Two weeks ago on Friday afternoon, 15 minutes after normal quitting time, as Robin headed out the door to go home, Jesse, her boss, saw her walk by his office and called out to her.
“Robin, before you go, there’s something I wanted to ask you,” he shouted, getting up from behind a desk that was literally a foot deep in paper.
Mistake, thought Robin, I should have left the back way. Everyone warned me about him.
“Robin, if you have a minute . . .” his voice trailed off as she followed him back into his office.
“Actually, I don’t,” she replied, “we’re having people for dinner, and I need to get home.”
“Just take a minute . . .” again the voice trailed off as if he had not even heard what she had said.
Although she was annoyed at being kept late at work, Robin was flattered, too. Jesse was actually asking her what she thought of the company’s direction. He even asked her to spend some time over the weekend writing down what she thought. Then he wanted to go over it on Monday morning.
Partly to finally get out of there and partly because she believed he was really interested in her ideas, she agreed.
Robin worked all weekend to produce a 22-page report. On Monday morning she arrived, only to find out that Jesse had decided to take the day off. I guess that’s what you can do when you are the company president. She left the report on his desk.
Four days later, upon returning from lunch, she found the report she had done for Jesse on her desk. Opening it, she discovered just about every inch of every page was covered with negative comments. On the last page was written, “None of the your ideas have any merit. Please see me after work today. I need to make sure that you understand what I expect from my employees.”
Jesse has taught Robin a very valuable lesson on how to survive and prosper in his company. Never, never should any initiative or original thought be expressed. The road to success is finding out what Jesse wants and then giving him exactly that in return.
While Jesse is an extreme case of megalomania, he did not become this extremely self-important overnight. It took years of gradually believing, more and more, that everyone around him was becoming less and less competent. Believing more and more that if he wanted it done correctly, he had to do it himself or somehow turn those around him into mindless drones who would do his bidding.
And when Robin inevitably leaves within a year or two, Jesse will ascribe her departure to the fact that she couldn’t measure up to the hard work, and he is better off without her since she never really did her job anyway.
For a period of two or three days, make notes about what you are doing as you go from task to task. But leave out the detail. As they use to say on an early TV program, “Just the facts.”
Once you have your work list of the past two or three days, sit down with it. Now take a pen and mark those tasks you did without any assistance from anyone. Of those tasks, are there any you believe that only you are capable of doing? One or two would not be unusual.
For most tasks, ask for and use input and assistance from others in the company. And learn to agree with others on how you will combine your approaches. Then do it.
You don’t need mindless drones, you need co-workers.
If you are the only one who can do it right, then you might as well work in a hall of mirrors where the only thing you see is yourself.