You cannot be, I know, nor do I wish to see you, an inactive spectator. . . . We have too many high sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them.
― Abigail Adams (October 16, 1774)
Over the Moon is the synopsis of the story — for anyone who didn’t receive my laminated letter.
Why would anyone jeopardize a high-paying job that they love? I feel a deep sense of duty to my customers, as they’re the reason I live a life of endless fulfillment in problem solving.
Since I get to learn and grow in all kinds of ways that serve my interests, shouldn’t I seek to do the same to serve theirs? If I were running a company, you’d check your ego at the door or you wouldn’t work there. I may never find such a place, so I’ve had to make concessions for the totally unnecessary.
But just how far should I be asked to lower the bar?
What the powers that be in most companies don’t get — is that you create more conflict in cultures that go to excessive lengths to avoid it. It’s just that the conflict is concealed in subtleties that disguise mounting frustration and waste.
While you put out your PR and pretend this undercurrent of crap doesn’t exist.
If you’re not embarrassed by the leadership involved in this story, I have to wonder what it would take.
If I were in a leadership role, I’d tell my team to inform me of their concerns in any way that works for them. I don’t care what it’s about, I don’t care who it’s about: If you’ve got somethin’ to say, don’t waste time trying to figure out how to fashion it for the likes of Mike — just lay it on me.
Cultivating a culture to speak freely would eliminate the build-up of frustration — fostering real relationships and substantial growth.
In my shop, “iron sharpens iron” would be as real as it gets.
In the pages under the menu Letter of the Law > Countering His Phone Call Claims, I show how Mike contorted everything on our final call — unconscionably ignoring a mountain of evidence while nitpicking over pebbles.
No one who wants the truth behaves that way. No one looking to grow would go so far not to. Letter of the Law is the the more personalized version I wrote in October.
The first email below was sent to Dave at 2:00 AM on September 10th — which paints a picture of not only my tireless commitment to my customers, but also the gravity of my concerns and my tactful efforts to address them:
To Dave’s credit, he gave my resource suggestion some thought and asked good questions about him. He didn’t go for it — but I appreciated the sincerity in his consideration. That’s a lot more than I ever got from Mike on anything in the realm of bigger decisions.
Curiously absent in Dave’s response was even a hint of interest in my additional concerns.
Dave did take some action though. When I woke up that morning, Mike was clearly rattled with the news that our customers were not getting the “attention and timeliness they deserve.” Instead of pausing for once to take stock of a situation, he was off to the races once again — trying to solve a problem in the very way he created it.
This man has one mode and one mode only: To race through everything (except in meetings where time is infinite as long as he’s talking).
“Scrambling” is not a good look for a leader. I put that word in quotes because someone else at Elara said it, and added . . .
Mike talks in circles and is all over the place
I made multiple attempts to address his issues. Wouldn’t this qualify as constructive criticism to you?
In your sincere efforts to help — sometimes you race through things that warrant more thought — and that URL field is a perfect example of why “essentially” the same, is not the same. I greatly appreciate what you’ve done in OneNote, but what you don’t realize is that you unknowingly set a tone of indifference the first time it came up with the team. That can kill an idea just as easily as shutting it down outright.
Sent: Friday, July 3, 2020 2:05 PM
Subject: RE: just wondering
That’s not the first time this “racing” bit had come up.
I expressed the same concern in July 2019. He had a whole year to work on that shortcoming and others — but instead of improving, he got worse. That’s why capitalizing on those moments is so critical. Back then, the workload wasn’t as heavy and it was just the two of us.
Times changed — he didn’t
Had he just worked on that “racing” problem alone, it would have lent itself to improvement in all the rest (as recognizing the truth in one area can open your eyes to others). It also would have changed the trajectory of our relationship — as I would have seen him making strides to be the leader and developer that he could be.
I have all the patience in the world for people who make the effort to improve.
That Mike is one of the smartest individuals I’ve ever known — makes it was all the more maddening that he miserably failed to work on any of his faults.
Budging one millimeter at a time doesn’t qualify.
When Dave informed Mike that morning, that prompted the hiring of a project manager (a possibility that had been in the air for weeks). Whether or not Elara really needed a project manager is debatable — a question I address in The Project Manager Matter.
Dave never asked me a single question as to what I thought about things — and then relied solely on the very person who doesn’t think things through. Mike’s reckless ways of working inform his thinking about the needs of the department.
Case in point
We needed some more help on the backend or a top-notch business analyst to make the requirements-gathering smoother. I proposed the BA option in early 2020 — and Mike didn’t consider it for one second.
Worse than that was his logic-free counter as to why . . .
I could be the BA — I could write up the requirements
The claim that you could do something — is meaningless when you’re not going to do that something (nor do I think that he should). The absurdity of it all reminded me of The Levels episode of Seinfeld.
Well of course it could be done. Anything could be done. But it is only is done if it’s done
This is what it was always like when challenging Mike after his mind was made up. He has something in his head and that’s it . . .
no second thoughts allowed
Mike makes assertions, I make arguments — and here’s the difference:
An assertion is just a point of view, an opinion. An argument goes further. An argument is a point of view supported by reasons that demonstrate the view is a good one.
By Dave focusing on the PM alone — he left the door wide open for Mike to manufacture a new reality (as if what happened was simply the result of not having a PM).
You can’t fix gross negligence and narcissism even with the best project manager on the planet.
Had Dave simply said, “Let’s get a PM for now and we’ll revisit your concerns later” — I would have accepted that. But while Regis was given an opportunity to meet with Dave to address some of the same issues, I was shown no such courtesy. Even after I snuck in some concerns when answering Dave’s questions about that resource — he didn’t utter one word in response.
In light of that and listening to Mike try to engineer the best possible look in this mess, I had just had it. Incredibly, he told me that Lachmi wasn’t frustrated with us, but rather just Arrow support. How he takes one truth to summarily dismiss another is his M.O. — as he’ll seize on any fragment he can frame in his favor.
For a guy who proclaims to be “fact-based” and “argument-driven” — he sure has a habit of jumping to conclusions from isolated information.
I’m a bit old-fashioned in how I like to consider things . . .
Let’s take two pieces of testimony and try to put them together
Of all people who would be well aware of her frustration, it would be the person who had been working with her for months.
But did he even ask me for my input? Of course not!
Does that strike you as someone trying to get to the bottom of an issue? Lachmi was frustrated with both Arrow and us — and rightly so! But for the sake of argument, let’s say that he asked her about it, and in an effort to be diplomatic, she wasn’t direct enough — leaving him to conclude that it was just Arrow.
Would you be so easily satisfied?
Part of doing this job is not just taking in what customers tell you — but also to be tuned into what they’re not telling you. Regis showed us 10 times more patience than we deserved, but just by observation and putting myself in the customer’s shoes — I knew how he really felt.
Mike has no such notion of empathy — which became increasingly clear every time he faced any form of criticism (or even the perception of it). So my frustration wasn’t just about me — it was deeply rooted in my concerns for how he treated our customers.
I would add that it wasn’t just time and money at stake — reputations were on the line. It could have been perceived that Regis wasn’t properly managing his project. That would be wrong and incredibly unfair. Mike’s right that Regis’ expectations were way too high from the start — but we had our chance to redefine them and didn’t.
If we don’t do our part to fully understand the requirements first — we can’t retrofit the situation to absolve ourselves of responsibility. Some degree of allowances on delays is fair for situations like that, but we far exceeded that grace period.
I know exactly where I went wrong on my part of that project (I put it in writing and told Regis as well). Mike seems impervious to recognizing anything of the kind.
The email below is the foundation upon which my arguments would be made — in a conversation with a rational person arguing in good faith. The likes of Mike would say, “You just said you make arguments and your email is full of assertions.”
And that is how they play their childish games. They will go to any lengths to avoid ever getting to the arguments — suffocating the “conversation” by design.
Mike didn’t ask a single question on that call.
He had just been informed that our customers had complaints — and no one was more in the know on that than I was. If you wanted to know where you went wrong, wouldn’t you ask the person who’s been trying to tell you all along?
I did not unleash this level of honesty out of nowhere:
Emphasis added . . .
From: Richard Memmer
Sent: Friday, September 25, 2020 12:53 PM
If it were possible to work and study 24 hours a day for the rest of my career, I’d never know as much as you in all the ground you cover. I have immense respect for your knowledge, and I long for the days when we have time to discuss web development again. I miss those conversations. But there’s a striking difference between my attitude and yours — as I’m keenly aware of how much I can learn from you.
You once told the team that you wanted the truth — even if it’s about you. How do you reconcile that with “I don’t like having my leadership questioned”?
You also told them that you were open to DevOps or JIRA. That wasn’t my experience — at all!
It’s the same experience I’ve had whenever your mind is made up — regardless of the haphazard nature in which you got there. You went with Planner because it was “quick and easy” — without regard for the efficacy of it. But you know what — it’s been very useful in keeping me aware of my work lately. So as much as I hate the tool, it’s a heck of a lot more valuable when we’re held accountable to it.
We should have been taking care of our tasks regardless. But if something’s not being done, it’s the job of a leader to make it happen. With the snap of your fingers, you could have done that a long time ago.
“We don’t want 50 million projects” is not the mark of measured decision-making, it’s just more of your cavalier “quick and easy.”
Maybe you’ve got a project manager who agrees with you — and maybe you’re both right. But after my countless hours of dedication to Elara — and all the thought and effort I put into JIRA, I’d like to think that my voice would be more valued. Arrow, HCHB, Turnover, and such are projects in my JIRA. Doesn’t sound like “50 million” in the future to me.
Maybe you’re right about Epics — I’m refraining from judgment until I know more. But once again, it’s not about the decision — it’s your flippant nature in making them. You have not shown me an ounce of professional courtesy by inquiring about my findings on JIRA — or taken a look at the system I set up. You didn’t even bother to respond when I told you about the checklist extension.
That you would not show the slightest interest in someone’s valuable insight on the subject — is staggering to me.
In the end, do what you want — you’re in charge and I respect that. But if you’re gonna tell the team that you’re interested in our feedback, follow through.
You’re good about taking input — as long as you want to talk about it.
I was thrilled the day you showed me the great work you were doing in OneNote — which ranks with the best documentation I’ve ever seen. In that moment, I hesitantly shared what I had in mind with JIRA — and that I wanted to present the approach to the team when I was ready.
I trusted that you would hear me out with sincerity, but I was reluctant at the same time — and why do you think that is?
You did exactly what I was worried about — and then some.
What you did with that [text] “URL” field was ridiculous, and your handling of the situation was shoddy at best. A man of your intellect and skill should know better, but your ego gets in the way.
The worst part of all — is that you never really learn from any of these experiences, and that was abundantly clear with your “50 million” bit — and dead-certain mindset that you know best.
Your record says otherwise
When I told you that Debra found duplicates — you wanted to debate the issue first. 30 minutes later: “Oh, I joined to this table and that’s causing it.” In other words — you were wrong and wasted time in defending that you were right.
I’ve seen this over and over again.
When I came to you about some duplicates [in your data] during that tax-revenue week, you immediately said, “That’s not how you get duplicates.” I just came to you with a serious problem (that was a nightmare for me to fix) — and “that’s not how you get duplicates” is what first comes to mind?
Once again, you defend before you consider
When the Workday file went haywire, you assumed it was [a source’s] fault. No one should do that, but especially not a leader. I don’t care how many times [he] screwed up — I’m gonna examine the problem before I make any judgments about it.
When Jennifer said, “I’m not pointing fingers, Mike” — why do you think she said that? You make these people feel that way because you cast blame in [any] direction but yours. Even when no one’s hinting that you’re at fault, your fragile ego perceives that they are — and you get defensive.
When Pat called me, her first words were: “Now, I know it’s not you and that we’ve got problems with the data.” That’s conditioning talking — and that came from you. I told her that I don’t make such assumptions.
By the way, they’re not full-stack [BI] developers — and I have no idea where you got this notion that has no bearing on reality. That lack of insight speaks to your utilization of resources. What we’re doing now is smart and makes the most sense — which is why I proposed it back in July.
But you had your philosophy to follow instead of thinking it through.
It’s been like this from the beginning. Instead of considering that the craftmanship in my code-writing style has a purpose — it was just “pretty” in your eyes. You said that you don’t have time to make it neat — but you seem to have plenty of time to rework your mistakes (and I’ve burned precious hours fixing some of them myself).
Your code is sloppy, difficult to read, and looks like it was thrown together without any regard for those who follow it. That kind of “style” is asking for trouble.
And in all my years in IT, I’ve never seen anyone make joins out of sequence with the order of tables listed. There’s a flow in how things are done right — and you throw that out of whack with your ways. To your credit, you adopted one or two of my suggestions — but it’s still a mess. And this business of no spaces around equal signs — makes everything blend together (as if it wasn’t difficult enough to read already).
If I didn’t have to walk on eggshells with you, I would have expressed these concerns a long time ago.
If you didn’t know already, you’ve probably figured it out by now: I set those wheels in motion for what recently happened. I didn’t do it for me or out of frustration with you — I did it because we owe our customers better than what they were getting. Had you listened to me and shown some interest in what else I had to say, we could have averted all that — and we’d all be better off to boot.
You said you wanted the truth — this is what it really looks like.
Speaking of which, we blew it on that Workday file — there’s no way we should have been caught flat-footed on that. The fact that you’re so aware of how [our source] operates — makes it even worse. That doesn’t absolve me, as I had seen enough to know that his reliability was questionable.
So I failed, no matter how you slice it
And I blew it on my estimate for Scheduled vs. Authorized. As I told Regis, I was in data-validation mode with Debra [on her version of the report] — and all I needed was to add in history.
That “all” was everything — and I know better.
I don’t care if everyone comes to us with unreasonable expectations — our job is to manage those expectations. And I don’t care if others don’t reciprocate in the pace in which they deliver on my requests — I don’t set my standards based on what others do for me.
More than once, you have suggested that I shouldn’t worry so much about my timeliness for them — since some have taken so long to deliver for you at times. No developer should think that way — and especially not a leader.
If you don’t take responsibility for your failures, you’ll never learn from them.
If you don’t want me to question anything outside of my immediate purview, I’ll abide by that. But I need to hear that from you. I’ll be just as dedicated either way — and I’ll still wake up happy to have this phenomenal job every single day — and you’re essential to why that is. One of your finest moments is when you welcomed my suggestion about how to change those keys in the all-at-once operation.
There was not a trace of ego involved — all that mattered was that there was a better way. That was brilliant. If you just followed that standard of listening on everything else, you’d be golden — and so would we.
I am done being disrespected and dismissed — and the only way to make that happen is for you to rise to the occasion, or I stay silent on matters outside my realm of responsibility. Not for one second do I think that you really want me to keep quiet — and I know that you’re not intentionally being dismissive.
But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s repeatedly happened.
I’ve more than earned the right to say all this — and I hope you keep that in mind. In any case, I’m counting on you to keep your word. You said you wanted the truth, and I just delivered it in full.
Thank you for your time.
P.S. All I want right now is to get this off my chest and get back to work — so I’m asking you to please take the weekend to think it over. I was up till 4:00 AM writing most of this — so I’ve put my time in. I’m asking you to do the same — and to recognize that you have not only put your most dedicated resource through all this, but plenty of others as well.
On the death-knell call that followed, I asked Mike to share my email with Dave — and I was stunned to hear that he already had. What does it say to you that he so freely shared a rebuke of that magnitude? It says to me that none of it registered with him, and that he knew that Dave would not hold him accountable to any of it.
How could a manager see such problematic patterns of behavior and not intervene?
It’s bad enough that Dave had twice ignored my request to share some additional concerns. But for him to see so many issues on multiple fronts, and not investigate the problem in full — is an egregious breach of his most fundamental duties.
Moreover, he was well aware of Regis’ concerns by then — so everything I had to say on that project was corroborated. But that input was limited to the scope of his purview — so it’s not like Dave had heard it all. Someone in his Regis’ role would only be looking at the problem purely from his project needs not being met.
That’s fine, but I was looking at the root of the problem — and how it impacted all those around us.
Isn’t that Dave’s job?
My job is to help make my customers’ jobs smoother and more efficient — providing information in useful ways so that they can build the business and keep it running while they’re at it.
Any obstacle impeding that progress should be dealt with decisively.
I don’t wanna create conflict by questioning leadership — I just want to go to work and do my thing. But management needs to do its part so that I can most effectively do mine. That’s the deal — and when you don’t deliver on it, you should welcome input from those who hold you to a higher standard.
When I went to Regis to ask for help in dealing with all this — he was already planning to meet with Dave. I met with Regis a couple of times and helped provide evidence for his meeting with Dave. I did an End Run around Mike because I felt that I had no other choice.
His turbocharged hypersensitivity couldn’t handle even the most delicate of my prior efforts.
So he would go out of his mind had I gone to him with what I told Regis. And I had my doubts about going to Dave — with good reason, as it turned out.
That these are dangerous waters in our plush little worlds is deplorable.
It bothered me greatly that I put this on Regis — as it’s just not my style. But from putting my neck on the line so many times throughout my career (and it rarely ending well), I needed some help in navigating the situation.
But that late night with Lachmi changed my mind — and I was done tiptoeing around this ridiculous drama.
Elara had two of its most dedicated resources working into the wee hours of the morning trying to come through for this company. I didn’t care about the loss of sleep. Didn’t care that I was sacrificing precious hours that would have spent studying in pursuit of my goals. And I didn’t care that I had been sick all day.
When she contacted me at 9:00 o’clock that night, she needed her report — and had I done my job better, she would have already had it.
Lachmi had been put off so many times (between Elara’s mismanagement and my own). We owed her better — just as we owed Regis, Debra, and everyone else involved in this story (and undoubtedly many more outside of what I have seen).
Perhaps now you’ll have some understanding of how disturbing it was to hear him say, “She’s just frustrated with Arrow.”
Without authority, it’s impossible to penetrate a mind so cemented as Mike’s — so this was a managerial matter all along. Had I thought of it, I would have gone to HR before that call and requested to be transferred out of his team. I should have known that he wouldn’t rise to the occasion, and I no longer had any faith in his leadership.
I also should have known that I couldn’t count on Dave to do his job.
But unlike them, I was still trying to find a way to solve the problem. Doing right by our customers, the team, and each other were my primary concerns. Pride and politics were theirs. For folly of this level to persist, almost invariably, it’s connected to the relationships of those involved.
Nobody gets away with this without a guardian angel.
The notion that remaining calm equates to being aboveboard and reasonable — is an illusion. Mike revels in that tried-and-untrue tactic — priding himself on his calmness, as he sails Scot-Free on his Sea of Chaos.
As for you, Dave — here’s what I think of your “Here’s what I think and here’s why” . . .
Mike and Dave sold themselves as something they are not.
There’s a classic scene in Seinfeld that delightfully illustrates the divide between declarations of virtue and delivering on them: