[thechat] No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Matt Warden mwarden at gmail.com
Tue Apr 7 07:47:43 CDT 2009

On Tue, Apr 7, 2009 at 7:16 AM, Jack Timmons <jorachim at gmail.com> wrote:
> Also, my environment wasn't such that I -could- promote ideas in that
> manner. We never had meetings before I took over, even though I recommended
> it (and was shot down). All the improvements that came about were because I
> took my own personal time to do it, and then showed them the results. I made
> waves because nobody was willing to suggest to the current managers face he
> might be wrong, even in most tactful of manners, whereas now I'm openly
> called out if I have a bad idea. Making those waves is how things improve.
> Is it worth the personal risk you mentioned? Sure, to me, so long as I can
> show or teach someone a better way of doing things. If I can improve
> someone's workload so it's not so hard, or speed a website up so
> it processes faster, then it's worth it.

John, I understand where you're coming from. I am a geek like the rest
of us, and I have those same tendencies. I just don't act on them
anymore. I speak up with my initial opinion on a matter and will tear
down bad ideas with targeted questions, but I don't take it further
than that. I've found that if I'm patient, the topic eventually comes
up, and people tend to remember that I had an objection 6 months ago
and they ask me to elaborate. By that time, no one remembers how their
ego was invested, and people tend to listen better.

The above picture you paint is terrible, and I agree that I don't know
how you could ever make progress in an environment like that using the
method I'm suggesting. My question, I guess, is with things so bad,
why did you decide to fight the good fight and try to change
everything rather than just leaving and going somewhere else? In order
to make your situation better in the first scenario, you have to
convince everyone else you're right. In order to make your situation
better in the second scenario, all you have to do is convince
yourself. While it must be satisfying to be vindicated after suffering
years of marginalization and dismissal, I have to wonder whether you
might have been happier if you spent those years at a
better-functioning company.

Again, I am not criticizing by any means. I fully understand where you
are coming from, and I've done the same thing (to a lesser extent than
you have, of course) in the past. At some point, though, I asked
myself whether I want to be fighting at my job all day, possibly
risking my job and at least retarding my career advancement, just to
push what I think is right to people who don't want to hear it. I have
seen a marked difference since I stopped doing this.

The ironic thing, perhaps, is that since upper management *is*
motivated to find the right answers, I have slowly made my way to the
list of people who gets invited to meetings that are possibly above my
pay grade because I "always have something smart to say", etc. I think
there are ways to effect the change you're looking for, and perhaps
the more passive way can work in *some* situations and be a lot less
painful. And, if it doesn't work, then you're just left with the
simple decision of whether you're ok with that. If you're not, make
sure you explain why in your exit interview.

> I still believe the OP should continue on and not give up. The OP has, as I
> can see, the same desires I do for doing "the right" thing, and I know how
> hard it can be when the right thing gets thrown aside because of politics.

I'm certainly not trying to tell anyone what to do. It's a simple decision:
a) make your opinion known but go with the flow, knowing that you may
not effect the change that will make you happy
b) fight the good fight and risk turning your job into a frustrating
environment and risk career retardation and possibly losing your job

There is no "right" answer. If 'b' will make you happy, then I think
you should go for it, as long as you've acknowledged the probable

Interesting discussion, nonetheless. Thanks for explaining your viewpoint, John

Matt Warden
Cincinnati, OH, USA

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