Sunday, November 22, 2009

Owning Your Actions

Corporate life has introduced a number of new terms into my lexicon. We speak in a way that is sometimes ridiculously self-conscious and awkward and I think we do it in order to seem important. Regardless, we speak a great deal about actions and owners and how the two of them lead to great progress (and preferably profit).

"Couldn't we work as a team?" PrettyHair asked, twirling a lock about her finger while I scowled at her attempt to escape another task.

"No," Adam noted simply. "I mean, you can and should work as a team. But I want a single person responsible for getting it done correctly and on time." Such a directive hangs on the wall (along with oft-ignored rules to start meetings on time and have clear objectives before demanding people congregate).

I rather like being assigned my tasks for a given time, having done an excellent job pulling together my play date. It gives me authority to demand help, power to revise as ruthlessly as necessary. With that comes the blame if it all goes to hell, but I'm pretty cool with that too.

"I'm not sure he's worth it," a friend said.

"How so?" I asked, always absently as I tried to get work done and wondered what personal drama I was to hear.

"Well, I could move up in the company. Go anywhere. Do anything. But he's making me give that up to be with him!"

"You," I scolded good-naturedly, "are revising history, my dear. I remember there being a man. Then he was a man who loved you and you loved him in return. They you got a job offer closer to where he lives and - with him reserving judgment - decided to take it. Now, I hope it works out. That you're blissfully happy forever and ever and that you don't miss this career path for a single second. But the decision was yours. And putting that kind of pressure on a relationship seems non-ideal."

She frowned at me darkly before nodding.

"I," I continued thoughtfully, "sometimes cry before bed because I never see this loneliness ending. Yet I don't put myself out there because I think there's more risk than reward. I am dedicated to my career because there's not a whole lot else going on with me. So I think you took a look at what I've chosen and selected that alternative. And that's wonderful. So embrace that and be excited and happy that you have this opportunity rather than mourning the path you turned down. Sure, be a little sad - we'll miss you. Some of your projects may not get done without you here. But focus on the happy, for goodness sake! You're starting to bum me out."

"Did you hire her?" I asked another manager as we sipped soup in his office.

"Of course," he replied, sulking.

"And you make the rules - assign responsibility, follow up, give her reviews?"

"Yes," he said, beginning to glare.

"Kiddo," I sighed, wondering why I've selected that as my term of endearment for men, "I fail to see why I should pity you. It seems you did this yourself and have all the power to fix it."

"It's hard," he sighed.

"Oh, sweetheart," I sighed in return, feeling pleased that I'd been around long enough to be simultaneously exasperated and affectionate. "I know it is. And I am sorry. But you can either stay gloomy or figure this out."

"Tell me how to figure it out," he grinned, reaching across his desk to steal a packet of my crackers. I reached to take a corner of his cookie and sat back in my chair.

"Aren't there decision trees for this sort of thing?" I teased. "I suppose you figure out what motivates her," I said more seriously, thinking carefully. "You stress accountability and set limits that you don't cross. And you need to consider your team - how her behavior affects them and how long you're willing to tolerate that." I eyed his cookie, having already finished the small section I'd taken. "I don't know," I finally sighed. "This is why I don't really want direct reports."

No comments:

Post a Comment