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Peter R. Garber has worked as an HR professional for over 25 years and is the author of many business books including: Winning the Rat Race at Work and 100 Ways to Get on the Wrong Side of your Boss.
Dina Beach Lynch, is an Ombudsman, Author and former attorney. An award-winning mediator, Dina served as the Corporate Ombudsman for the 7th largest bank in the US helping over 48,000 employees to resolve workplace issues.
Dr. Rick Brandon is CEO of Brandon Partners. He has consulted and trained tens of thousands at corporations worldwide, including Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries.
Dr. Marty Seldman is one of America's most experienced executive coaches. His 35-year career includes expertise in executive coaching, group dynamics, cross-cultural studies, clinical psychology, and training.
Arnie Herz, is a lawyer, mediator, speaker, author and consultant nationally recognized for his practical and inspired approach to conflict resolution and client counseling.
Dr. John Burton LL.B. M.B.A. M.Div. Ph.D. is an ethicist, mediator, lawyer and theologian. John is currently located in Prince Rupert, B.C., Canada, working with Canada's aboriginal communities.
I challenged the leader that the work load was too much... So the leader went to our manager and accused me of not being a team worker.
February 2005, Article 10
I am an engineer working in a prestigious company. We had a very successful project which we won a lot of acclaim from the Vice Presidents. And it was done within an impossible schedule. The main delivery of design was done more than 80% by myself. Unfortunately, whatever goes wrong is my fault. I felt like I was the scapegoat in this high profile project because my manager was freaking out because the importance of this project.
Here is what’s going on. I challenged the leader that the work load was too much so we needed a plan. So the leader, who worked decades with my manager, went to our manager and accused me of not being a team worker. After that my manager blamed me for why I didn’t do the work my leader promised to do. He yelled at me about staying up for the project by saying I should follow my leader’s specification. In one word, everything was my fault.
After that, I had to teach my leader how to design so I could be a “team worker”. I was not allowed to discuss with other departments to find out a better design style. In the meantime, the delivery for my design met the incredible schedule! We started to get compliments from VPs, but the situation hadn’t changed. Because the leader is not good at design (which he obviously had not done for years) a lot of immature ideas and redesigns were requested because he wanted it his way. He stayed at my office for around three weeks to learn with me how to debug -- which meant I had to do all the debug work load, until the other complained about that he should do his part of debug. I agreed so I got him out of my office. He’s mad because of this. Behind my back again, he told my manager he had to do that because of my bad communication skills. Also at the project, I modified one line error on his code which I forgot to change back after he requested me before my vacation. It took him four days to find out and blame on me again. (I shouldn’t even try to help him at the beginning.)
For a situation like this, I do not know how I can break the old boy network and hostile working environment. Is the process and action of my manager professional? Does he discriminate against me or exploit my immigration status? Let me know how can I handle this kind of situation. Of course, I bought your book Survival of the Savvy and read it thoroughly. Do I have to have HR intervene in his management style? He doesn’t have a good review from other engineers, too.
Dear Software Engineer,
Thanks for your open and honest plea for assistance and for reading Survival of the Savvy. You know from our book that we believe "tough love" and never "kiss our readers out the door," meaning that we want to coach you on any ways that you might be contributing to your own problem. Otherwise, we are doing you a disservice as a growing professional. So for your letter, while we will address what to do to avoid such an overly political manager's blame, we first need to point out ways that you may be hurting your reputation. Please don't feel we're on your manager's side... it's just that sometimes when your are pointing your finger at someone else, it helps to remember there are also still three fingers pointing back at yourself!
Several "red flags" emerged in your own part of the relationship with your boss, not to excuse his negative, destructive behavior or obvious lack of technical know-how. Here are issues that make you more of a target:
LANGUAGE ISSUE: Let's be clear that we have incredible
respect for your learning a second language as well as you have, since
we have only English at our fingertips (or tongue-tips!). Still, there
may be obstacles created by your use of the language. There are many times
in your letter when even we are not sure of your true meaning because
of missing words and vague language.
FIGHTING WORDS: From how you state your case, we worry that you might have spoken a bit too harshly to your manager, especially if he is an ego-sensitive, easily threatened person in power and image. Two examples stand out:
ACCIDENTAL SABOTAGE: For someone like your boss, please realize that what seems like a simple issue when you "modified on line error on his code and forgot to change it back" after he requested it before your vacation, you say it cost him "four days to find out." This exposes you for his wrath. He has done much to wrong you and take advantage of your obvious technical prowess, but here, you did something he can reasonably feel drained his time and caused frustration. When people are frustrated, they can become aggressive. This is expected even more from a powerful person, even MORE from an ego-tripper who is image conscious about how your mistake makes him look. Unless you apologize, he may even believe you "forgot" purposely. So you need to swallow your pride with an ego-oriented or senior person and apologize, with a plan for how this will not occur again. This is what we call "taking ownership."
So, how are we doing? Are we still friends? Hope so...
PREVENTION: Now, regarding preventing this from happening to you in the future, we're saying to work on your people skills for when you make requests so that they are not challenges, to further refine your English skills for better communication. You are clearly a technical wizard, but might have people skills blocks. Here are several other prevention tactics:
Good luck, and we wish you success! Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.
Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D., Co-authors
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