Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Difficulties of Planned Failure

It's Friday, and so rather than a deep analysis post, you get some brief workplace bitching.

I'm been having a hard time at work the last couple weeks as a result of organizational changes. Our team was reduced by over 50% (though fortunately, no one got laid off, just moved around) while our workload increased, and I'm the only experienced member left on the remainder. As this was being planned out over the last couple months, I told my manager repeatedly that the team would not be able to get everything done if we were reduced so far and left with all inexperience people. "I know," was the response. "But this is what we've been told to do, and we're not going to get another decision until something breaks and people see we can't be reduced this far and still function."

So here we are planning to fail so we can get more resources. And what I've been finding is how incredibly difficult and demoralizing that is for me. For a very long time, I've realized, a lot of my self-identity in regards to work has centered around the fact that although I fool around a bit with blogs and such I'm a very efficient worker and can usually get things done faster than most other people. Plus, if necessary, I'm willing to put in long hours. So if I'm asked to do something and told it's important, it simply gets done.

And yet, here I am facing a situation where if I take my usual approach, put in lots of hours, find better ways to do things, and somehow manage to do all the work on time -- all I'll do is succeed in making the unsustainable workload last longer, perpetuating the problem. Instead, I'm supposed to give it a try in such a way that I can claim that I have truly done my best and not wasted time, and yet fail to deliver the work that I've been asked to complete and on time, in the hope that bad things will happen and we'll be given more resources as a result. (This made harder by the fact that I'll be the one, as lead on these processes, taking most of the brunt of the initial displeasure at things not working out -- not the manager who's directed me to fail.)

If this were a matter of standing up to management and making the case that I need more resources on our team in order to get things done -- it would be pretty easy for me. But I already tried that, and the result was the direct to let things break. I don't know if I'm pleased to find how central to my sense of identity in regards to work "I get things done and don't fail" is, but now I know, and I guess I'm going to have to either disengage from it or spend a pretty miserable couple weeks/months.

8 comments:

RL said...

That's a horrible spot to be in and I feel for you. I was told by someone we know that the "let it break" mindset has actually served as a means of people getting promotions and positive attention. In a department he worked in years ago they would know about bugs while designing something and the manager would have them release it anyway with the intention that they'll be heroes when they come in and "fix" it. His connection was to some of the improvements I make and that nobody important will ever know or appreciate them.

Anyway, if I were you, I would still bust my butt trying to ward of the breaking point. You can surely hold out as long as there is the possibility of getting extracted from there. You don't want to be the one to allow it to break if you don't have to. Also, if you get to leave, we know it will break and then any blame that falls on you is that you're not there anymore. ;)

Anonymous said...

That is a bummer. I recommend you just do what you can in your regular work hours. If asked why things are not getting done, be honest. And simply trust in the Lord to either allow you to come out on the other side, or to find something better.

Barb said...

My husband has been faced with a somewhat similar situation. All of the experienced engineers in his group have been offered early retirement except for him. They did hire some more engineers but all of them are fresh out of college with little experience. Therefore, he is expected to train all of the new people and do his own jobs, all of which are the most difficult jobs, of course. To say he has been swamped and stressed is putting it mildly. His boss told him that they can't hire any experienced engineers because they want to cut costs, but meanwhile he's expected to work unpaid overtime. He does stay a little late sometimes and bring some work home occasionally, but mostly he decided to do the best he can during regular hours and answer honestly when asked why he isn't getting everything finished on time. He's hoping that the new engineers will learn quickly...

cliff said...

Your post brings back bad memories for me. The corporate world can really eat a guy alive. Your sanity and your family are a much higher priority than any allegiance to the corporation. Will pray for you.

Anonymous said...

The Blackadder Says:

I sometimes find myself having to prepare a motion I know will get rejected because it is prefatory to something else. I agree that this is very demoralizing and depressing.

Anonymous said...

The Blackadder Says:

If you weren't in charge of the team disengagement might be the best option. But you have to think of how this is going to effect the morale of the team not only during this process, but in the future as well. If the rest of the team sees the guy in charge adopt the attitude that "we can't really do this, so let's only make a half-hearted attempt" that could be damaging. It's kind of like the situation of a little league coach whose team is awful. You know you're going to lose, but you still want the team to play its heart out.

Anonymous said...

"Concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors...Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations." - Albert Einstein

Anthony said...

This seems like a good time for a sudden two-week vacation.