Termination for Cause (Part 3)

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The main purpose of middle managers, in my opinion, is to lead, guide, motivate and coach their direct reports. Vision casting is the job of senior management, and doing the day-to-day operational work is the role of individual contributors. Middle managers so focused on becoming visionary leaders that they don’t invest in their staff are a bane to organizations, as are micromanaging middle managers who who create a disconnect from their staff with their meddling.

My team at work has recurring meetings with our primary vendor every Tuesday from 7:00AM until 9:00AM. Every week, we spent two hours talking through status updates for each of the various projects on which we collaborate. If an employee were to resign and this was her last Tuesday team meeting (hypothetically speaking, of course), this would be a great time for her manager to give a small speech or simple public farewell thanking said employee for her eight years of service.

Did this hypothetical manager publicly thank this hypothetical employee during her final group meeting? No. Has she privately wished me well? No. Did she even take the opportunity to let everyone know it was my last meeting? Yes. But all she said was, “This is Aurora’s last time to join this meeting, so if you have any questions, now is the time to ask them for purposes of transition. No? Okay. Then we can go ahead and end the meeting. The rest of us will talk next week.”

Thankfully, one of the vendor representatives inadvertently shamed my boss by interjecting and saying how very nice it’s been to work with me for the past two years and that he wishes me all the best. The vendor initiated this comment. Not my boss. Not even one of my teammates. A vendor who lives in Germany and just dials in to the meeting, who had no responsibility to step into this leadership role and bid me a fond farewell – he was the one who did what my own boss could not. I wasn’t expecting my boss to take me out to a goodbye lunch or goodbye coffee (in fact, I preferred that she didn’t), but I did think my boss would at least give lip service to her managerial responsibilities.

On Wednesday mornings, we have another team call, but this one is purely internal with no vendors admitted. Thinking she may have learned from the way the vendor shamed her in the Tuesday call, I figured my boss may at least thank me for my service during this gathering of just our four immediate teammates. No. She didn’t. And I realized that, in order to be shamed by the vendor’s behavior, she would have had to be socially adept enough to realize that there was shame to be had.

Fortunately, some of my other coworkers are thoughtful and clued in to the social niceties of fond farewells. However, though most of my coworkers are friendlier and more attentive than my boss, several of them struggled a bit with the whole social intelligence thing, too.

A surprising number of my colleagues who normally have no trouble booking meetings and conference calls seemed to suddenly forget that we have visibility to each other’s Outlook calendars. Conversations like this one happened an unfathomable number of times:

Chat

I appreciated that my colleagues wanted to meet up for one last coffee, and I know they were probably just being informal and talking out the scheduling rather than looking at my Outlook calendar to book a formal meeting, but the number of times I had this same kind of conversation made me wish people would just check my calendar so I didn’t have to tell eight different people per day that I was out of office Wednesday, already had lunch plans Monday, was in back-to-back meetings Tuesday morning but was free at time X, Y or Z.

But the catch up coffees and lunches were nice. And in just a few days now, I’m about to be really free – with no Outlook calendar or vendor meetings or team meetings or anything. I can’t wait!

Authentically Aurora

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Resigned & Ecstatic (Part 1)

Victorious Business Woman

My first act as a 30-year-old was to quit my job.

That makes it sound like a knee-jerk reaction to hitting a life milestone, but giving my two weeks’ notice to the company where I’ve spent the past eight years was a long time in coming. Very nearly eight years in coming.

My boss and I have had a strained relationship, to put it mildly. One of my colleagues commented recently, “In the two years we’ve worked for her, I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say a single kind or encouraging word to you.” Reflecting back over my time on this team, I was surprised to realize that was true. I have never been praised or even thanked for anything I have done in two years; every comment is laced with criticism and negativity.

Despite that, I decided to make a concerted effort to be gracious and respectful during my resignation. My boss was on vacation the entire week of Spring Break, so I could have easily resigned while she was out, sending her a curt email or just leaving a signed resignation letter on her desk. But I waited until she was back in the office on Monday, and I asked her if she had time to grab a conference room to discuss my career.

Once alone with my boss, I stated simply that I had decided to resign from the company. “I’m giving my two weeks’ notice effective immediately, with my last day in the office being April 3rd.” Although I didn’t have to do so, I went on, “I really hope you find a great replacement for me – someone who is passionate about this work and brings subject matter expertise to the role. And I wish you all the best in the future.”

I was proud of myself for the upright way I handled an exchange where I could have been mean and bitter or scornful and gloating. I rose above the situation, and I counted that as a victory, especially considering the number of times I fantasized about storming out of the office and telling her off.

When I finished speaking, instead of thanking me for my service, or asking if there was anything she could do to keep me, or to ask what I’m doing next, or to ask how she could have been a better boss, or even to simply wish me well in the future, all she said – in her typical abrasive manner – was, “Two weeks isn’t enough time to transition someone. I won’t even have the job posting up by the time you leave. This isn’t enough time. You are really inconveniencing me by leaving the company with only two weeks’ notice.”

How dare she. Two weeks is standard – and I didn’t legally even have to give that much notice! All she could focus on was how I was inconveniencing her by leaving the company. For an instant, I was filled with anger; then – just as quickly – the anger dissipated into amusement. How typical. How expected. What a confirmation that I am, in fact, making the right choice!

When I spoke with my dad about it later, he echoed what I myself had thought. “Aurora, if she had responded in any other way – saying she was sorry to see you go or thanking you for your service – you might have felt torn or even second-guessed your decision. But she has given you the blessing of knowing that, without a doubt, you made the right decision.”

I certainly did. I already feel the weight lifting from my shoulders. Thirty is off to a great start!

Authentically Aurora

Make Like an Electron & Be Repulsed

elevator-meme

If you’re like me, you may have watched some cheesy hallmark movies over the holidays, and if you did, you probably discovered that magical things are supposed to happen in elevators, like Christmas kisses under mistletoe, resulting in the blossoming of true love and lifelong companionship.

Of course, we know that in real life, only terrible things happen in elevators – like strangers attempting to make small talk. Or acquaintances trying to reconnect. Or close proximity with people who forgot deodorant. Or over-applied Axe body spray (and let’s be honest; any application of Axe body spray is an over-application).

I work on the twenty-first floor of a fifty story building, so I tend to be trapped in an elevator with other humans at least twice most days of the week. I know it’s going to be a good day if I get to ride alone in the elevator on my way up to my cubicle, but this is rarely the case.

What I have discovered during my frequent studies of human behavior in elevators is that socially adept individuals act like electrons in an elevator; they spread out evenly so as to give everyone the optimal amount of personal space. But unfortunately, most people do not seem to be familiar with VSEPR Theory and the fact that humans should follow this principle when in a crowded elevator (a crowded elevator, of course, meaning that there is someone in there other than me).

Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion (VSEPR) Theory is used in chemistry to determine the geometry of individual molecules based on their electrons pairs. Put very basically, valence electron pairs tend to repel each other, and the closer they are, the more they repel, so molecules take on a shape that minimizes the electrons’ repulsion.

Or, in the case of the elevator, people (electrons) tend to repel me the closer they are to me, so when we are stuck together in an elevator (molecule), we all need to spread out so that we are the furthest distance away from one another, thereby minimizing our repulsion of one another.

For instance, if there are two people in an elevator, we need to take on a Linear shape:

2-linear

For a grouping of three people in an elevator, a V-Shape is needed:

3-vshape

When five people are gathered in an elevator, they should assume the Seesaw shape:

5-seesaw

You get the idea.

Bottom line: Elevators would be much more pleasant if people understood VSEPR Theory and how much they repulse me.

Authentically Aurora

 

Streams in the Desert

Desert Timelapse.gif

Most days I wonder why I’m still here.

Not why I’m still alive (that escalated quickly, ha) but why I’m still at this job. It’s no secret that I don’t love my workplace, but even when things are especially frustrating, I know there is purpose to this season of life. Otherwise God wouldn’t still have me here.

Today I got a reminder of God’s goodness to provide streams in the desert.

Last summer, I mentored one of our company’s interns, and at the end of the summer, she was awarded a full time job. Now we meet about once a week to grab coffee and catch up.  She’s a sweet girl from China, and I really enjoy the authenticity of our conversations.

I met with her this morning and, as we prepared to get back to work, she closed our conversation with, “Every time I meet with you, I feel like I leave a better person. You are a good person. Talking with you makes me better.”

Internally, several things happened at once. My heart was warmed by her encouraging words, and my brain signaled that I should correct her thinking that I am a good person. I thought for an instant that it might be the right time to tell her about Jesus – that there is nothing good in me apart from him – but the moment didn’t seem right.

Meanwhile, she continued, “I was upset this morning before I met with you, but you have such a big, happy smile that I cannot help but be in a better mood. I always love meeting with you.”

I gave her a hug and thanked her for her kind, encouraging words. It is wonderful to receive affirmation from friends (and especially from colleagues)! But I also sensed that there may be more work for me to be done here – at least in this relationship. I believe God is not finished with the mere streams in this desert. He desires to transform it into a fertile land.

Sunrise Timelapse.gif

33 He changes rivers into deserts,
    and springs of water into dry, thirsty land.
34 He turns the fruitful land into salty wastelands,
    because of the wickedness of those who live there.
35 But he also turns deserts into pools of water,
    the dry land into springs of water.
36 He brings the hungry to settle there
    and to build their cities.
37 They sow their fields, plant their vineyards,
    and harvest their bumper crops.
38 How he blesses them!
    They raise large families there,
    and their herds of livestock increase…

43 …Those who are wise will take all this to heart;
    they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.  (Psalm 107)

Authentically Aurora

Aurora Paleface

pale-sickPeople need some serious help with their commentary on my attire.

On Monday, I woke up late and only had time to brush on some mascara before dashing out the door for a meeting. When my (female!) boss saw me that morning, she asked, “Are you feeling alright?”

Knowing exactly where this was going, I remarked heartily, “Yep, I feel great!” I gave her a pointed look, warning her not to say what I knew was coming, but it came anyway:

“You look kind of pale.”

Ugh. Come on! I groaned inwardly. Why do women always make comments like this to other women?! We should really know better. (Actually, knowing my boss, I should know better than to think that she knows better.)

What I wanted to say was, “Actually, this is just my face. Like, naturally. Without makeup on. And comments like yours are the reason women feel like they can’t leave the house without makeup. So thanks for that.” But instead, I just forced a sort of grimacing smile and went back to work.

annoyedfaceThen today, I was walking to the bathroom and ran into another female colleague who remarked cheerfully, “Aw, you’re wearing the company colors! That’s so cute!”

“It was unintentional, I assure you,” I replied dryly. Great. Now I’m going to hate my outfit all day.

Just call me Aurora Paleface, company mascot.

Authentically Aurora (Paleface)

Becoming Our Caricatures

EverythingIsOffensive

You know that feeling where you really dislike someone, so everything they do – annoying or not – feels annoying to you? Or that person you really think is stupid, so with everything they do, you see it through that lens of anticipated stupidity?

It’s easy to create caricatures of people and then treat them accordingly. And so often when we do that – if we have enough influence over their lives and enough time passes – people eventually evolve or devolve into the caricatures we’ve created.

Have you ever heard the story of the Eight Cow Wife? It’s a poignant story about a woman who was deemed unattractive and undesirable until a man who loved her paid an extravagant dowry for her: eight cows – an unthinkable amount in their society. Knowing that she was so highly valued, the way she thought about herself began to change. She carried herself differently, behaved differently and eventually became externally as beautiful and lovely as she was perceived by the one who loved her. She was transformed from the inside out by the one who loved her; the way she saw herself changed because of the way he saw her. 

When I was a child, my parents gave me a lot of responsibility, believing that I would rise to the occasion. Being entrusted with responsibility developed me into a responsible young woman. My parents’ actions communicating their belief in my capacity and dependability made me believe I was such a woman, and it inspired me to behave accordingly.

But the opposite also holds true. Regardless of the perception – positive or negative – over time, it tends to become the reality.

I have been at the same job for 18 months. There is not much responsibility in my job. Basically when a software package or other IT service line is going “end of life”, I either issue a termination notice, negotiate an extension/upgrade or negotiate a migration to another solution. Every time this needs to be done, my job is simple: I get approvals from Finance, approvals from our Technical team, get approvals from the Board, and send all of those – plus the renegotiated agreement – to a guy named Kevin who processes the agreement for signatures and execution.

Not only do I have essentially no responsibility, but also my job requires no independent thought or creative thinking. Still further, my boss constantly beats me down and repeatedly communicates her belief in my utter incompetence. Just this morning on a team call, Kevin told our boss that he was still waiting on a Finance approval from me – that I was the bottleneck keeping one of our service updates from getting approved. I immediately jumped in, “No, Kevin, I sent you Finance approval on August 9th and then again on the 15th when you said you couldn’t find the first email. Check your inbox.”

Instead of hearing that Kevin was in the wrong, our boss automatically assumed I was the one at fault. After all, I am the completely incompetent one who is incapable of adding any value to the team (a paraphrasing of her words at my midyear review). She verbally lunged at me, “Aurora, Kevin is not the one who provides Finance approval. You are supposed to get approval from the Finance team and then send it to Kevin to process.”

“Yes, I know.” That is the job I have been doing – my only real responsibility – for the past 18 months. I was absolutely infuriated by her condescension. How could she think I didn’t know that?

“I got approval from both Sharon and Bob – ” (our finance focal points) ” – and sent those to Kevin twice already.”

“Oh,” was her response. No apology. No condescension or disapproval toward Kevin. All she said was, “Kevin, please process.” And then we moved on to the next topic.

I am trying so hard not to become the caricature my boss has created of me, but it’s hard to stay intrinsically motivated. I find myself coming in late, leaving early, and no longer even bothering to try to excel at my work. The status quo has become enough for me because: why bother? I will never change her view of me.

I’ve never been a status quo girl. I have always been a high achiever – Straight A student, President of my Girl Scout Troop and Captain of my Soccer Team. In college I was repeatedly on the Dean’s List in engineering and, on the side, got my EMT certification just for fun. Post college I took my songwriting to the next level by releasing an original album on iTunes. These days, I keep a full schedule teaching Sunday School, arranging music for my a Capella group, babysitting foster kids and volunteering at a weekend farmers’ market that fights human trafficking.

I want to keep my passion alive. I want to keep striving to be impactful, make a difference, and be a self-motivated achiever. I have packed a lot of living into my twenty-nine years, and I like that I have been historically ambitious. I don’t want that to stop just because I feel trapped in an unfulfilling, demotivating job where my boss does not believe me capable of adding any value. But it gets harder every day not to succumb to becoming the caricature she has created of me. Why bother? Nothing seems to be changing, no matter how much I pray or how hard I try. 

Authentically Aurora