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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

What To Do When You Don't Agree

Something happened at work with which you don't agree, that you feel insults you, demeans you, upsets you, and shakes your confidence in the rationality of the universe and the existence of God. Its usually something earth shaking like not getting the promotion you wanted and deserved, or having someone younger or even (gasp) who you trained getting promoted over you. Or your title gets changed, you're moved to a smaller cubicle, or your mentor is fired and replaced by someone you don't know or, worst yet, know and don't like. Now What?

"Disagreeable" management decisions are inevitable; even good management staffs can't please everyone (including you). Coping with goofy decisions and thriving afterwards is a truly required skill for long-term corporate employment. I typically see two reactions; one common and career ending, and another less common but career making. Here's how they work.

Unfortunately, the most common response to adverse management decisions is aggression, either overt or (more commonly) passive. The most noticeable manifestations are tardiness, clock watching, gossip and/or complaining, doing only what is assigned and not one inch more (what my Japanese colleagues used to call Malicious Compliance). Sometimes the symptoms also include push back from assignments ("get it yourself") and missed deadlines. This reaction never leads to a good result. Disciplinary action leading to your resignation or getting fired is the usual result. The pity is that this all could have been avoided, and even turned to your favor.

Management wants to see loyalty and character in those who want to be promoted. Remember, the higher you rise, the more valuable are the assets at your disposal and the more costly your mistakes. Management wants a mature, steady, trustworthy pair of hands to handle valuable assets. There's not a better way to display trustworthiness than to take a figurative punch in the face and react with poise, loyalty, and character. You won't see an immediate payback. But my experience has been that 6 - 12 months down the line I start to hear admiring comments in private about the person who took one for the home team and kept their head up. And, if nothing else, it keeps you out of trouble while you look for another job! More times than not, reacting well pays off with your same employer. Learning to do this when things go wrong is an under appreciated career advancing skill.


Dan Wright said...

Well said, Jim. Handling and coping with "disgreeable" management decisions was a skill that I wish had come earlier to me.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

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