Roosting chickens

About 5-6 weeks ago I wrote a post predicting some issues with my role at work. The problem was that I was in a role requiring a certain level of authority to get things done, but the role had not been given that authority. It came to a head then because something came up and by instinct I reacted to get it resolved. Afterwards I realised that I had potentially stepped on some senior toes demanding answers and resolution. I realised the risk of that. Though in person I act with authority it is not mine by position description. By acting as I believed necessary I step out of that role and am asking to be put back in my place.

At the time I resolved to take a step back. I also had a conversation with my manager about it. She told me to keep doing what I was doing (easy for her to say), and ultimately that’s what I did despite my earlier resolution. I chose to do what was natural to me, and necessary for the role, even if isn’t legislated as part of it.

Those chickens came home to roost the other day. I’d been anticipating this and made some reference to it last week. Yesterday 2 managers of other departments met with my manager, and the big manager. They brought a range of issues to the table, some of which related to me. Basically they complained that I had gone outside the boundaries in order to get answers to questions or resolutions to problems.

Now I take pride in getting things done. I think it’s one of my competitive advantages. Having said that I think I’ve been pretty good with them. I’ve gone through the approved channels. I’ve only gone outside or around them when checking on how my requests are progressing, or when I’m trying to get information directly. I see little sense in going through person A when person B has the answer I need. And if they were more conscientious with their response there would be no need for me to chase up anything.

Like a lot of things in life I think the real complaint is more about style than substance. Part of it is that I seem an uppity character acting beyond his pay grade – what right do I have to request these things? If I was more unassuming and less confident that would help to – but I can hardly help asking questions or displaying knowledge. Finally, I’ve appeared abruptly on the scene and made a splash – but only because I need to in order to perform my role, for jobs that had been piling up unattended to. I’m the man in the middle. Person X needs something done, but in order to get it done I need to liaise with person Y for information or assistance. Person X expects a result, but person Y is not responsive.

There’s a bit of powerplay in all of this, given an edge by noses out of joint.

When I found out I was unmoved. It seemed a bit whiny, and nothing reported back to me added up to much. My manager felt much as I do, and reported that her manager – the big manager – feels much the same. In fact she reported they were both quite ‘chuffed’ that I’d shown so much determination, and I was told I should be congratulated for my persistence. So from that perspective it’s not a big deal, it can even be seen as a positive. I’ve been told to keep doing what I’m doing, which is fine, except it leaves me a little confused, and basically in the same situation as before.

I don’t know that I have much choice. I think one of the critical objectives in life is to gain self-knowledge, and then to be true to yourself. It’s not easy, and not just because it’s not always clear who that is. On top of that though there are pressures from peers and family, from work and colleagues, from society and broader culture, not to mention your own and other’s expectations. It’s very easy to get muddle-headed, and even if not it takes a fair bit of self-possession to keep to it.

I wouldn’t say I’ve attained it, but I reckon at my stage of life I’ve figured out a fair bit. I’m reflective, sensitive and thoughtful, which has helped a lot, but that knowledge been accelerated by personal circumstances. You learn a lot when you’re under the pump. I reckon I know many of my fundamental attributes, which remain surprisingly consistent despite tumultuous events. I’ve tried to tone things down, tried lowering my sights and backing off, but the fact of the matter is that the engine will keep on revving regardless – and if I’m not using it to get somewhere then I’m restless and discontent.

I still have my eye on other opportunities, but it’s becoming clearer to me that perhaps there are plans for me here. While there are clearly some unhappy with me, there are others – more important – who think I’m a gun. Listening between the lines and to casual references to exposing me to the executive level leads me to think that maybe this is intended as a stepping stone to bigger things. I can live with that.

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