Just this past weekend we celebrated the birth of the United States. July Fourth is recognized as Independence Day, a day of national freedom. Coincidentally, I celebrated my first weekend of independence as well. I turned in my resignation a couple of weeks ago. After a few weeks of rather pleasant interactions, my manager blindsided me one morning with her fangs and talons extended. She walked me into a conference room and proceeded to accuse me of doing everything I could to undermine her. She told me to send an email to somebody, send a copy to her, and since I sent the email but forgot to include her I was on her shit list. In her greatest tantrum to date she demanded that I shape up. I said okay. When she got up to leave, she stopped in the doorway and asked me if I wanted to go back to Human Resources. I said yes. With that, she ran to her manager’s office and told him she was tired of my insubordination, all because I didn’t include her on an email. I emailed her my resignation the next day. I had had enough and I didn’t need to throw a tantrum to get my message across.
I offered two weeks notice to give the company time to transition. The company graciously rejected my offer, asked that I stay for three days, but went ahead and paid me for the two weeks. Our customers in the other departments complained bitterly. But according to upper management, customer satisfaction took a back seat to the bigger problem that our department had an internal problem, my manager and I weren’t getting along.
After I tended my resignation, one of the directors of our department and I went to lunch. It was nothing official. The director would see me in the office on occasion when I went in on the weekends to do catch up work. We’ve been to lunch a couple of times just to shoot the shit. It had been months since we had a chance to do anything and we were long overdue. And chances are it will be our last lunch. I explained to the director everything that went down from my perspective. And, to her credit, she understood me. She understood that all I wanted to do was work, to develop these relatively small databases for my customers in quick fashion. Without me going into detail, the director understood the problems with management’s insistence to attack these smaller projects with the same control processes that are devoted to our large projects that are purchased from vendors at a cost of millions of dollars, are customized to our needs over a period of time measured in years, and require so much capital and financing that management is obligated to report to shareholders every milestone achieved on a weekly basis. Detailed scopes, signed copies of understanding, and other documentation aren’t really necessary when a project takes all of about an hour to complete. I didn’t have to explain this to the director. She got it!
But one thing she told me was that if we had our conversation just a week earlier she would respond to me in a totally different fashion. As a member of management, she is obligated to toe management’s line. Management is obligated to stick together. And although I already knew it, I was still surprised to hear her admit it. Because she would have been a member of the management team and I would’ve been just another employee, she would have been a lot more careful, more guarded with our conversation. But now that my relationship with the company has been terminated, she could talk to me off of any kind of record.
And she went on to say that Human Resources is a tool of management and is also obligated to support whatever decision is made by management. The idea that Human Resources is there to help employees is pretty much a carefully designed, but intentionally constructed, misrepresentation. This department is intended to look as if they care about even the lowest employee. But all the while these people are collecting information necessary to protect management’s interest.
In my exit interview, the HR representative asked me a couple of questions that I found rather interesting but avoided answering. The first question was who else in the department has a problem with my manager. I stifled a laugh, simply smiled, and told the interviewer that if other people had a problem with the manager then I’m sure they’ll let management know when they’re ready for management to know.
The next question was pretty much along the same lines. How do people in the department feel about my manager’s manager? I smiled and politely said that I have nothing personal against the guy. If the interviewer really wants to know how people in the department felt about anyone then they need to ask those people. I didn’t add that I was trying to let management know that there was a problem. I already went that route and it got me nowhere. I think other people saw what happened between my manager and are now seeing me leave and are saying that there’s no way in hell they’ll let management know what they’re really feeling. My last act on the job is to betray my coworkers to people who really could not care less about what is happening on the team? I don’t think so.
So I’m back on the market in the middle of a serious economic recession. I have to find a job in an environment when people are waiting longer than ever to find a job. I have to go without health benefits when health expenses are higher than ever. Yes I made the choice to do this at this time. Being unemployed is seriously scary these days. But I’d rather be out here scared than working for a manager who has no clue how to manage and inspire the people who work for her. I will miss my job. It was a dream come true for me. I enjoyed the work and I enjoyed my customers. But my manager made working there intolerable. My friend the director summed it up best. The company lost a good employee. I lost a job. The customers lost a damn good resource that they appreciated. The manager lost a good worker even though she’s convinced in her mind that I was anything but. No matter how anybody looks at it, it is a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.
For the record, this is a new low in my experience with a variety of managers. The worst manager I’ve ever had the misfortune of working for, or trying to work for, was a rather young black woman who appears to suffer from a severe lack of self confidence. The only black woman I’ve ever professionally worked for (mom, sister siblings, female elders, and significant others don’t count). She feels the need to know exactly what’s going on with everyone who works for her. But a good manager knows that when he or she delegates an assignment, they should have the good sense to let it go. If it doesn’t get done, get involved. But let people do what it is that they do best. Managers should remove barriers. They should not become them.