The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Sunday, June 13, 2004

Subtle Management Hints 

Anyone who's been out in the working world long enough is familiar with them. Those subtle little clues that your place somewhere isn't as solid as you once thought. Of course sometimes those hints aren't so subtle. At my last employer, my boss was, well, evil. At first we just thought he didn't understand that there were certain things that you just don't joke about. He would ridicule people for actually *gasp* taking their vacation. He would joke that you were being paid too much. It really started getting bad after while. What it boiled down to was the fact that he lead through fear. It was not subtle, and it was definitely planned. Things where I am now are quite different. The atmosphere is definitely not that hostile. But I can't help letting that past experience color my thinking when I hear certain things. And now that I think back on a couple episodes here, I really have to laugh.

About a week ago, one of the guys in my cube area had gotten some books from Amazon.com. One book on Digital Signal Processing, and one book on Vintage Ford Tractor Accessories. Obviously such a strange combination would lead to an interesting discussion. We started talking about the farm house and barn that he owns, and the fact that he restores tractors for fun. As it turns out, our boss also has a barn, and joined in the conversation. They started talking about how difficult it is to keep one up, etc. I really just listened mostly, being a city boy and all. When she was leaving, she just very matter a factly told this other guy, you should really update your resume with this stuff. It could really help. We both looked a little surprised, and I said "Ouch" as she was walking away. As it turns out, she was not trying to imply that his job was in jeopardy, and she quickly realized what she did when she heard me say Ouch. She spent the next 5 minutes apologizing to him, telling him that she just meant that if you ever decided to move on, it would be a cool thing to put in for color, but that his job was completely secure.

One more story... Friday, someone in my group started talking to me about an email that was sent to the group mailing list. I suddenly realized I hadn't received it. I checked the list of people in the mailing list and realized that I was no longer on it. Crap. Its Friday... typically when people get let go. I went to my technical leader and said, Look... do I need to be worried? She was flabbergasted. We spent the day going around trying to figure out what happened. In the end, nobody actually knew how my name got removed from the list, but they promised me up and down that it was unintentional. Of course my boss then spent a good 5 minutes explaining that if my contract were to be canceled, she would give me plenty of warning.

My boss used to be an Engineer. Even though Engineers are faced with these subtle managements hints all the time, for some reason when they are promoted, they seem to forget all about them. They seem to forget that so many things carry hidden meanings in the workplace, and that you sometimes have to choose your words carefully. I can laugh about these things now.

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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.


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