.

    If you’re not willing to take on your boss, you better start looking for a new job. Not just because you’ll be happier elsewhere, but because you’re not helping fix the problem, on the ground, right where you are.”

    Frankly, this is garbage, and doesn’t deserve promotion.

    You work for your boss, *unless* their boss overrides, and *unless* HR overrides. And any body working for long understands the relative odds there (please spare me the story of how you marched into the CEO’s office, explained the situation to him, and got your boss/bosses’ boss/etc. fired).Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Barry says:

      You work for your boss, *unless* their boss overrides, and *unless* HR overrides. And any body working for long understands the relative odds there (please spare me the story of how you marched into the CEO’s office, explained the situation to him, and got your boss/bosses’ boss/etc. fired).

      What kind of work do you do?Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to Dave says:

        Very boring statistical work. But does it work differently where you work? For others, does it work differently?

        How many people here have actually jumped three levels of management or more?Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Dave says:

        @barry

        Do you work for a for-profit employer or not-for-profit? I would say that my perspective is very reflective of my industry.

        How many people here have actually jumped three levels of management or more?

        I don’t even know if my firm has “three levels of management”. We have the people here that run the US office and senior management is in London. We don’t waste time with burdensome management structures a la something akin to a GM or a Fortune 100 company.

        That said, yes, we have been able to jump all the way to the level of our firm’s CEO/CFO partly because they encourage it and partly because they directly seek out our input. They want the perspective of the “bosses” from the people that work for them. Having our corporate office located overseas is probably a motivating factor.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Dave says:

        I can’t say I found it terribly insightful.

        The sweeping assumptions don’t seem appropriate for any of my work experience (private teaching, small business, mid-cap, and large-cap).

        I was waiting for the part that suggests we have certain protections or that the company has certain duties to us that we are not commonly aware of.

        Instead, a suggestion that one do an end-around on your boss (and most often your boss’s-boss) to get to someone who might see differently.

        Sure, one could consider doing that… this is not a new thought. It is usually something one considers and then considers against. Sometimes the shittiest boss is the guy hiring the bosses. Sometimes the organization really does want a culture change – or even more commonly – the culture changes around you owing to merger/acquisition.

        Scaled down to something like: Take heart, sometimes it is possible to bring bad behavior to the attention of superiors and expose bossly incompetence. Make note of the improprieties and document mis-steps; when ready, meet with HR and raise a formal complaint of how Mr. X is working against company priorities.

        Ok. But, as I said above, sometimes a culture change *is* a culture change, and the mission statement about the importance of family/work balance really is a lie.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Dave says:

        “What kind of work do you do?”

        He works really hard all day at being the coggiest cog he can possibly be.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Dave says:

        Me

        But I work for a small company, where such is encouraged. When I worked at the Lazy B, such would have gotten you in serious hot water.

        Ergo, it varies from culture to culture.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Dave says:

        He works really hard all day at being the coggiest cog he can possibly be.

        Which has no content except to insult a fellow commenter, yet the commenting policy wasn’t invoked. Why is that, I wonder?Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Dave says:

        @mike-schilling

        Which has no content except to insult a fellow commenter, yet the commenting policy wasn’t invoked. Why is that, I wonder?

        This is why we keep you around.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Barry says:

      *snickers* is there a CEO?Report

  2. Avatar Dave says:

    @barry

    Frankly, this is garbage, and doesn’t deserve promotion.

    We have a commenting policy. Follow it or your comments disappear. Got it?Report

  3. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    There are multiple ways to view this and I think it depends on the type of organization.

    For better or for worse, I only had one job at a large corporation with hundreds if not thousands of employees. This is when I worked in Japan for an English conversation school. The school had lessons for kids but everyone over 12 was placed in adult lessons. This lead to very strange situations like having a 12 year old girl sharing a lesson with two gruff salary men who would rather not be there but were required to take English lessons for their job. They also probably needed radically different English conversational skills. There are also all sorts of cultural and social reasons why this was an awkward grouping. Every now and then a guy (usually my artier students) would try and be engaging in this situation but that freaked out the 12 year olds more.)

    I tried to be a good teacher and come up with creative and fun lesson plans and every single time I did so I was smacked down by the boss for being too creative. The company wanted nice boring lessons but would also criticize those are being too boring.

    My company had a reputation for being one of the worst English conversation schools in Japan to work for and they eventually went brankrupt about 4 years after my return to the states because of poor consumer relations and embezzlement. There were English teachers in Japan who were stranded without cash. Governments leant money for them to get home.

    There are also ways giving and taking away a perk can lower morale. Right now I work in a super casual office. This could (but probably won’t change tomorrow) and we could all be ordered to go back to business attire. Would people adjust? Yes. Would it cause people to look for work elsewhere? Potentially but maybe not. Would it lower morale? Yes.Report

    • You never know what’s going to set people off. We lost two Employees of the Month due to the company’s Internet surfing policy. The company was really going through a “If they don’t like it, they can just leave!” phase. If they’d thought about it at all, I think they assumed that only the worthless slackers who wanted to surf the Internet all day would leave, instead of two people who had won major awards in the past six months.

      Both had been, as had most people, keeping their ears to the ground before the policy and their disastrous handling of it*. But there is “keeping an eye out” and there is “Going to the job board every day and asking all of my friends if they know about any openings.”

      Once I brought this to management’s attention, they revised the “Twelve websites a day” policy.

      * – They didn’t just implement a policy. They put trackers on the computers, without notifying anybody, then one by one dragged people into The Boss’s Office to yell at them. They didn’t even know what they were looking at. I was tagged as a worst offender because I was on Rhapsody**, which refreshes a lot. It didn’t peak their curiosity that I was apparently going to a new website every six seconds, almost all day every day.

      ** – It’s fair ball, if not always great policy, to ban streaming audio on account of the bandwidth it soaks up. That wasn’t what they were looking at, though. And a simple notification would have done. Listening to music while working was encouraged. After the above incident, I switched from Rhapsody to MP3 files and was never on the Naughty List again.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      @saul-degraw

      I think Patrick’s dynamic is spot on in the business world that I live in. I’ve worked in the commercial real estate industry in various capacities. We’re not motivated as much by loyalty to our firm as much as we are motivated to make as much money as we possibly can doing what we do. So long as there is an alignment of incentives between my firm and I, we’re good to go.

      Barry’s bureaucratic structure may work in very large organizations or non-profits but in dynamic industries, it’s dead in the water. Consider this:

      “You don’t work for your boss. You report to your boss. You work for the organization, which has goals. And when your boss’s misunderstanding of the goals is bringing you down, it’s probably also bringing the organization down. By continuing to work for the bad boss, you are digging your own grave.

      Patrick is 1,000,000% right in my world. Why? Because it boils down to revenues. If I have a bad boss by his definition, than he is either threatening 1) his means to maximize revenues, 2) my means to make as much money as I can and 3) the firm’s ability to maximize revenues because either a) he/she is incapable of doing the best job of generating revenues for his/her firm of b) he/she is such a piss-poor manager that he/she makes it difficult to execute transactions. In my world, generating business is only as good as the means to execute but both are obviously needed.

      HR has nothing to do with this in my world. HR is a support function, not a revenue producing function so it’s best to not even get involved in these situations (trust me, my HR director does not). If you don’t take on your boss, you’re a fishing moron as far as I’m concerned. We may not have any kind of sentimental loyalty to the firm but we’re in this to make money and if a person above me doesn’t follow that lead, that person can’t be there. Believe me, the people above that person, especially in corporate management, will want to know.

      Garbage my ass. Patrick is right. Barry has no idea what the hell he’s talking about. I got 20 years experience to back up my claims.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to Dave says:

        “Garbage my ass. Patrick is right. Barry has no idea what the hell he’s talking about. I got 20 years experience to back up my claims.”

        So do I.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Dave says:

        I don’t even think most of the companies I worked for had serious HR departments except two.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Dave says:

        @barry

        You would have to prove that not only are you correct, but also that I’m wrong. Good luck.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Dave says:

        Your system seems MUCH BETTER DESIGNED than my organization.
        /jealousReport

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Dave says:

        @kim

        I work on real estate transactions. You don’t need many layers of bureaucratic management to oversee that nor would we want to put money to the kind of overhead that would in no way shape or form help us bring in more business.

        I think the crux of the problem I’ve seen in a lot of these discussions, and I’m partially at fault for throwing gas on the fire, is that everyone here that works in some professional capacity, comes from a different background. From the sound of it, your organization (or Barry’s and a few others) wouldn’t work with me, but it does not follow that the way my firm is set up would work with others.

        Don’t be jealous. In my world, you put the lunatics in charge of the asylum.Report

  4. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Frankly, this is garbage, and doesn’t deserve promotion.

    That wasn’t even the part that got promoted.Report

  5. Avatar Kim says:

    Um. Yeah. You seem to expect that the goals of the organization are set properly.
    Or that I’m anywhere near the “problem children” who deserve to be fired.Report

  6. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I very much agree with this post. It’s similar to one I did on “career advice” a while back. I wonder if I should repost that in OTC for the symposium?Report

  7. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I work for a small law firm and let me tell you that I definitely work for my boss. The good thing is that he likes me. If your working for a business with a definite owner and the owner oversees your work than you are working for yoru boss.Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to LeeEsq says:

      That’s different from what the ‘rescued comment’ was suggesting.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to LeeEsq says:

      This is a good point. A small company or privately owned company is going to have a different social structure than a large corporation or publically traded one.Report

    • Avatar patrick in reply to LeeEsq says:

      This adds some nuance, but could easily contribute to my point.

      Let’s say you work for a sole proprietor and they start making very bad business decisions. You figure they will lose 40% of their client base within five months if things Don’t Change.

      If you don’t do anything, they will no longer be able to afford to pay you in four weeks.

      Aside from “trying to stop the crazy train” or “start looking immediately”, what are your options?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to patrick says:

        Lawyers do have legal obligations not to do anything unethical even if ordered by the boss. Losing clients in law is probably different than losing clients in other situations.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to patrick says:

        Not just lawyers. What you’re describing is part of any job that carries fiduciary responsibilities.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to patrick says:

        Well, let’s distinguish between bad business decisions and decisions that skirt the edge of the competence and integrity issues implicated by fiduciary responsibility. Let’s say that Lawyer Lisa works as an associate for for the Law Office of Samantha the Spendthrift, and Samantha makes a series of business, not legal, decisions that seem very ill-advised, like buying a subscription to a $10,000-a-month jury verdict reporting service that essentially replicates what’s already available, buying $1,000,000 worth of insurance coverage for the telephone wires of the building, and hiring a dozen typists in addition to the existing underworked staff of six paralegals and five office support staff.

        Lawyer Lisa can and should say, “Hey, Samantha, do we really need all this insurance, all this office support, and this expensive data subscription? Seems like that’s going to seriously bump our overhead up and maybe even endanger the office’s ability to make payroll.” But if Samantha responds by saying “Hey, it’s my law firm and my money, and while I respect your ability to handle the cases, you are after all just an associate here. Trust me, I know what I’m doing, so go ahead and prepare for tomorrow’s deposition and don’t you worry about the overhead, it’ll all work out just fine.”

        To Lisa this is patently incorrect; the sudden jump in overhead has no conceivable business justification. So what is the right thing for Lawyer Lisa to do other than looking for alternative places of employment?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to patrick says:

        Owners of small businesses can be the most open and least open to suggestions from their employees. They can have a bit more of an emotional attachment towards their business and suggestions that they are running things badly could be taken more personally. At the same time, they have a lot more to lose if things go bad and that might make them more open.

        The first dance studio I belonged to in NYC is a good example of a good business gone bad by an owner not listening. Each dance studio has a core of regular students that can be counted on to go to the studio month after month to learn. These students tend to form a community and really associate with the studio. They form relationships with teachers that go beyond the strictly commercial or professional. Anyway, my first studio ran into a bit of rough spot around the Great Recession because many of the more casual students stopped attending. The regulars stayed though. Than the owner started cutting back on classes and began renting out the space more. This caused a lot of frustration among the regular students and they began leaving along with many of the teachers. The studio still exists and has classes but its not as fun as it used to be. Lots of the community feeling is gone and more money is made from renting space rather than from dance. Dance studios that decided to take a temporary hit in order to keep regular students happy tended to do much better.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to patrick says:

        Owners of small businesses can be the most open and least open to suggestions from their employees. They can have a bit more of an emotional attachment towards their business and suggestions that they are running things badly could be taken more personally. At the same time, they have a lot more to lose if things go bad and that might make them more open.

        This is a really fair point; in both cases, though, working to perhaps change your employer’s views on their small business are probably beneficial to the business, and thus your chances of remaining employed at a successful business.Report

  8. Avatar morat20 says:

    I’m not sure this is generally useful advice.

    First off, most people don’t want to risk complaining about their boss. Because their boss is their boss, and he can do anything from make life miserable for them to fire them. End-running around your boss? That doesn’t look good.

    Jobs are precarious, and employees are generally replaceable. Maybe an en masse complaint, or the few rock starts who *know* they’re more important than their boss will, but nobody else. Nobody wants to risk it.

    Anonymous complaints can work, as long as people believe it’s really anonymous. (And many don’t).

    In the end, people aren’t willing to potentially risk their jobs to improve their manager’s performance or their own work environment. They’ll put up with a bad boss until they find another job and leave — rather than complain and possibly get terminated before they find another position.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to morat20 says:

      It’s pretty situation-specific, in my view. It’s about spending capital that you’ve built up. If you haven’t built up any capital – or they don’t recognize it – then it’s not worthwhile to speak up. In my experience, that’s usually going to be the case.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to Will Truman says:

        Sure, but I think you’re going to find it’s a lot more common to view “It’s not worth it, I’ll look for another job rather than risk this one” than to try to do something about it.

        And I don’t think blaming the employee, even a little, is terribly fair. They lack any leverage. They can’t fire the boss. For that matter, if the boss sucks so much — why hasn’t HIS boss replaced him?

        Why hasn’t he noticed? Why doesn’t it come up in reviews? After all, your performance is regularly reviewed — which means either his boss doesn’t care — or likes it the way it is.

        I work in an ‘at will’ state. Perhaps that colors my views, but people generally won’t risk a job. They’ll quietly find another then quit, because that has a certain income from start to finish. They won’t gamble mid-stream.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to morat20 says:

      If you think your job is going to be at risk if you complain than most people aren’t going to complain. The spector of unemployment or at least retaliation is horrifying for most. In smaller companies your boss is likely to be the owner or close to the owner. In bigger companies, your boss has bureaucratic ennui to protect them. People tend not to want to rock the boat and put themselves in danger unless things are really intolerable. Unions worked in part by providing protection through mass action sort of like an en masse complaint.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to morat20 says:

      I’ve worked for companies where I didn’t know the name of my boss’s boss’s boss. I’ve worked for others where the president of the company had a cubicle next to mine.

      The former were places that were really alienating. (I gave an example of one of the things that happened there in the Orwell post.) The latter were places where I got praised (by the president himself!) for figuring out how to do stuff like “burn fewer CDs for scheduled maintenance”.

      It was easier to be a rock star in the smaller companies. It was easier to be a cog in the larger ones.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to morat20 says:

      Alcoa fixed this problem by getting the unions to complain, getting the problem above management and up to the CEO.

      Using parallel lines of command rarely works well in the military, but apparently it works better in the corporate world.Report

  9. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Patrick,

    I disagree, in part. You are right that culture is not set unilaterally top down. But it is also really hard to effect institutional change from the bottom up. Especially if many others on the bottom have abdicated their power to effect change as you discuss here.

    I spent the better part of this year trying to effect real change on a number of levels. Unfortunately, as I eventually had to say to a colleague, “I don’t mind trying to fix something that is broken. But I’m not interesting in fixing something that others with greater power seem intent on breaking.” Now, I don’t think they think they’re breaking it. They are pursuing the course of action they see as best. I disagree. Unfortunately, with very few avenues of communication or feedback existing, attempting to hash this out is nigh impossible. So I made a decision: Fuck the institution. Sure, I could have done more. I could have called upon the board members I knew or rallied similarly minded colleagues. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t worth it for me. I’d simply rather find an institution whose leaders do not have a vision so differently aligned from my own.

    My particular situation doesn’t just involve a difference of philosophy (e.g., “I think we should do more STEAM!” “I think we need more arts!”) or incompetence (e.g., “I didn’t realize it was important to have meeting agendas.”); from where I sit, I see borderline corruption. I see lies spread and threats made; I see conversations forced offline and behind closed doors so that dissenters can be bullied; I see people treated without even the most basic decency or respect. Maybe I’m not part of the solution to that particular problem. I’m okay with that. I can fix every problem. I can fix that which I can control. And while my control might be greater than indicated in that initial comment, I do not feel at present time it is sufficient to effect real change. Not without a ton of work and headache and stress and struggle. And I’m just not interested in that. I don’t have enough invested in the institution.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy says:

      Part of your problem, Kazzy, is the nature of your employer. I presume there’s a governing board; but if it’s like the school my sweetie worked at, the problem person (head master in his school’s lingo) always acts as filter between the governing board and faculty.

      And you are expendable; with the layoffs from public schools through the austerity we’ve been through, there are teachers desperate for work, even still. There is absolutely no need for any headmaster to put up with staff he or she doesn’t want to put up with; there are 30 or more candidates willing and able to fill your shoes.

      The only thing that will make a difference is a lot of people leaving at once; churn is expensive, so people coming in and moving on a after a year or two will get noticed by the trustees eventually. The subversive reporter in me reminds you that if your school is non-profit, their Form 990 (tax form that non-profits file) should be available on Guidestar, and this will include the salaries of the top 3 employees. (You should be able to go into the business office and request a 990, it’s public record, and they have to provide to you on demand, and you do not have to explain why you want it.)

      I have seen a 990 circulated through faculty bring about a change in culture in private schools; the pay differential between faculty and administration has a stimulating effect.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Kazzy says:

      It’s true that Patrick’s attitude assumes there’s an honest system that needs improvement. If there is knowingly unethical behavior or straight-up criminality, that’s not something you can fix with gentle suggestions (and it’s worth questioning whether it’s moral for you to remain a part of that institution.)Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        Kazzy works at an independent school — which can mean a lot.

        Now, I’m pretty sure Kazzy (who seems quite the straight up type seriously invested in teaching) isn’t working at a fly-by-night charter scam, but probably a serious private or charter or whatnot school.

        Or at least it was. If Kazzy’s thinking corruption and integrity problems, well — that’s generally a sign that the almighty dollar has gained traction. There’s a lot of serious, serious money in education — and for every solid, reputable charter or private school there’s at least one for-profit that’s more about the money than the kids.

        Don’t blame you for looking to bail, even if whatever’s going on isn’t so mercenary. A relative of mine bailed on a school the moment they hired an unqualified person to head the Special Ed department — she knew (and was proven right!) that there’d be serious law-breaking and malpractice, because the new head was chosen to cut costs — and had no ideas about the relevent laws.

        (My favorite tidbit: Every kid with a learning disability got relabeled “dyslexic” because treating dyslexia could be done much more cheaply. And not terribly effectively, but whatever. They had behaviour disorder kids in there, even. Awful. They tried to relabel — I kid you not — the actual disabled kids, like the Down’s kids, but that got canned because even the idiot Superintendent pushing this whole thing wasn’t that bold.

        had a somewhat happy ending. Parent revolt, basically. Kicked out the super, half the school board, and hired someone with qualifications. Cost kids two years, though..)Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        (Should read “I think Kazzy works at an independent school”)Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        From his description, it might be a co-dependant school.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Kazzy says:

      Some years ago when we were all younger, my closest friends were working at a small college. They thought the institution might strive for a different sort of excellence than what the current president wanted. So did the Chairman of the Board and a couple of other Board Members.

      Even with powerful allies, the Boss’s vision of excellence won. The board members were removed, the young professors marginalized; now all (but one) are gone save the President.

      And, from the outside, I’m not sure anyone could have told the difference then or now.

      It was an enlightening experience to live through.Report

  10. Avatar Jim Heffman says:

    This is always relevant:

    Report

  11. Avatar Patrick says:

    Here are the objections noted so far:

    (1) Barry: You’re a stupidhead. Also, I’m an asshole.

    Both duly noted.

    More charitably, I’ll read the first comment like this instead:

    “You fundamentally misunderstand how your relationship with your boss works”.

    My rejoinder to the charitable version is, “Okay. So tell me not just how I’m wrong, but explain it a bit more fully.”

    (2) Also from the previous comment: “please spare me the story of how you marched into the CEO’s office, explained the situation to him, and got your boss/bosses’ boss/etc. fired”

    I’m reading this as climate change denial… “I don’t believe this can happen and will categorically deny any evidence to the contrary”, to which I’ll respond “your experience is obviously not universal.” If it is meant any other way, feel free to explain.

    (3) Marchmaine: “I was waiting for the part that suggests we have certain protections or that the company has certain duties to us that we are not commonly aware of.”

    You’re… waiting for me to tell you it’s easy? Did I say it was going to be easy? I thought I implied otherwise.

    Just in case that wasn’t clear: this is not easy.

    “Instead, a suggestion that one do an end-around on your boss (and most often your boss’s-boss) to get to someone who might see differently.”

    I’ll note, I did not in fact lay out any suggestions about operationalization in this post. I was deliberately trying to avoid getting into those weeds here (that’s the upcoming post).

    I was just pointing out the decision tree. Should I graph it out?

    (4) Saul and Will, paraphrased: “this is situationally dependent.” Also LeeEsq, sort of.

    Well, yes.

    There are other possibilities.

    You can’t afford to challenge your bad boss and you can’t look for a new job. This is possible, but… if you have a shitty job and you actually can’t look for a new job, “You will probably always be very conflicted about your employment, and you’ll probably blame an awful lot of that on your bad boss. And to be fair, your bad boss holds the power to make your life pretty miserable, so you have a whole slew of incentives to shut up and color.”

    You make the calculus that it’s as likely (or more likely) that your job will get better by someone up above your boss fixing the problem. Hey, that’s fine. In the meantime, “You will probably always be very conflicted about your employment”.

    I’ll note: Will also mentions a time when he actually helped fix a cultural problem.

    (5) Barry again: I will believe that will you tell me how to fix it.

    Um, hold on. Are you saying that my description of the problem is inaccurate, or that my description of the problem is not useful? If my description of the problem is inaccurate, that’s one thing. If you don’t believe it because you don’t find it useful, that’s a different problem no?

    (6) Morat20: “Most people don’t want to risk complaining about their boss.” Also LeeEsq: “If you think your job is going to be at risk if you complain than most people aren’t going to complain.”

    Again, did I say that challenging your boss was going to be easy, or that most people were going to want to do it?

    You have a choice: you can amputate your own arm, or you can die of exposure. Sure, lots of people will choose dying of exposure. Maybe the negative utility you get from self-mutilation outweighs the negative utility you get from doing nothing and slowly starving to death. And maybe – just maybe – someone will come along and rescue you. Sure. Odds on that happening?

    Am I a bad man for pointing out that you can amputate your own arm or die of exposure?

    “They’ll put up with a bad boss until they find another job and leave — rather than complain and possibly get terminated before they find another position.”

    And that’s fine.

    (7) Also Morat : “And I don’t think blaming the employee, even a little, is terribly fair.”

    Dude, who said I was blaming the employee? The boss is shitty. I’m just pointing out the decision tree.
    – You can do nothing, and nothing changes (and you’re miserable)
    – You can do nothing, and something else happens to make it better (and you’re no longer miserable, until the next time you get a terrible boss).
    – You can look for another job
    – You can challenge your boss
    — And maybe get fired, in which case you’re looking for another job
    — Or maybe make things better, in which case you’re at a better job

    Last Morat, from the same comment, regarding employees “They lack any leverage.”

    This is arguable. Usually, you don’t lack any leverage. You may not be aware of the leverage you have, though.

    (8) Kazzy:

    I spent the better part of this year trying to effect real change on a number of levels.

    Ah, so you agree with me, then 🙂

    But at the end of the day, it wasn’t worth it for me. I’d simply rather find an institution whose leaders do not have a vision so differently aligned from my own.

    I don’t have any problem with this approach. Lest you feel singled out because I picked your comment on the other thread, I picked it because it sparked a thought, not because I’m accusing you of bailing on your responsibilities.

    I don’t think people necessarily have a moral or ethical obligation to fix any particular employment situation (not blaming the employee, here). Not in this culture, anyway.

    But if you want to get where Burt is talking about going in his post, then that’s a different culture.

    (9) Marchmaine again: “Even with powerful allies, the Boss’s vision of excellence won. The board members were removed, the young professors marginalized; now all (but one) are gone save the President.”

    This is a possible outcome, yes. In many cases it might be a likely outcome.

    Hell, in most cases it might be the very most likely outcome.

    It still doesn’t really change the decision tree, does it? Stay and be unhappy, leave willingly, or try to effect change. Is there another option?Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Patrick says:

      You can look for another job
      That’s what they do. And you’re “when did I blame the employee” you just said “oh they have leverage they just don’t know it”. (Obviously you know more about their job then they do).

      Look, this whole argument reeks of someone with a very unusual job experience. It’s certainly NOTHING like any place I’ve ever worked, or any of my peers have worked. And heck, I have a friend at right below the VP level of a sizable company. He’s risen that far, from the engineering ranks no less, and he’s only ever criticized a boss after he was convinced that guy’s boss was going to listen. He’s also switched jobs a LOT because plenty of places he worked, including the job before this one, nobody was going to listen about mismanagement

      .Plus, you STILL don’t even acknowledge the fact that “getting fired” is ridiculously traumatic. For one, you suddenly lack an income stream. There’s a reason people try to find a new job before quitting the one they’re at, or quit out of a deep well of anger or rage. (In short, before they think it through).

      You list a decision tree and say workers have leverage. I call BS — 99% of workplaces the “risk getting fired” part of the tree dominates the worker’s thinking, and they have exactly zero leverage.

      If your work history doesn’t reflect that, you’re a pretty special snowflake. I’ve worked for small, mid sized, and Fortune 500 companies — and I’ve never once felt comfortable about end-running my boss unless the subject was corruption, sexual harassment, or legal or ethical violations. (And thankfully, never had to actually do that).

      Bad management? Jesus. I’d just switch departments or find another job, because unless I knew EVERYONE was complaining, the boss would still be there and I’d be singled out for crap jobs until I quit. Or RIFed.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Morat20 says:

        Look, this whole argument reeks of someone with a very unusual job experience.

        You know, when you find yourself arguing with someone and you’re missing stuff they actually wrote in their post in your comments, I would suggest that perhaps jumping to the conclusion that he’s talking from Planet Zuntar is a comfortable way of not actually digesting what he’s saying.

        It’s certainly NOTHING like any place I’ve ever worked, or any of my peers have worked.

        Really? This implies:

        – You’ve universally worked at companies with awesome corporate culture; or
        – You’ve universally worked at companies with self-healing damaged culture where bad bosses got replaced without you doing anything; or
        – You’ve universally worked at terrible companies and gotten fired every time you tried to change things; or
        – You’ve universally worked at terrible companies and never tried to do anything to change it and that’s resulted in you being deliriously happy.

        I don’t think I’m the one with the unusual job experience, if any of those are the case.

        Plus, you STILL don’t even acknowledge the fact that “getting fired” is ridiculously traumatic.

        Um, first of all, because it’s not germane to making the workplace better, as you getting fired means you’re not there any more.

        Secondly, I’ve been fired, and I’m very well aware of how much it sucks. I’ve been fired and I’ve worked for companies with shitty culture without looking for another job.

        Between the two options, I’ll pick never working for the shitty culture employer again. Hey, your calculus may vary. Good on you. But I’m guessing you’ll still not be happy working there. But that’s your decision.

        I call BS — 99% of workplaces the “risk getting fired” part of the tree dominates the worker’s thinking

        I don’t really have an argument with the idea that many if not most employees have their thinking dominated by the risk of getting fired (if you think 99% of workplaces are filled with employees who are all terrified of getting fired, though, again… I don’t think I’m the one with the unusual work experience.) That doesn’t mean that this is a great way to look at your job, though. Most people are terrible at risk analysis, it doesn’t mean that the things they think are scary are legitimate things to worry about, it just means dealing with them is hard to do.

        and they have exactly zero leverage.

        You keep asserting this, but I think this is pretty much not true. In fact, I think it’s entirely false.

        You know why I think this?

        Because every place I’ve ever worked that has had more than 10 people working there has had at least two terrible employees. Probably every place you’ve worked has had terrible employees, too. I mean, by definition, you’re arguing that every workplace has terrible managers, so tautologically speaking, you’ve already admitted that I’m correct. Every one of those terrible employees has leverage… that’s why they’re still working there. The fact that you don’t know what it is doesn’t mean that the leverage isn’t there.

        I’ve worked for small, mid sized, and Fortune 500 companies — and I’ve never once felt comfortable about end-running my boss unless the subject was corruption, sexual harassment, or legal or ethical violations. (And thankfully, never had to actually do that).

        I think it’s illustrative that every person who disagrees with my above post has adopted the default assumption that I’m talking explicitly about end-running your boss. In spite of the fact that nowhere in the post did I actually say you need to end-run your boss

        In short, you saw my description of the problem, saw one solution, assumed it was the only one that could be implemented, assumed I was universally endorsing it, examined the possible negative outcomes, attributed them to me, noted that I was ignoring them, and then took issue.

        None of which, I’ll note, even challenges the underlying description of the problem as being inaccurate.

        As an aside, though… yes, I’ve end-runned my boss, at different places of employment, and it’s variously cost me my job (at a point in my life when I really couldn’t afford it, notably), earned me a promotion, and resulted in a horizontal shift that effectively removed my boss from being my problem (coincidentally once putting a former boss in a position where they didn’t boss anybody any more).

        So yeah, I’m aware of how that works.

        But end-running your boss is one of many ways of challenging your boss.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to Morat20 says:

        I’m seconding Morat, and the reason I’m skeptical of Patrick (and Jim, perhaps) is that I see a lot of things discussed on the internet, and mentioned in business magazines, which I don’t see when talking to real people in the real world. And most of these people are not working in the industry I’m working in.

        At that point I wonder if such things are rare, so rare that the advice is worthless to me (and to most other people).Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Patrick says:

      Am I a bad man for pointing out that you can amputate your own arm or die of exposure?

      But I don’t deserve to die of exposure or lose an arm. Your calculating approach ignores the immorality of the situation. (You knew it was coming; better to hear it first from someone who knows it’s nonsense.)Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to James Hanley says:

        Am I a bad man for pointing out that you can amputate your own arm or die of exposure?
        No, but you’re ignoring the obvious: Most people will just go “Huh, I’ll remove myself from the situation.

        They’ll go find another job. They won’t confront the boss, they won’t risk suddenly being without employment, and they won’t suffer in silence. They’ll leave. You entire piece mused on the least likely course of action “Go over the bosses’ head! Confront the boss!” as if it were a genius move, instead of the odds-on favorite for “get fired or legally harassed out of a job”.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to James Hanley says:

        No, but you’re ignoring the obvious: Most people will just go “Huh, I’ll remove myself from the situation.

        From the post:

        If you’re not willing to take on your boss, you better start looking for a new job. Not just because you’ll be happier elsewhere, but because you’re not helping fix the problem, on the ground, right where you are.

        I mean, shoot, it’s right there.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to James Hanley says:

        I mean, shoot, it’s right there.
        So 90% of your post is advice no one will actually take? Because it’s unrealistic?

        My entire objection is you passed off what is, by far, the most common response in favor of increasingly unlikely scenarios. And then wondered why so few people were willing to take them.

        How many times have you been fired? Suddenly lost your income? Perhaps with a family to support?

        The only time I had the luxury to rage-quit a job was when I was single and in my teens and twenties. Now? I gots bills to pay. Lose my job because I tried to play office politics — whether for good or ill — means I’m eating into emergency funds pretty quick.

        And I don’t know if you’re noticed, but we’re not exactly at full employment.

        What’s the point of pontificating on unrealistic advice? What you propose to “fix” a bad boss is a huge risk to most people — and you gloss over the risk pretty much entirely, like being fired or RIFed is a mere pittance of a problem instead of a massive dislocation.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to James Hanley says:

        So 90% of your post is advice no one will actually take? Because it’s unrealistic?

        Congrats, you’ve given up? I guess?

        My entire objection is you passed off what is, by far, the most common response in favor of increasingly unlikely scenarios. And then wondered why so few people were willing to take them.

        Um, (a) I didn’t pass it off (b) I know why people are unwilling to take the alternative scenario (c) I’m just pointing out that accepting the alternative scenario means you’re not gonna be happy, so if you want to be happy, maybe you ought to either leave or consider alternative scenarios?

        How many times have you been fired? Suddenly lost your income? Perhaps with a family to support?

        Fired once, lost my income once (with some warning) due to being laid off. Neither time with a family to support. By the time I had a family to support, I’d already figured out that I didn’t want to be in that situation again.

        The only time I had the luxury to rage-quit a job was when I was single and in my teens and twenties. Now? I gots bills to pay. Lose my job because I tried to play office politics — whether for good or ill — means I’m eating into emergency funds pretty quick.

        When did rage-quitting become my recommendation? Jesus, did I imply anywhere in that post that walking out when you can’t afford to eat if you don’t get paid was a good idea?

        And I don’t know if you’re noticed, but we’re not exactly at full employment.

        We’re never at full employment.

        What’s the point of pontificating on unrealistic advice?

        Clearly it’s because I’m an egomaniac.

        What you propose to “fix” a bad boss is a huge risk to most people — and you gloss over the risk pretty much entirely, like being fired or RIFed is a mere pittance of a problem instead of a massive dislocation.

        Again, I think you’re entirely pissed off about something I didn’t write.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        First,
        No, but you’re ignoring the obvious: Most people will just go “Huh, I’ll remove myself from the situation.

        They’ll go find another job.

        Then,
        The only time I had the luxury to rage-quit a job was when I was single and in my teens and twenties. Now? I gots bills to pay. …And I don’t know if you’re noticed, but we’re not exactly at full employment.

        What exactly is your objection to Patrick’s post? That he’s encouraging people to consider quitting, or that he’s not encouraging people to consider quitting?Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to James Hanley says:

        As near as I can tell, the main objection to the post is that I’m acknowledging that bad bosses exist and suggesting that dealing with them in the long run will make you unhappy, so your alternatives are remaining unhappy, looking for other work, or trying to change your workplace culture by challenging your boss.

        Really, I didn’t see much in the way of earthshattering revelation here. It was supposed to be a setup post.Report

      • It’s weird, but there are few things harder to do than convince someone who hates their job that they should make a change. I actually think it’s easier to talk someone into leaving a LTR they think is “meh” than it is a job they hate.

        I do not know why this is.

        (I should also note that at times in my life, I have been that impossible-to-convice guy.)Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        Patrick,

        Your post seemed entirely reasonable to me. You just listed the available options. As you said, a decision tree. You made no recommendations so far as I could tell about what option was necessarily best. If someone thinks you missed a possible option, it would be fair to say so (I think you were pretty exhaustive, unless we want to add poisoning/blackmailing your boss). But this anger at your exhaustive listing of the options, and the blunt recognition that if you’re unhappy, making the choice to maintain the status quo is likely to result in continued unhappiness doesn’t seem very controversial to me.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to James Hanley says:

        What exactly is your objection to Patrick’s post? That he’s encouraging people to consider quitting, or that he’s not encouraging people to consider quitting?

        Honestly? That it just seems to gloss over how poor the other options are, in real life, compared to “quietly seek out another job”.

        The way it’s presented seems like all options are roughly equal in difficulty, risk versus reward, etc. Like a choose your own adventure page, you know — look at all the places you can go!

        Whereas in real life, for most people, there’s only one practical option: Keep your head down and seek another job quietly.

        In short, he discounts what a massive disincentive “risk losing your job” is. It feels sorta “Do what you love” as advice — it’s great advice, but bluntly speaking it’s mostly applicable to wealthy people (or I suppose a handful of lucky people who love lucrative jobs) because most everyone else gets faced with the choice of “Do what you love” or “Do what pays enough to live on”.

        It’s advice that is, in essence, absolutely correct yet mostly useless in real life.

        So, yeah, great decision tree. But when most people are gonna funnel down a single path out of what 6 or 8? You might want to cover that one in depth, because something about that path is critical.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to James Hanley says:

        That it just seems to gloss over how poor the other options are, in real life, compared to “quietly seek out another job”.

        I’m make sure to make that more clear in the next post, assuming I get it done.

        The way it’s presented seems like all options are roughly equal in difficulty, risk versus reward, etc. Like a choose your own adventure page, you know — look at all the places you can go!

        Look, I was going for some brutalism, I’ll admit. The point of this post, again, was not to get into the weeds of telling anybody what to do.

        It was a ground-clearance shot: let’s make sure we all understand what the options actually *are* first, and loosely what the consequences are of those options.

        And I have to be honest, I think you are actually a prime candidate for reading this sort of thing because…

        Whereas in real life, for most people, there’s only one practical option: Keep your head down and seek another job quietly.

        This attitude, itself, is indicative of a clear cut bias, m’friend.

        I’ve known a lot of people in crappy jobs. I have worked, for the record, since before I was old enough to get a worker’s permit in the state of California. I worked 24-32 hours a week during college, full time during the summers. Jobs I’ve held included: stock boy/cashier at a drug store, data entry clerk at a legal document production company, office boy, warehouse worker, slaughterhouse line worker, pool boy, driver/shop floor flunky at an auto repair place specializing in air conditioners, pizza man, student manager at the university food service, assistant to the controller (same place), concession stand monkey, office dogbody/data processor/computer trainer at an engineering company, computer guy at a high school, manager of a desktop support crew at a multisite computer support place, dot com employee, and now my umbrella position as doer of all things related to anything technical at my current place of employment. I’ve been unemployed by crisis and with some forewarning. I’ve done volunteer work in private schools, a former state mental hospital that did extended care for the extremely mentally disabled, libraries, public schools.

        I’ve had good bosses and bad bosses, bosses who screamed, bosses who were literally clinically unbalanced, bosses who were driven by profit motive so pure they’d make a villain in an unabashedly anti-capitialism public service message.

        I’ve seen temp workers, people in a union, people who ought to be in a union but aren’t, full time workers on minimum wage who supported large families, part time workers who had other full time jobs or part time jobs doing menial work, full time job holders who had a second full time job killing things for a living, flunkies, contractors, people living paycheck to paycheck, people living under water and slowly drowning, people living high off the hog on their flush-with-government-cash-ivory-tower-jobs (that’s a joke), guys and gals busting their ass off at 70+ hour work weeks trying to get a startup off the ground, guys and gals busting their ass off trying to get their *own* business off the ground, folks who work contract when they feel like it because they cashed out huge in 1999, and just about everybody in-between. Tradespeople, unskilled labor, skilled labor, white collar workers, people who don’t need to work but do for entertainment. Retirees who won’t retire because they’d get bored.

        What I have seen is an awful lot of people who think that their only option is to keep their head down and look for another job, if they don’t like their boss. And really, really, often that has not been their only option, it’s been the option that they rationalized taking (just educated guessing from psych lit, probably in most cases because inertia is a mofo and people are naturally very risk-averse.)

        That’s not me being judgmental. I make no character assessment on the worth of people for living according to their biases. Challenging your biases is hard, there are times when you just don’t want to do it (I’ve been there), there’s nothing unworthy about that, just very human.

        I’ve known people who have bitched about their current boss for literally over a decade, and have not once done a single thing to attempt to change their boss’s behavior – by their own admission. They haven’t had hard conversations. They haven’t had easy conversations. They haven’t even made themselves aware of their company’s policy, they don’t know what they can report to HR, they don’t even know anybody in HR, or who to report to, they have zero concept of what their legal rights are. In some specific cases I can’t get into detail in public, they’ve been complaining about people with whom I interact on a frequent enough basis that I know exactly how difficult and demanding and stupid these people can be, so it’s not like I don’t actually *know* who they’re dealing with.

        They do nothing not because there is nothing to do. They do nothing because they feel exactly like you do: there is nothing I can do except keep my head down and look for another job… (and they don’t look for another job, because of reasons). They have eliminated the decision tree entirely, cut the whole thing down with a chainsaw, and burned the wood for good measure.

        They’re miserable, they are not doing anything to change that, and they’re blaming it all on something other than themselves, which – justified in some cases to varying degrees, to be sure – simply furthers their bias towards inaction. And then to cap it all off some of ’em wonder why they aren’t happy.

        It’s one thing to say, “I’ve tried things and shit ain’t gonna change”. Kazzy’s story sounds like that. And yeah, that’s definitely more common than it ought to be.

        It’s another thing to say, “I can’t do anything” when you have done nothing to even find out what you can do.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to James Hanley says:

        “I actually think it’s easier to talk someone into leaving a LTR they think is “meh” than it is a job they hate.”

        If I hate it and it sucks, then every day I show up anyway is a day that I’m showing the bastards that they can’t beat me, they won’t win, they can’t break me down.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to James Hanley says:

        I’ll accept that, but stalwart persistence in the face of adversity is not a credible attitude to claim you actually have… if you’re complaining about it all the time.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Patrick says:

      @patrick

      Duly noted. Sorry if I came across a bit defensive in my response here. As I’m sure you can understand, this has been an incredibly frustrating situation for me. My initial read of your post here was, “You’re doing it wrong/you’re part of the problem.” Which was less-than-charitable on my behalf and also based on me being less than fully clear from the get go.

      You are right that sitting around and complaining is of little value. I’m the person at my school who people come to with their complaints because they think (rightly or wrongly) I’m either better positioned or more willing to get things done. I sent a school-wide email which drew the ire of management but lots of (unfortunately, secret) support of colleagues. I’m constantly getting myself “in trouble” with my wild ideas and probing questions. I don’t mind being that guy. But there are limits. And I’ve just about hit mine.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Kazzy says:

        Sorry, man, I probably should have fired you off an email to let you know what I was writing about and that your one-off sentence sparked a thought train. Rather rude of me.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        No worries at all, dude. I should have taken the advice I’ve been doling out so often to people recently “It’s not all about you.” This is a good piece. I’m often the one telling people to make change. “Be the change you want to see.” Shit like that. I’m very much a shit-or-get-off-the-pot kind of person.

        To defend the quoted section a bit more, I will say that when leadership is making a conscious decision to go in a new direction it is much harder to turn the ship than when it is happening without intention. “Hey… you’re making this place run more like a factory than a school!” “We know… that’s the goal!” At that point, we’re not arguing over what or how or when or where, but why. And I find it much harder to change people’s minds on why. Plus, there is the possibility she’s right. Perhaps the culture she is attempting to establish serves the interests of the school along the metrics she is charged with focusing on, namely long-term financial sustainability. Of course, that is not what I am focused on. So — hailing back to my “Mr. Right” post — if we are arguing on behalf of different goals, we’re not really having a discussion at all. And since her ability to set and pursue goals trumps my own, it is probably best that I take my ball and go elsewhere.

        With my current administration, I think there is a blend of intentional shifting and inadvertent shifting. I have generally focused my efforts on the latter. “Hey… did you guys realize when you do ABC it makes XYZ harder?” “No, we didn’t recognize that. Let’s see what we can do.” I can do that all day. But other things… “Hey… you guys seem intent on lying to people and employing a divide-and-conquer strategy to minimize dissent” … that probably isn’t going to go over so well. The only way to really combat that is to do something I think you’ve criticized down thread, which is namely to put them on the spot in an all-hands meeting. And while I kind of did that once — and actually effected great change — it wasn’t without a ton of headaches. I earned the respect of one administrator that day and the ire of the boss lady, who hasn’t really spoken to me since. Oh well.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Kazzy says:

        I will say that when leadership is making a conscious decision to go in a new direction it is much harder to turn the ship than when it is happening without intention.

        Argh! You and Maribou, giving me good ideas that are making me rethink the draft again, and again! Dammit!Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Hmmm…. now I’m curious! Are you saying it is easier than I’m imagining to convince management (or anyone, for that matter) that their vision is wrong?

        Because I’m pretty sure I’m right about that.

        If you and I agree to go fishing, it wouldn’t be too hard for me to convince you what time of day we should go or which river we should hit or even how to bait the hooks if I have sufficient facts or evidence on my side.

        But if I want to go fishing and you want to go hunting, it’s going to be much harder (not impossible, but harder) for me to convince you to want to do what I want to do than to simply do what you already want to do.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Kazzy says:

        No, I’m saying it’s something I need to incorporate in the post.

        Dammit.

        You and Maribou, giving me ideas how to make it better. Dammit.Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to Kazzy says:

        @patrick I dunno about @kazzy , but I take great pleasure from complicating your life. If that requires having good ideas, well, that’s a hit I will take. 😉Report

  12. The only pushback I have to offer, and I’m not sure it really counts as pushback, is that in a lot of jobs I’ve had, I didn’t really have a desire or see the need to improve the organization or help its mission. I wanted a paycheck and to keep my job and minimize some of the onerous aspects of the job. Even then, I admit, I had an interest in the organization surviving at least enough to keep me on, but I didn’t really have a desire to improve it, good boss or bad boss.

    That doesn’t reflect my current workplace. But it reflects some jobs I’ve had.

    It’s not that you didn’t address this in a variety of ways in the OP (and the comments), either, but there seems to be an assumption that the employee would want to.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      Great point, @gabriel-conroy . I tend not to find myself in that position because of an insatiable desire to help (more “savior complex” than anything particularly noble) but that is the corner I feel backed into. “Hey… if you want to treat this like a simple financial transaction, I can do that. You keep CTCing and I’ll keep teaching and that’ll be that. When one of us has a better alternative, we’ll part ways.”Report

  13. Avatar Maribou says:

    So I really hope you do finish that other post, by the way.Report

  14. Avatar zic says:

    While I agree with @patrick for the most part, I also agree with him that this is difficult, and often, unrewarded effort.

    But there is one situation where it’s often fruitful — when your boss is a Peter-Principle has been, someone who’s been promoted to their level of incompetence, and is still hanging on in some strangely acceptable netherworld of incompetence in action.

    If the boss is so situated, there’s a good chance others recognize the problem, too; and your efforts to point out the problem can become the fodder they need to do what they should have done before — presuming the success of the organization is valued more highly then organizational loyalty to someone who’s risen to the point they’re damaging the organization in some way. People assigned to such managers who tough it out or move along without speaking up prolong the death throes.Report

  15. Avatar Damon says:

    @patrick
    So, let me tell you about an employee who wanted to change the culture.
    He asked questions at the all hands meetings with the President of the group. This was after he’d brought this up with his manager. He asked why anyone would bust their ass doing outstanding work (performance evaluation ranking) when that same President had told everyone in the room at last quarter’s meeting, that there was no career advancement at this location. That means, any advancement would mean moving away from the area. He asked why anyone would bust their hump to do outstanding work when the best they could ever hope for was a 3% increase in pay. 3% was the maximum amount an employee could get without a promotion. The average was 1.5%.
    He asked how a wonderful program, in which the company paid for two days of volunteering every year, which often resulted in entire departments building houses for habitat for humanity, etc., could then be turned around so much with the requirement that managers would now have part of the performance evaluation decided by how many hours the employees under them volunteered. He asked how this could this not be considered a conflict of interest, or at a minimum, how it could be called “volunteering” anymore.
    He was told as follows: RE the volunteer program: “if you believe that you probably ought to find other employment.” The questions about salary and performance were address with “We’ll have to look at that”. Shortly after that, the employee’s manager told him that the company had noticed a significant drop in this work performance. Three months later he was on the verge of termination.
    Excuse me if I find the “you’re part of the problem” comments in your post a bit tedious. Been there done that. The organization has to be open to change, have management that is willing to listen, and want to change. Otherwise, you’re just banging your head against the wall. That whole definition of insanity and all….Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Damon says:

      I know someone who is hired to bang his head against the wall. He’s pretty effective at it, but makes sure that he’s hired for relatively limited terms (even the insults start getting repetitive after a while, I’d imagine).Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to Damon says:

      He asked questions at the all hands meetings with the President of the group.

      In my opinion, you know what you don’t want to do to change culture?

      Call out the President of a company at an all-hands meeting.

      The organization has to be open to change, have management that is willing to listen, and want to change.

      And that’s why. Challenging leadership is hard. This is a very, very drastic method.

      Putting people into a place where they can’t respond without losing pretty much all their face, or at the very least expressing publicly a huge amount of ignorance about the issues you’re bringing up?

      Indeed… putting people into a place where even to acknowledge your question would require a massive loss of face, which means just by speaking up, you’ve pretty much put a ten foot diameter hole in their hull?

      I’m surprised you made it three months.

      Negotiation requires all parties to feel like they can get something they want by giving up something they care less about. Leaders care an awful lot about face, even the good ones. That sort of tactic could take “a problem you might be able to work out” and turn it into “something management now will oppose to the death”, even if it’s a good idea.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick says:

        Patrick,
        It’s important to understand the underlying situation… unless we’re talking about a true loony, nobody does something like this without actually wanting it to be their resignation.

        It’s a statement, and one that shows disaffection, more probably from most of the employees, not just that one man.

        Management would be well served to listen when someone like that shows up.
        Sadly, by the sheer fact that they do, mgmt is going to dig in its heels.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Patrick says:

        Kim, to be clear, from a management perspective it’s a terrible idea to have an all-hands meeting and then open the floor to employees unless you’re willing to fight back on your own impulses and give a clear hearing to what those employees say. I mean, unless morale is sky-freakin-high this is asking… no, begging for trouble.

        Jesus, if there’s ever a sign that a company is going to flame out it is when something like this happens.

        And yep, I’ve been at an all-hands where an employee (we all knew was already looking for another job) stood up and called out the boss. And the boss didn’t handle it well (although I’ll give him credit, he handled it a lot better than I thought he was going to). Train. Wreck.

        But yeah, it should be clear, if you’re going to call out the boss in the most public of publicitiky forums, you’ve basically waited until the bear was inside his cave and then rushed up and threw a smoke grenade in there and stood in the entrance with a pellet gun shooting him over and over.

        I mean, that could work out, but I would not recommend it as a strategy, unless your plan is, “Step 1: Get Mauled By Bear”Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Patrick says:

        Hah, Please don’t assume I wanted to change the culture. That was my one and only “banging head against the wall” effort. That was my point in my comment that “management has to be open to it”. Don’t have an all hands anonymous q&a session and then bitch about the questions you get.

        And Kim’s right that it shows disaffection. More than one person told me that they only reason they volunteered was because they were afraid of losing their job. The company didn’t pay its employees crap. I saw the pay info. They had to tweak the perf. review process to prevent managers from gaming the system (like giving their entire staff outstanding ratings) just to give them a semi decent increase-never more than 3%-THE HORROR. When the A/R manager asked for more money, after presenting a compelling case that she was grossly underpaid, the response was to “redefine” the job. She was told she could quit or continue in her current duties at her old pay with a downgraded title. I personally saw emails from HR identifying staff grossly underpaid (like 20k) with a market adjustment plan of “we’ll give her a bump of 5k and next year another 5k”. Curiously, I wondered, how this addressed that fact that she would still be grossly under paid.
        Shortly after I left, my co-worker left, and our boss left a month later. I understand that company is no longer in business.Report

  16. Avatar Barry says:

    What I find interesting about Patrick, David and suchlike is that they haven’t directed this venom to Kazzy, over on the ‘non-contractual employment’ post. His complaints are basically the same thing – management doesn’t care what the employees think, even as the effects become clear (well, clear to the employees), and management is aware that there’s a massive supply of applicants for each position.

    But he doesn’t get criticized by the same people.Report

  17. Avatar Barry says:

    “What kind of work do you do?”

    Jim Heffman: “He works really hard all day at being the coggiest cog he can possibly be.”

    I’m sure that this was supposed to mean something, and probably does in your mind. Could you please share an explanation?Report

  18. Avatar Barry says:

    Jim: “He works really hard all day at being the coggiest cog he can possibly be.”

    Mike Schilling: “Which has no content except to insult a fellow commenter, yet the commenting policy wasn’t invoked. Why is that, I wonder?”

    Thanks, Mike! I guess that some animals are more equal than others.

    And as I’ve questioned, Kazzy is basically expressing realization of cogification, but nobody has a problem with that.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Barry says:

      It does help to establish a rapport. Jim has an attempting-to-be-clever streak that sometimes hits and sometimes misses. I personally tend to read his comments in that light. The same way that Mike Schilling himself can make a comment that is primarily ugly and not as funny as he thinks it is, but I nonetheless read it differently because it’s Mike. And Kim…

      You don’t have that rapport, and are quite honestly one of the most consistently antagonistic commenters here. So yes, the response is different. That’s not always fair (Jim should have been called out on his comment earlier) but it’s also not entirely unfair.

      The other half of the equation is that intervention is that how one treats others has an effect on how much we will come down on how they are treated. There was actually a conversation about this with regard to Kim a while back.

      With regard to the pushback Kazzy isn’t getting, he is making a more limited statement about his own circumstances rather than generalizing from that. He is also being respectful of different points of view on the matter.Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to Barry says:

      In point of fact, I think it’s fair to say that I routinely get very, very aggro about Jim.

      And this is actually a case where I’d say that Jim’s comment was actually *not* content-free. He took what Barry said, and tied it back into the terms I used in the post, to illustrate a disconnect.

      The fact that Mike (and you) attached opprobrium Jim’s statement about “being a cog” is (I think) indicative of why you called this post “venom”, and generally your attitude in the comment threads on this post.

      If it follows, as you (and some others) have implied, that the workplace is full of terrible bosses about which you can do nothing except shut up and color, why would you regard it as being an insult when someone says that’s what you’re doing? How is that insulting to you?

      If it follows, as I have implied in this post, that the workplace is full of terrible bosses about which people could possibly do something and most people choose not to try (regardless of reasons), it’s still not an insult to be a cog. It depends on why you choose not to try (you know, attributing venom to this post implies that you think I have some sort of blanket judgement on people who choose not to try, which I would say is… uncharitable reading).

      It is, actually, only an insult to be a cog if the world is full of terrible bosses, and you have one, and you could do something about it, and you choose not to do so, and the reasons that you choose not to do so are terrible reasons. That… takes a lot of presumption about what the other guy is thinking, doesn’t it? And… if either I or Jim was the sort of dude who would presume to attach actually opprobrium to you without actually knowing any of those things, wouldn’t that just point out that we were stupid?Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Barry says:

      Barry,
      can you please try to make longer comments? I know folks tell that to me all the time, but I think it would help you too…

      Folks let me cuss around here, with the caveat that what I dish I gotta take. But that’s fine, because, it’s just how I talk (too much Exposure to Wall Street, I suppose).Report

  19. Avatar DRS says:

    I’ve read the thread and found it highly amusing. If I might make an observation: a lot of these thread-tiffs break out when there really isn’t much to say to a post other than “I agree” or “I disagree”. When there’s really not much room for discussion. Without knowing Patrick’s profession, how long he’s been in the work force and what kind of companies he’s worked for, it’s hard to gauge his stand as reasonable or not. If he’s a twenty-something techie with skills that are in high demand right now and he’s worked for no more than two companies, that’s one thing. If he’s a fifty-something with skills that could be out-sourced next week to India and he’s worked for ten companies in both employee and managerial positions, that’s something else.

    My personal take on his post is that it sounds great and is no doubt therapeutic to the soul but it neglects the human aspect. You can tell a boss’s boss’s boss that “Ron’s bad management is actively harming the company’s mission” and what that person will hear might be “You hired Ron and therefore your bad judgment is actively harming the company.” Good luck with that.Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to DRS says:

      Without knowing Patrick’s profession, how long he’s been in the work force and what kind of companies he’s worked for, it’s hard to gauge his stand as reasonable or not.

      If you want a rundown of my work experience, see this comment.

      You can tell a boss’s boss’s boss that “Ron’s bad management is actively harming the company’s mission” and what that person will hear might be “You hired Ron and therefore your bad judgment is actively harming the company.”

      (laffin) I really can’t get over the fact that so many members of the commentariat have jumped to this conclusion, in many cases after I pointed out explicitly that this was never suggested in the post.

      Okay, for the record, I’m officially bowing out of replying to these in the interest of trying to get my actual post done.Report

  20. Avatar DavidTC says:

    As an aside, the fact ‘you do not work for your boss’ is something I’ve always thought tinted the ‘Why do we think your boss should not be able to order you to have sex with them?’ experiment. Of course he shouldn’t be able to do that for the same reason he shouldn’t be able to order you to paint his house…you are not *his* employee, *he* doesn’t pay you. (This logic results in interesting hypotheticals where it makes sense for the *corporation* to tell you to have sex with someone, e.g., having sex with a potential client to get their business. Something that would serve a legitimate corporate purpose. That premise can change the discussion in interesting ways. But that’s veering way off topic.)

    Anyway, Patrick’s right in everything he’s described as fact. The job of a boss is to make sure employees can, and do, do whatever they’re supposed to be doing towards accomplishing the goals of the organization. I think the best test of managers is two pronged: 1) If one of the employee they manage is unexpectedly absent one day, *can* they fill in for them and do their job? and 2) If one of the employee they manage is unexpectedly absent one day, *will* they fill in for them and do their job?

    If the answer to either of those questions is ‘no’, they’re probably not very good managers. They either don’t understand what their employees do, or they don’t understand the entire premise of *their* job is to make sure someone is doing that thing..and if no one else is, they need to. (Or, possibly, they are good managers and know damn well the job is pointless, so no one needs to do it?)

    I think I mentioned this when we discussed that woman who got fired from some job because she was homeless by some random manager, who apparently thought this was an entirely reasonable way to act, despite it not even *vaguely* serving the goals of the business. (I mean, it doesn’t serve the goals of the business not even considering the backlash. With the backlash, wow, it *really* wasn’t serving the goals.)

    However, I think Patrick’s a bit unrealistic about what he thinks people can and should do about bosses that don’t understand that. Any proposed solution that is ‘half of all people should quit their job’ is, uh, a non-starter.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to DavidTC says:

      Alsotoo, not everyone works in a business where there is a large hierarchy or even an independent entity as the employer. It’s one thing to be located somewhere between one-third to two-thirds down a complicated org chart for a 1000+ employee corporation with publicly-traded stock — it’s something else to be employee number 4, when employee number 1 is the sole proprietor, employee number 2 is her husband, and employee number 3 is the sole proprietor’s ditzy cousin who’s been BFFs with the proprietor since they were in the second grade together back in Poughkeepsie and no one has ever written an employee manual. If the problem you’ve identified is that the ditzy cousin is driving customers away from the business, it might take a substantial summoning-up of courage to confront the owner about that particular problem.Report

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