Monday 14 February 2011


In a meeting today, a relatively senior colleague of mine recalled how she remembered meeting me on her first day at the company, some five or six years ago.  Amidst lots of mock sympathy at her misfortune, I remarked that if only every new join could have such good fortune.  To everyone's apparent amusement, as if this was a remarkable thought, she then went on to say how helpful I had been in helping her get her bearings and to feel at home.   After a small pause, she then added that I seemed a lot harder and more cynical now.

I don't actually believe that this is true, but I've been dwelling on the remark ever since.  I honestly don't think that I have ever been more positive and constructive about work than I am now, and I really believe that I have been actively and concretely contributing to making things better.  Still, perception is reality, and hardened and cynical is clearly the way that my colleague sees me, and I'm afraid she's probably not alone.

One of the simple truths of my brilliant career is that, for all that my customers and my colleagues around me may see me in a different light, I present myself differently to the people directly above me in the department: I'm harder and more challenging; quick to ask difficult and awkward questions.  Partly I do this because I am naturally analytical and this is how my brain works - if a question occurs to me, then I will ask it - but part of this is also undeniably because it amuses me to ask questions when I know that the person I'm asking doesn't have an answer.  I don't like the thought that someone is telling me to do something that they might not have thought through properly (or, indeed, thought about at all).  It's not hard to see why the people who are responsible for my performance management and for my career progression might see me as a flippant smartarse.  It's what they see.  Also, I AM a flippant smartarse.  Watch me sticking it to The Man!

It's nobody's fault but my own: I might think that people should take the trouble to look a little harder before they judge, but I give them plenty of ammunition to write me off as negative and cynical by choosing not to keep my mouth shut, or at least by not being more selective about when I do open it. I say that I don't care.... I know why I come to work, after all.... but hearing someone I like and respect casually call me cynical like that has bruised me a bit, especially as I thought I had been making some headway recently.

I received some formal recognition at work today too.

It wasn't much -- £20 worth of vouchers and a round of applause -- but it was an attempt by the leadership team of my department to recognise the hard work that a colleague and I have been putting in over the last couple of months to reshape and clarify the way that our department sets up projects and works with the business. We've rather racily called our new process "the Shark Net", but essentially it's a common sense way of making sure that we can control our outputs as a department by better controlling our inputs. The idea is to make things easier for us, and to make our output more consistent and reliable for our customers.  Not very exciting to talk about here, for sure, but ground-breaking in my office, let me assure you.  [Ahem.  Not really].

A promotion and/or a massive payrise would be nice, but I suppose that any thanks and recognition for our work is a lot better than a kick in the teeth.  I'm a little embarrassed about it, and as inclined to dismiss praise as criticism, but it is a nice gesture nonetheless.  If you have time for such nonsense, you might say that my brand was on the rise.  (luckily, I don't...).

Unfortunately, because the meeting this was happening in overran (and because I had no idea it was about to happen), I was forced to leave before the end in order to attend my next meeting.  I only found out about my big moment of recognition when I got back to my desk and it was all over.

Public recognition for my work, and I wasn't even there to see it.

That seems somehow typical of my career. 

Or am I being cynical again?

1 comment:

  1. It seems to me that you were cynical and unhappy before you took the year off, but have been feeling much better since your return. Perhaps she's still thinking of the old you, and simply hasn't registered the new yet.