04 February, 2010

What type of team are you? – Part II

Rahul Gupta asked me some interesting questions in my previous post. He also suggested that I do a Part II of the post. Here I am with part II. Part I is HERE.

Rob the Star Performer
Rob managed a group of system administrators in his previous job. He joined current organization as a QA Engineer. He tested an enterprise product and reported defects. A year later, he became a Project Lead. In subsequent year, he got promoted as a QA Manager and headed a different team (now Team B). In addition to managing team B, he also volunteered to own a couple other projects.

A QA engineer rising to the ranks of a QA Manager is not an easy thing (or so it is believed to be). Rob had achieved this in 3 years time. Many people in the organization had to believe that he was a star performer. Incidentally, Rob actually tested for less than year during his 7 years tenure.

Management Style
Rob rewarded employees who worked 60 hr work week; he reprimanded employees who worked for 8 hours a day telling them that they aren’t working hard enough. What amuses me about Rob till this moment is that he did not have the common sense to think that some employees are smart. Perhaps, he is pretending so. The smart employees stayed for more than 10 hrs a day. Some even were in office for 14 hrs a day. They did not work for the full 10 hrs or 14 hrs that they stayed at office. They were not productive enough. They were not good at time management. They were there to impress the manager, not to do good work.

On the contrary, some employees worked for exactly 8 hours a day excluding the lunch hour. They worked sincerely for 8 hours between 9 AM – 6 PM. Rob started assigning critical tasks like customer escalations to such employees. Some started staying late for fear of bad appraisals. Some wondered why these tasks are assigned to them when there are few employees who usually work late into the night. Some didn’t budge. They declined to work beyond 6 PM citing personal reasons. Rob did not like these people. He thought they were not dedicated and committed to their work and the organization.

Over a period of time, people who pretended to work for more hours by staying late in the office simply passing on some metrics to please Rob. People who believed this was not right or were incapable of doing this either moved to different teams (if Rob did not goof up their internal transfer) or eventually quit the organization.

Why wasn’t Rob stopped?
Why wasn’t Rob stopped? Why was the 360 degree feedback about Rob thrashed year after year? Why wasn’t the management interested in educating Rob about his management style? Why wasn’t HR doing anything about Rob though they had got a feeler about him from the employees who quit his team and/or the organization? Only the management can answer these questions.

You know what? The management liked Rob. The management was like Rob. It’s only obvious that they liked Rob. The organization claimed to follow a very aggressive business strategy and all it needed was many more managers like Rob who could treat employees like factory workers, make them work for several hours on weekdays and weekends, pay less and yet tell them they got the best raise in the entire team.
What impressed the management team most was the crazy metrics and the sexy graphs that Rob managed to send on a daily basis to the management. They were least bothered to know about how he was getting those metrics, what he did to get them and how he managed many more green lines compared to the red ones that other managers produced at the time. Worse, they did not even know what the green and red lines meant. All they were bothered about was more and more green lines which could be passed on to their bosses who in turn would pass on to their bosses. This passing became a routine until those metrics get projected as the ‘truth’ in the organization.

What about Scapegoats?
Some employees in Rob’s team moved to a different team thanks to a new agile team that was started. Their joy knew no bounds. Most of the sincere employees upon whom he inflicted problems quit over a period of time. Rob’s so called hard working employees threatened to quit the team after which some received a 50%-100% raise. They eventually quit after taking the raise!

When will this stop?
Some day, one smart person will walk into the organization with the courage to question and the power to bring a change. He’ll call Rob into his cabin and ask ‘Hello buddy, can you tell me what these green lines mean?’. Until then, this will not stop. You can be that smart person. Will you be one?

With a very heavy heart, let me say this once and get it off my chest to never mention it again - Rob is the fore runner for the post of the Vice President this year. God Bless!

PS: The characters in this post are true and NOT fictional except the names :D. Any resemblance to you or your friends is deeply regretted. I have no offense to Rob, his so called hard working employees or the scapegoats who gave up fighting similar situations. These are just my observations of one such environment where I FAILED to succeed, yet learned the most about my profession. I EXCELLED in many ways to say the least. My belief in team collaboration only grew stronger. In fact, I cherish working with Rob the most in my career because I now realize the value of being treated with respect and treating fellow colleagues with respect.

Let's be human first - Team Players will grow within,

Parimala Shankaraiah