This last week has been one for the record-books. No, I did not get sacked. To the best of my knowledge, there was not even a concerted effort to terminate my contract early. Instead, I stood my ground and was overrun in the process.
I asked questions that some people would rather not have had asked. I raised the red flag. Not the flag of rebellion, as in Les Miserables, but of THERE IS A PROBLEM HERE! A fair amount of time, I try and qualify that message – there MAY BE a problem here. There MIGHT POSSIBLY be a problem here. Nope. This one was flat out, by all known measures in the context of the organization, THERE IS A PROBLEM HERE.
I had a quiet chat with two big bosses, who ended with nodding and saying I did the right thing. One said something to the effect of “I know this was uncomfortable for you, and I’m glad you stepped up and did what you did.” I spent the rest of the week getting lambasted by people for not doing it earlier.
Yeah. It was one of those weeks where no amount of rhubarb pie will take the bad taste away. Nor will any amount of really good single malt whisky or highly drinkable brandy remove the sting of personal words said in public. Ya know what made it worth it?
I was right.
One of my colleagues asked what I was going to do. I said I would wait. I would bide my time. I learned long ago that patience is a strength.
After three days of being told by certain people that I had done everything wrong and that the fault for the project’s status was entirely on me, they did what they were supposed to have done in the first place. They began communicating. They began talking with each other and talking with other people involved.
In their mind I was a complete failure. They made noises of not wanting to work with me again. They pointed to the official process model and said ‘These are what you are supposed to do! This is what I am supposed to do! Do your job!’
I very quietly asked, “What happens when someone does not understand something?” “Inconceivable! There is no way this can possibly be misunderstood!” Yeah. I then got to use that line from Princess Bride – “I do not think that means what you think it means.”
There are at least three people on the project who did not understand the meaning of statement Z. Each of us asked questions and got the answer that it was all documented in the requirements. And yet reading the requirements as documented, the three of us each came away with a different understanding. None of us came away with anything like a warning that there was a problem with the way the software currently worked.
In the end, the problems were resolved and the project moved forward. In the minds of four people, I am a failure. In the minds of others, I did the right thing and confronted poor behavior with proper behavior.
My take away – When confronted with poor, unprofessional behavior, hold fast and do not allow yourself to respond in kind. There comes a point where some response may be required (there is one coming from this, have no doubt) but do so in an appropriate manner.
Remove emotion (as best as you can) and respond with fact.
Don’t lose your temper.
Die hard the 57th, die hard.
William Inglis, Lt Col, 57th Regt of Foot, Battle of Albuhera