Shit Gets Hectic
In Year 6, I was having serious problems dealing with my manager, Mr. Cthulhu.
He was all over me, always. Demanding, micromanaging, criticizing, blaming.
I’m sure you remember that his chief concern that other unnamed people at FinancialCompany thought I had a bad attitude. Privately, I thought this couldn’t be further from the truth. I was doing everything I could to satisfy the functions of the job. My teammates leaned on me to solve the toughest problems and relied on me to be available whenever the need arose. And my clients, on the business-side, told me directly that they enjoyed working with me.
Still, in our 1:1s, Cthulhu continued to tell me people around the office were saying I had a bad attitude. In Year 7, it got worse. First he told me that he was “hearing” that I was unhappy about being a manager. My response to this was: Yeah, of course I’m unhappy — I told you going into my promotion that I’d prefer to remain an individual contributor, ya big lug. Next meeting, he told me he “heard” that I was unhappy with him — that I was displeased with my mutant-headed manager himself. I did the only thing anyone can do in these sorts of situations — sat back, looked him directly in his inky-black eyes, and lied. I’ve always thought we have a perfectly fine working relationship. Don’t you?
The worst comment came through in late April. Apparently my director (Cthulhu’s boss) had made remarks that he was concerned about my level of engagement.
This completely enraged Cthulhu. He wanted to know what I had done.
Nothing! I’d say. I haven’t even seen the director in two months!
IF THIS ATTITUDE PROBLEM CONTINUES I WILL HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO TAKE ACTION
What do you mean, exactly? Action?
ACTION THIS IS EMPLOYMENT AT WILL WE CANNOT HAVE DISSENT DOWN THE CHAIN
Wait a second. Are you saying you’ll fire me over this? Over hearsay? That’s crazy!
I MAY HAVE NO CHOICE
In an instant, this whole issue went from being a constant irritation to being a full-blown disease in need of medical attention, sort of like when you realize that rash you were hoping would just go away has instead intensified and spread to the worst possible place on your body.
Yeah, that one.
It was time to get to the bottom of this mess.
So it’s the middle of May and I’m having lunch. Normally I eat at my desk because I brown-bag most days, but this day I’m instead in the company’s cafeteria with a few of my teammates — Statler, Waldorf, and Bert.
When we do eat together, we take it as an opportunity to blow steam, bitch about this and that. We probably do this twice a month. During this particular food-hole stuffing session, I’m only one day removed from being threatened with loss of employment by Cthulhu and I feel like I need to vent.
Me: Man, Cthulhu is such an asshole.
Waldorf: You don’t even know what Hemlock is going to say! How can you just agree already?
Statler: I agree on principle. Cthulhu is now and will always be an asshole. Period.
Me: So Statler, listen dude — is our fearless leader still saying that people are talking crap about you? That you have an attitude problem?
Statler: Yeah, and I don’t know why. I never, ever talk back to him in our 1:1s and I like pretty much everyone else in the Company. It’s not like I walk around with a frown on my face all day or anything.
Me: How about you, Waldorf, any issues with our overlord?
Waldorf: Nope. I mean, we’re not like buddy buddy or anything, and I’ve had better managers, ‘course, but he’s not leaning into me for anything other than the standard stuff. You know, like WHERE ARE WE WITH PROJECTS XYZ AND MBO 123.
Me: Nice imitation of his voice. It’s like I’m right back in his office again. Bert, how about you?
Bert: Nothing at all. I think he’s tough but fair.
Me: Wait a second. How is it fair for him to threaten to fire me for a bad attitude that I don’t have?
Bert: Well, maybe it’s not. But you should see his side of it. He must have his reasons for what he thinks. And, you know, given how much you seem to hate him, maybe some of that attitude is coming out in other situations without you realizing it.
Me: It sounds to me like someone’s fallen in love with Cthulhu.
Bert: Come on now. That’s ridiculous. I just think he’s doing what he has to do, for the good of the team.
I’ve never heard anyone defend Cthulhu before — this is is an absolute first. Even people in other groups complain about the legendary prickishness of our manager.
Suddenly, I’m looking at Bert in a different light. When he started talking about seeing Cthulhu’s side I felt sort of like I did when I first heard my 7-year old nephew use the word ‘crap.’ The little guy was trying something new, seeing what he could get away with, and how it suited him to use adult language.
It seemed to me that talking the talk of management suited Bert just fine.
Which set me to wondering…