“We Need to Have a Conversation”

Of all the great principles that foster fruitful conversation, this one is paramount:

You Improvise, You Overcome, You Adapt

I adapt to you and you adapt to me . . .

And somewhere in the middle or on the way to it, maybe we come to a meeting of the minds.

There’s no finer example of that than these classic scenes from the all-time “Everyman” master.

Tom Hanks’ character is coming from a different place — and his attitude from the start was:

I don’t have ballplayers, I’ve got girls!

But little by little, he came around — and once he saw them as ballplayers, he treated them as such. And that’s what this first scene is all about:

But in the second scene, as much as he’d like to treat them the same as any player, he adapts to find some way of communicating his concerns without being too harsh.

You’re still missing the cutoff man. Now that’s . . . . that’s something I’d like you to work on . . . before next season.

And whad’ya know, she responds in kind!

She recognizes that he’s trying really hard to get something important through to her, and that he’s adjusting his approach from last time — and she appreciates that.

See how easy it is, Mike?

Now that’s something I’d like you to work on . . .

But no, you had to debate, deny, manipulate, and massage every situation to suit your self-image . . .

We Need to Have a Conversation

It would be unthinkable for me to reply to well-founded criticism with words that smack of a total lack of sincerity in the search of understanding.

Right then and there — I should have given up on him and gone to HR to request a transfer.

Mike’s Record

My Record

If you wanna gauge someone’s commitment to doing right by others, ask ’em how many times they didn’t.

Anybody can tell you where they did right, but the genuine article will be more interested in telling you where they went wrong.

Funny how people love to plug the “nobody’s perfect” line, and yet so many of ’em proudly refuse to be corrected on anything. The incorrigible in that camp act like they’re never wrong, never rude, never foolish, never over-the-top, never unreasonable, and never insulting.

In the spirit of the “only guilty man in Shawshank” — I’ve been all of those things at one time or another.

Our records above are not based on belief, they’re based on fact:

truth verifiable from experience or observation

Look around

Since “delusional” and “prejudiced” are open to interpretation, let’s define them:

  • A delusion is a mistaken belief that is held with strong conviction even when presented with superior evidence to the contrary
  • Characterized by or holding idiosyncratic beliefs or impressions that are contradicted by reality or rational argument
  • Something a person believes and wants to be true, when it is actually not true

  • An attitude that always favors one way of feeling or acting especially without considering any other possibilities
  • An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts
  • The act or state of holding unreasonable preconceived judgments or convictions
  • An unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason
  • A partiality that prevents objective consideration of an issue or situation

Mike deflected everything on that call — unconscionably ignoring a mountain of evidence while nitpicking over pebbles.

Had I known that he had already shared my email, I would not have met with him without Dave on the phone. I showed Mike the courtesy of not copying anyone — giving him one last chance to step up and start dealing with his issues.

It was a fool’s errand to think that he would rise to the occasion.

Listening to him boast about beliefs that are untethered to reality was increasingly wearing on me during my nearly two years at Elara. Outside of expressing some frustration a few times, I bit my tongue to look on the bright side.

That could not last, as there’s only so much absurdity I can stand.

After all his posturing about welcoming input, I had been observing who Mike really is all along. He and I worked in the underworld of Elara in ways that no one else did — and I challenged him in ways that no else did.

So I saw the depths of his failings in full.

He put on a good show for the team. Always open to talking about anything — as long as you didn’t tell him something he didn’t wanna hear. None of those guys saw what I witnessed on a regular basis — though I’m sure they’ve seen shades of it.

And let’s face it — they wouldn’t risk their jobs over it even if they had.

That’s not a knock against them — it’s just the way of the world. It’s pure fantasy to think that somehow this is simply about me and my inability to work with Mike. Like most people, the team operates within the confines of the conditions set by the manager.

Whereas I’m guy who essentially says . . .

You can do a helluva lot better, and you sold yourself as someone who would!

Mike doesn’t have the insight to recognize that no one else on the team would push him in the first place. So telling us that he wants the truth was as empty as it gets.

This guy’s got an excuse for everything — I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire career. 

Does that strike you as someone interested the truth?

That’s a great team and I loved working with them, but they’re satisfied with well-paying jobs that they enjoy — and that’s fine. But as a leader, you’ve gotta understand your people and their motivations. No rational person would rest on the belief that nobody has a problem with me like Rick does, so therefore the problem is with Rick. Such one-dimensional thinking shows no understanding of human nature.

If you’re gonna advertise how “fact-based” you are — you better deliver when somebody puts that to the test. I’m betting that 100% of those who have ever spent real time working with you — know exactly what I’m talking about with your behavior.

They may not have seen in to the same degree I did, but guaranteed — it rings true.

Come on, you can say it, it’s okay, they know . . .

I’ve placed my trust the wrong people before, so I was extra careful in my consideration of Elara. I made my expectations clear, which included my interest in making an impact beyond my defined role.

I wasn’t aiming for monetary gain in that goal, a feather in my cap, accolades of any kind, or some avenue of promotion.

As June Carter Cash was fond of saying . . .

The powers that be love to hear such enthusiasm, but the authenticity of their interest is tricky to ascertain. When you hit it off with people who believe what they’re saying, it is all the more difficult to determine if they’re for real.

We got along great and I could easily see myself working with Mike. What I could not have known is that he’s a know-it-all with knowledge.

The likes of Mike and Dave would never contemplate that they’re part of the problem — so they do their sales pitch without ever worrying about someone holding them to it.

The first sign of trouble with how Mike treats customers was in July 2019. I have extensive experience in data-matching, so I did not appreciate him derailing my efforts to provide our customer with some options.

Without even understanding what she really wanted, he cranked out what he assumed she needed.

He does that — a lot!

Maybe he was right about his aims — that he’s right about a lot of things is not in dispute. The issue is that he always thinks he’s right, and he’s developed a lot of bad habits thinking like that.

And he’s often undeniably wrong — so there’s that.

I was not yet clear on exactly what she needed, but I was in the middle of trying to ascertain that. It’s hardly earth-shattering wisdom that we should diligently investigate her request and explore our options while we’re at it. As long as we think it through and properly deliver for the customer, I don’t really care whose approach we take.

But to ramrod your way through something simply because you think you know best, is not the mark of a professional.

On the flip side, perhaps I overthought the problem that our customer faced. That can happen when you bring experience to the table and see beyond what might be necessary.

All I know for certain is that our customer deserved leadership that shows that we’ve got our act together. Had Mike just inquired to get my input, we could have connected and dealt with this like pros — and perhaps even established a whole new foundation for the future.

We did nothing of the kind

At best, we’d get that checkmark in the middle — but I were her, I’d check the 3rd in a heartbeat.

And Regis — he damn sure would check the 3rd (and so would I — on my own performance as well as Mike’s). Shouldn’t we be burdened by not living up to what should be expected of us?

When I sent Mike an email to object to his haphazard handling of the customer’s needs, I was not just addressing her requirements, but also the nature in which he operates.

Tiptoeing around problems is a surefire way to create more.

I wanted the freedom to say what I think, so I was testing the waters when I shared my concerns. How you handle criticism isn’t about the tone of an email, the atmosphere on the phone, or the pleasantries in person: It’s about how you receive information that challenges how you see yourself.

There is no question that the phone, chat, and in-person discussions can do what email cannot. But there’s a lot to be said for laying the groundwork first when the situation calls for it. By crafting your concerns in writing, the recipient can take the time to absorb what you’re saying, instead of responding with the immediacy that other channels provide.

That’s all the more critical when dealing with someone like Mike, who operates almost entirely in the moment.

I would add that the primary reason why such frustration builds up in the first place — is because you don’t feel the freedom to speak plainly.

And that’s exactly the tone he set from the start — which we’ll get to in a bit. The energy it took dealing with his fragile ego, I swear. What we could have accomplished had he been willing to truly listen and learn.

You didn’t put any serious thought into this” did not go over well.

If someone said that to me, that by itself would be enough to mark the moment (regardless of what I thought of it):

Note to self: Rick thinks I don’t put serious thought into things — keep that in mind next time

Same goes with

Note to self: “I’m not not pointing fingers, Mike” — however it happened, that’s not good. Work on that!

It turns out that I was not so far off in my thinking on that data-matching deal. Many months later, Mike asked me to “dust off” my suggestions that he so casually ignored before.

While it was our first contentious call, it fit with what I had been seeing since I started (though those concerns were not nearly as serious as what was to come in 2020).

Despite the tension in the air when he called, we managed to get through it okay. But since careful consideration was the whole point, clearly the message did not take hold.

I didn’t come to Elara to coddle my manager, so if your behavior’s gonna get worse over time — expect the severity of criticism to come with it. If Dave wants to pamper you, that’s his business — but don’t make it mine and expect me to go along (especially when it starts severely impacting the customers).

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:

Here’s what I think and here’s why . . .

False advertising of uprightness is hardly uncommon, but their performance was wildly off the mark — in a universe of incompetence beyond anything I had ever experienced.

Intellectual dishonesty may not be fraud at the time of the sale, but if you miserably fail to follow through on your word, and shirk any notion of accountability for your claims, that is fraud.

How many resumes in the world have a line like this on them?

I’d like to work for a company that keeps its word

My bet: 1

If I saw that on a resume — my first thought would be:

This guy’s not [$#^@#^#$6] around

My second: I’d wanna know where that came from. There’s a story in those 11 words and I’d want to hear all about it.

I want to be part of a team of developers who deeply care about their craft, and are continually honing it. I want to work for managers who inspire everyone around them to be better.

This guy’s trying awfully hard to tell us something. We better be damn sure that he’s right for us — and that we’re right for him.

When I sent that email on data-matching, as instantly as humanly possible to pick up a phone, I got the call. Off we were to our decline with the “I don’t like these type of emails” program.

And I’m thinkin’, “Here we go — one of these people.”

When comfort-seeking types criticize the delivery of a message — what they’re really doing is trying to control the message. They fabricate reasons to outright reject what’s really being said — warping reality to manufacture their own.

I know the type — all too well. As I wrote years ago about people who sling snippets of certitude on social media:

Their civility is a charade in their immovable contempt for correction — playing childish games that fit a formula designed to infuriate you (at which point they’ll pull the innocence card and haughtily condemn your tone).

A lot of that goin’ around

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.

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.

We failed to properly serve our customers — and no amount of spin changes that truth.

The operative part of management is “manage”: “to handle or direct with a degree of skill.” I’ve seen What Real Leadership Looks Like, so I would know.

Somewhere along the way, Mike lost sight of quality vs quantity.

What I did with working endless hours all summer was not smart. I just kept thinking I could catch up, but I never could — not when new requests kept coming in.

And this is one of the reasons why working ridiculous hours for so long is such a problem:

It doesn’t reflect the reality of the demands — preventing a company from properly staffing and prioritizing.

And hey, if you wanna forfeit your life for these companies, they won’t stand in your way.

Mike always operated that way

I got caught up in the same trap for a time — trying to make up for my own faults and come through for my customers. It should say something to you that I feel a far heavier burden for my smallest mistakes than Mike does for his biggest.

So I’m killing myself week after week, month after month — and he’s probably been doing that for years.

I had other plans. So this abuse (self-inflicted by both of us) — was short-term for me.

We needed someone in our area of expertise — but that bulldozing mentality of his trumps reason, just like his ego. I was looking at the lay of the land long before it got out of control, but on matters above my pay grade — my advice was ignored with ease.

That wouldn’t bother so much if these guys made better decisions.

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

When I was swamped and trying to deliver for Regis during that tax-revenue week — and out of nowhere I’ve gotta deal with Mike’s mess — “that’s not how you get duplicates” is not a professional or prudent response.

Never mind that it was exactly how you get duplicates

And you know how certain I was when I went to him about this issue?

I was up till 3:00 AM fixing that nightmare that Mike left in place on those duplicates. Not once did he show an atom of interest in how I did it — which means that unless he went back and put a permanent fix in place (since mine was just temporary to produce the data), he just left it like it was.

I’ve got it on good authority that he didn’t follow up on it — and that it came back to bite him. I can’t say that with 100% certainty, but from what I heard — it was the same database and same reporting.

But even if it’s not the exact same deal — it’s the exact same story.

You know how I would have felt had I made such a blunder? HORRIFIED!

Mike . . .

The open-ended atmosphere of freedom he set for meetings, tasks, and timelines — is pretty out of sync for someone supposedly so concerned about time.

That’s because it’s not real — it’s a catch-all claim to serve whatever narrative works in the moment.

It was always about the moment

The likes of Mike love to take one piece of information and isolate it in their interests — as if that’s the gold standard of sound argument.

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

Mike thought he had somethin’ when I asked him if he had proactively pursued management training of some sort. I could hear him raring up to boast about how he had done this and that back in the day.

To which I said . . .

That makes it even worse — because you’re not applying that experience

And the question was about more recent measures to improve management skills — not your glory days. As while classes and seminars could help on matters beyond my abilities, why not start practicing by listening and learning right now?

Early on in the death-knell call, I was stunned when he floated the idea that maybe we need to talk about some leadership role for me (as if that has anything to do with this). On paper, his gesture might sound like a promising way to start the discussion — but it’s just another diversion.

I didn’t take the bait

And if I were operating in a leadership capacity — is that when you’d start to listen?

From what I saw with other leaders, I sure didn’t see the level of listening that one would expect from his position — so a leadership role under him would do nothing to address the problem.

The only person who can make any difference — is someone above him.

This is about Mike — where the focus needed to remain.

But he did everything he could to evade that reality . . .

When I was 19, I played tennis with a guy who could crush me with ease. Eventually, I could beat him — maybe only one out of 10 times, but that was major progress. Amateur or expert, I’m happy to learn from anyone. As long as I’m around people with a similar spirt, that’s what matters most.

I kept my competitor’s attention because he could he see me making progress from match to match. When it comes to challenging Mike, not a trace of such growth could be found.

Contrast Mike’s manner with a key moment starting out in my career:

I’ll never forget pausing to consider what a colleague told me about his coding convention. Just walking along the hallway, I stopped to ask him about it and he said, “That’s just the way I was taught.”

I thought to myself:

So his way is more organized, easier to follow, and cleaner to work with. What are my reasons for why my way is better? I don’t have any good ones?

End of story.

That guy’s approach was better — no debate needed.

Mike has no such notion . . .

To get acclimated in the first week, I started exploring the databases and saw a pattern right off the bat. Had I been given something specific to do, I would have ignored his slapdash SQL for the time being.

I’m not keen on sitting around though, so I decided to rewrite some of his code in my style (which evolved over many years of combining my ideas with what I learned from others).

As tactfully as humanly possible, I sent him an email to share my approach. He was elsewhere in the building, and it struck me as strange that he went out of his way to come down to discuss my suggestion.

It just seemed to be making a production of out of nothing.

The second I heard, “It’s beautiful, but” — I could hear the excuses coming.

He started in on his spiel about how he doesn’t have time to be concerned with style, and that he prefers to focus on function over form. That function is some of the most error-prone work I’ve ever seen. With over two decades in IT, I’m aware of the importance of time. And lo and behold, you can write function with form — and still get things done in a timely fashion . . .

And do it right to boot.

His politely dismissive routine would become a recurring theme over the next two years. He adopted an aspect or two of my technique, but budging one millimeter at a time is a far cry from receptiveness.

At that rate, it would have taken me 10 years to beat that guy in tennis.

I cringed every time I touched Mike’s SQL. Most people ignore my advice on coding convention, but I was never bothered by it to this degree. Working with other developers’ bad habits (“preferences” in their eyes), just comes with the job.

But his haphazardness was off the charts.

Had he stepped up his game a long time ago, I would not have felt the need to bluntly describe what is sloppy by definition:

Adding insult to injury — from time to time, he would recycle his tiny overtures of adoption as cover for his claims of open-mindedness and respect for my input.

And he did it again that day

This guy just got 3 pages that put him in his place — and now, even now, you’re gonna spin this with nuggets of past praise? With all these concerns out in the open (including the customers’) — you counter with how often you’ve openly given me credit for some relatively minor suggestions?

The first 5 times you told me was enough — and getting credit has no bearing on the monumental matters at hand.

And that is how this whole “conversation” went — making it impossible to reach him on anything.

We Need to Have a Conversation . . .

“What they’re really doing is trying to control the message.”

And now, even now . . .

His text-based “URL” field was not some run-of-the-mill mistake.

I’ve seen plenty of people make stupid mistakes, and the only time I call them that is when they’re mine.

In fact, I have a history of going out of my way so that people don’t feel bad about their blunders — and that’s even on record at Elara. One of my colleagues (no one involved in this story) — misunderstood something that was pretty obvious.

Anybody can have those moments (I can cite plenty of my own). I delicately explained what she needed to do — and framed it in a way that she wouldn’t feel bad about it.

What she did was an honest mistake. What Mike did on this “URL” deal was nothing of the kind.

He could have made the mistake and shown some humility — and all would be well.

Mike doesn’t roll that way . . .

He Doubled down

And when called on it during the death knell of my dismissal, he said . . .

I was trying to show you what was available

Jesus, it just never ends with this guy.

Yeah, I was trying to show you what I had in mind that was the result of serious-minded effort and thought — before you robbed of me that opportunity in order to serve yourself — under the guise of whatever you wanna call it that absolves you of what it really is.

If you’re gonna go to such lengths to insult your own intelligence — in an unquenchable thirst to get your way and see yourself in the best possible light — such hackery in service of self is deserving of scorn calling it “stupid.”

If you did something stupid, I wouldn’t call it that

Of course you’re gonna play that card . . .

It seems like you’ve never spared a single second to think about how you treat people, so why start now?

This 11-second clip encapsulates what it’s like dealing with people like Mike. David Albright, a physicist, is talking about the person who adamantly refused to listen to even the best experts in his field.

In an industry where fractions of a millimeter matter, purveyors of poppycock were playing horseshoes with centrifuge physics.

Now how do you think they got away with it on a matter of world-altering importance?

No one answered that question more thoroughly than I did:

The rotor speed required to separate uranium isotopes doesn’t care who’s president — so it’s not a political point. As stated on the home page of this site:

When it comes to ascertaining the truth, I don’t care what your cause is, who’s in the White House, who controls Congress or the courts.

I learned early on in life that what you want gets in the way of what you see.

Everything in my offering (that, this, and all that I do) — is founded on the simplicity of this principle:

The.Deal.Is.That.We.Connect.These.Dots . . . You see

Mike — and most of America, has other ideas:

You talk about truth — you don’t want the truth. You need to be constructive in your criticism.

That — is Grade-A horseshit . . .

As in the notion that it would make one damn bit of difference to him — not to mention that the fact my record of wanting the truth is unmatched by anyone I’ve ever seen.

Look around and see for yourself

  • He had his chance to be inspired when I led by example in the first week on the job
  • He had his chance to seriously consider my concerns (including many shared by others)
  • He had his chance to learn from how I openly acknowledge error and show empathy to my customers
  • He had his chance to absorb how I learned all that I could from him (respecting his knowledge and abilities to the fullest)
  • He had his chance to recognize the impact of the mess he made
  • He had his chance to listen to what the customers were trying to tell him
  • He had his chance to take stock of his failures and not repeat them

He had lots of chances — and took none

It took me to two years to tell him that what I really thought — sparked by the overflowing folly of his leadership, abysmal performance, and embarrassing behavior.

And after 3 pages of harsh but irrefutable scrutiny — “you don’t want the truth” is the best ya got? This short scene exemplifies the height of such childish “counterargument.” The exasperated look on her face when he says . . .

That doesn’t make any sense

I know the feeling

You don’t take responsibility for anything

Yeah, I told him that — and more

With his go-to tactics — he could surely cite some examples of where he actually did take responsibility. In his mind (and that of those who think like that) — the existence of any example, magically negates a record chock-full of blameless behavior.

It doesn’t work that way.

And if you’re so into taking responsibility — why not now?

Nah, you’d rather fire the guy who’d make ya better — and seek solace in your manager who makes you worse.

It was explained to me that, outside the Mission Control room, it could get downright heated . . . that it was allowed . . . that the NASA etiquette, allowed for screaming matches when it was about the work, when it was about solving the problem . . .

How could ya have a heartbeat and not be inspired by that?

I’m not advocating for heated discussions to hash out our concerns — but if there’s no bottom to your intellectual dishonesty, as you sit there arguing in flagrantly bad faith — you’ve waived your right to pleasantries.

If you’re not gonna play by the rules, don’t cry foul when somebody drops the hammer on you.

And steel is strong because it knew the hammer and white heat

What sums up Mike’s sincerity on Death Knell . . .

By definition, Mike is the biggest bullshitter I have ever known:

[B]ullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant.

Peck would have had a field day with Mike:

— We have extensively examined the ways in which evil individuals will flee self-examination and guilt by blaming and attempting to destroy whatever or whoever highlights their deficiencies

–The uncanny game of hide and seek in the obscurity of the soul, in which it, the single human soul, evades itself, avoids itself, hides from itself.

–The blindness of the narcissist to others can extend even beyond a lack of empathy; narcissists may not “see” others at all.

–It is not their sins per se that characterize evil people, rather it is the subtlety and persistence and consistency of their sins. This is because the central defect of the evil is not the sin but the refusal to acknowledge it.

–Actually, the lie is designed not so much to deceive others as to deceive themselves. They cannot or will not tolerate the pain of self-reproach. The decorum with which they lead their lives is maintained as a mirror in which they can see themselves reflected righteously.

— The evil hate the light—the light of goodness that shows them up, the light of scrutiny that exposes them, the light of truth that penetrates their deception.

People tend to leave out their own behavior in a conflict — I don’t roll that way.

By the letter of the law, a profanity-laced lashing is a fireable offense — but by no means does that make it justified in the face of this epic fiasco.

I got bounced while these guys didn’t get so much as a slap on the wrist for their abominable leadership that created this cluster$#@* in the first place.

It’s like one basketball player hacking another with dirty tricks for an entire game — and by the end, the thug gets knocked on his ass by the guy who’s had it with him.

The homecourt refs turned a blind eye the entire time — but now, in their horror of such unprofessional behavior, they eject the guy who fought back.

You can’t genuinely claim to care about professionalism when you let Mike’s ways run rampant.

I’ve seen more than my share of disgraceful behavior in my career, but weaseling his way out of that call tops it all. It’s impossible for you to imagine how asinine your I-beam steel stubbornness is in my eyes.

Whatever happened to shape up or ship out?

As I said to Dave during my firing:

Somebody should have put a boot in his ass a long time ago

Elara’s complicity looked away from the behavior below, but drew the line at the guy who’s disgusted by it.

A huge problem in IT is that you have a ton of technical people who have no business being managers. They end up in these slots because they gotta get promoted somehow, there’s a void to fill, or they’re connected to the person who put them there . . .

The good ol’ boy network of white-collar chaos

It’s bad enough that they don’t have the goods — what’s worse is that are utterly oblivious to the depths of their deficiencies. So they feel no sense of need to fill what they don’t believe to be missing.

It is hard to fill a cup which is already full

I’ve worked with the best and I’ve worked with the worst — and damn near every brand in between. What binds the best is not that they get it all right — it’s their fortitude in the face of how they didn’t. They deal with problems directly and don’t pamper personalities.

They don’t run their shop like a daycare center. They mean business — and it shows.

Dave had other ideas: Opting for the path of least resistance — courageously plugging away at their precious protocol . . .

For all those who ignore the elephant in the room while having no shortage of scrutiny for those who dare to ask:

Wouldn’t we be able to move around more freely without this elephant in the way?

There’s a name for your kind — and it’s called “The Critic

Here’s lookin’ at you, Dave

man in the arena quote poster

Just how blind and inept do you have to be to let egregious delays, mediocrity, and mounting frustration persist on multiple fronts — all revolving around your boy?

Rick’s the type of guy who would lose his job on principle

— CH (circa 2007)

Rick’s the most honest guy you’ll ever meet

— ES (circa 2011)

As shared elsewhere on the site, this is not my first time getting fired for holding companies accountable to their claims. There’s a smugness on the face of toe-the-liners who come down with a case of collective amnesia.

Their word is meaningless — so “here’s what I think and here’s why” doesn’t have to hold up to the test.

They don’t care one bit that you took the job based on the expectations that they sold.

Adding insult to injury, is how they wrap themselves in window dressing — uplifting language, glossy PowerPoints, and decorated walls of empty claims, plaques, and platitudes. That their occasional actions and inaction have no bearing on those beliefs does not burden them in the least.

And what we do have for those who think accountability still matters? Without an atom of reflection or a molecule of conscience, the doubt-free will turn you into the problem for not being more accommodating of their mediocrity.

And right on cue, Dave hunkered down in his halo like his kin that came before him.

They are not aware when life asks them a question . . .

In light of Elara’s woefully insufficient follow-through on all of the above, I made some changes to my resume to avoid the likes of Mike and Dave down the road:

Since “I’d like to work for a company that keeps its word” didn’t get the message across to you two, I thought I’d make my expectations explicit:

When I wrote the more personalized version of this story in October, I injected a lot of lifetime background to hopefully make it more interesting. I was writing the story that I would want to read. Just as I seek to advance my understanding of what’s under the hood in databases, I like to know the internals of a person’s path.

I’m fascinated by the wonder of when a person takes that first step that defines who they become. My construct of consideration began in April 1988: One moment of truth that set the foundation for all that followed. That teacher didn’t need a letter or a lecture, just a look and a few choice words.

He revealed something I couldn’t see, as I was blinded by my disgust in being so royally wronged.

The bigger picture is a beautiful thing — as your interests can be served in ways you wouldn’t have imagined had you gotten what you wanted.

Mike took another path

He turned away from what struck a nerve — I turned toward it.

You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem . . . then you solve the next one . . . and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home

The people throughout this site have a variety of behavioral traits in common, but what bonds them the most — is that they adamantly refused to “just begin” in the spirit of problem solving that saved Watney’s life.

Rather than recognize the opportunity before them, they went down the same path that planted the seeds for their ways long ago. And that’s exactly Fromm is referring to with “They are not aware when life asks them a question.”

The “Interesting!” story wasn’t simply about an idea that sharpened my abilities and awareness on that project — it was life-altering as the catalyst for a key transition in my career. My manager took notice of the way I did things, so when some colleagues’ projects fell way behind, I was her go-to guy to turn ’em around.

One of them wasn’t too happy about that when he came back from a cruise to find his project completed. What he struggled with for months I knocked out in a week.

So what? He made an honest mistake in his approach and kept digging himself into a hole.

No need to make him feel worse about it — so I navigated that situation a way that soothed things over — a short story I tell in The Cut of Your Jib. I just did my job — I didn’t owe that guy anything. He didn’t even thank me for getting him out of a jam, but I didn’t care. The customers were happy — that’s all the thanks I needed.

So even in a situation where I did everything right for all parties involved — there were other considerations to think about. And what’s it cost to show a little empathy?

I never saw a hint of such insight in Mike — even in the most obvious of situations that called for consideration of others.

He apologized for his handling of the data-matching exchange in July 2019. That sounded promising — but you have to build on that to develop insight.

If you received this and immediately picked up the phone — in your mind, you’re thinking that you’re promptly addressing my concerns. In my mind, you didn’t take the time to digest what I wrote.

And in response to the above from “Just Wondering,” he made an effort to read through my email a few times. That sounded promising too.

But without any market improvement in his actions over time, apologies and multiple readings don’t amount to much.

How you act on the information is what matters.

In The Cut of Your Jib, I saw an opportunity to show some grace and humility — even though all I did was deliver on my manager’s request to turn the project around. Even a tiny fraction of such sentiment from Mike might have been enough to chart a new course.

But he just kept sailing Scot-Free off into the sunset.

Testing yourself is what this story is all about — finding out what you’re made of in the face of difficulty.

As mentioned in Beginning of the End, the writing was therapeutic and enjoyable. But as I was on that mission, I was on a tight schedule for another. I had a Microsoft-imposed a deadline of January 31st to accomplish what I set out to do 5 years before on a series of certifications.

And in my elation of pulling it off, I was thinking of those who helped make it happen, as shown in the note that follows the resume excerpt. Mike had his moments of appreciation, but the bit below is big-league humility and deep-seated respect.

As in my opening statement in that Multipliers email, from the get-go, I was keenly aware of what I could learn from him (and went to great lengths to do so). But that spirit was not reciprocated in the least.

I gave you props for SQL Search, EOMONTH function, All-at-Once operation and such . . .

We’re talking about making major strides in how you do your job (in both leadership and development) — not relatively minor matters that were of immediate interest to you. It’s one thing to occasionally pass along some praise over such things — but what does it say to you that’s he was still recycling this stuff on the most important call of my time at Elara?

Sounds like a person who’s got nothing compelling to counter with — and that’s because he doesn’t. But rather than suck it up and take the heat, you went to Dave to do your dirty work.

He pampers you, I pushed you

Now which one would take you places you’ve never been?

My thank-you note regarding my latest badges above:

I passed my DBA exam on January 7, 2021 — officially making me a “Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert.”

The real experts are those who produced the mountains of material that helped me pass my certifications to earn that badge. In my wish to thank them all, I thought of writing this piece.

I couldn’t have done it without you. I continue to be amazed by the quality of your efforts to inform, as you embody the best of what the internet can be.

To my knowledge, Mike didn’t even thank Debra for detailing those instructions for him that night. But even if he did, there was never any sense of seeing the bigger picture about what he puts people through — something that registers to say . . .

Should she really need to spell all that out for me?

Keep in mind — this is the same guy who didn’t even make the slightest adjustments after “I’m not pointing fingers, Mike.”

This man is completely absorbed in the vacuum of his world (defining reality as whatever he wants to believe).

By that standard . . .

  • He doesn’t have ego problem at all
  • It’s just my imagination I that I felt the need walk on eggshells
  • His work’s not sloppy because he says so
  • He doesn’t have time to make his it neat — no matter how much time he wastes on rework, failure to delegate, endless talking, and other areas of using time unwisely
  • His multitude of errors and delays can be excused because he’s so busy — and the customers are too demanding in their expectations
  • Pat’s not being “conditioned” because “What you don’t understand is . . . ” (no further inquiry needed)
  • “I’m not pointing fingers, Mike” (twice in as many meetings) — I’m not defensive at all
  • “That’s not how you get duplicates” duplicates — no need to investigate or even show some courtesy when inquiry comes knocking
  • Longtime trend of defend before consider — “You can’t see my computer”
  • “I’m open to Jira or DevOps” — despite denying me the opportunity to present my pilot (a refusal that’s in writing without any input from the team)
  • You’ve only been doing Jira for a few months” — to the one who was thinking ahead when he wasn’t
  • “I’m following the industry standard” — no need to ask the customer to confirm in advance
  • And on and on and on . . .

There is no standard upon which this behavior is justified, professional, or makes any sense.

At some point you have to recognize that you have a problem if you’re repeatedly making mistakes and failing to deliver on time.

Mike was ridiculously overloaded

But I expect a manager to have the skills and self-awareness to realize that if their workload is causing quality issues and delays, that they would adjust accordingly. And if he’s not gonna do it, that’s where Dave comes in — or any sensible person in his position.

Just hiring a project manager doesn’t get it done, Dave.

Anybody can make that call — just like anybody could have fired me.

I’d like to think that you’d take more pride in your work than just anybody. And the very person who’s the problem — is your gold-standard source on what’s needed?

In The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, he shares an encounter that gave him pause for reflection:

Then one day at the end of my thirty-seventh year, while taking a spring Sunday walk, I happened upon a neighbor in the process of repairing a lawn mower. After greeting him I remarked, “Boy, I sure admire you. I’ve never been able to fix those kind of things or do anything like that.”

My neighbor, without a moment’s hesitation, shot back, “That’s because you don’t take the time.” I resumed my walk, somehow disquieted by the gurulike simplicity, spontaneity and definitiveness of his response.

“You don’t suppose he could be right, do you?” I asked myself.

Peck didn’t just ask himself “Could he be right?” — he acted on it (and the result is proof positive of how the even the smallest consideration can change the dynamic of your thinking).

Somehow it registered, and the next time the opportunity presented itself to make a minor repair I was able to remind myself to take my time. The parking brake was stuck on a patient’s car, and she knew that there was something one could do under the dashboard to release it, but she didn’t know what. I lay down on the floor below the front seat of her car.

Then I took the time to make myself comfortable. Once I was comfortable, I then took the time to look at the situation. . . .

At first all I saw was a confusing jumble of wires and tubes and rods, whose meaning I did not know.

But gradually, in no hurry, I was able to focus my sight . . .  I slowly studied this latch until it became clear to me . . . One single motion, one ounce of pressure from a fingertip, and the problem was solved.

Clearing the clutter can be quite revealing

That didn’t make Peck mechanically inclined any more than reading his books will make you a psychiatrist. 

But even a guy who dedicated his life to helping others through his insight into the human condition — allowed another to help him see something that was hidden.

Once I was comfortable, I then took the time to look at the situation. . . .

My aim was always to find a home where I could settle in for an ever-evolving future — a quest for belonging in the right company, with a crew that continually hones its craft.

I wanted one tiny space in the world where people do right by one another — and rise to the occasion when they don’t.

It was just a dream, so I’ve had to repeatedly lower my expectations if I wanted to continue in this career. All I ask for now is that people be in the ballpark of their beliefs, but even that seems too much to ask.

My concessions could never keep up with the pace of pampering that plagues our society — as I’ve always clashed with a culture that increasingly values bullshit as currency.

Mike’s behavior has become normalized that way.

I never got on board — and I never will

Stung like hell so I jerked my leg and mama said it would give me guts

Deep down, the dream lives on . . .

When you see your ship go sailing
When you feel your heart is breaking
Hold on tight to your dream

It’s a long time to be gone
Time just rolls on and on
When you need a shoulder to cry on
When you get so sick of trying
Hold on tight to your dream

When you get so down that you can’t get up
And you want so much but you’re all out of luck
When you’re so downhearted and misunderstood
Just over and over and over you could . . .

When you see the shadows falling
When you hear that cold wind calling
Hold on tight to your dream . . .