In the world of business there are a lot of those “aha” moments. They are the times when you suddenly realize how the system works. Often it is different than what you thought. At that time, as you reflect on your previous lack of knowledge, you might say to yourself, “It would have been nice to know that.” Here’s one of those aha moments that would have been nice to know in business.
Imagine that you’re a good worker. You are in a lower level in the organization. You get good reviews. You work hard since you value your performance. You spend long hours at the office focusing on your output and make sure it is at a high level. You think about the issues that can impact others and you work to address those issues. You are quiet about showcasing your work. You assume that management will appreciate it.
Now imagine you are a senior executive. You have a very high opinion of yourself and your work. It’s interesting that those people below you have a very different opinion of you. They perceive you to be arrogant, pontifical, and lazy. They observe that very little of what you start ever gets finished. You have mastered the art of what the Wall Street Journal calls infallibility. These people never admit mistakes. They go so far as to plan who they will blame for any of their own shortcomings and work failures. What is most interesting is that unlike your subordinates who think of you as incompetent, management is rewarding you with more authority.
This “infallible” senior executive saw a problem with one of the projects he was working on and responsible for. He picked the diligent worker to take the fall for him. In fact he went so far as to poison the environment for this subordinate to get any work done by questioning his loyalty to the managers of the organization. What happened? One afternoon, without warning, the subordinate was told he was fired. No probation. No coaching. No nothing. Pack up your things and leave. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. What you see on one level of the organization is often different from what is seen at higher levels.
Some people think that the same rules exist for everyone in the workplace. They don’t. They think their work results will speak for themselves. They don’t. I’ll bet that the diligent worker thought as he was boxing up his office, “It would have been nice to know that.” Look around your office for the people who make an art of blaming others for their failures. One management consultant reported that he worked with a colleague who “planned the blame-shifting in advance, evaluated the lay of the land minute by minute and acted accordingly.” You may think you are immune because you are doing your job. That’s what the good worker thought, but he doesn’t think that any more.