Tuesday, December 24, 2013


My job is weird, to be honest. I’m not talking about the actual work or the potential or the few times I’m working with students around the world or part of a product team or doing engineering. Let me explain because I’ve had a few changes since the last update and I’m going through a change as we speak.

My manager reports to my VP, so sometimes I would actually report to the VP. The VP had a special place in his heart for my main project and wanted it to excel beyond imagination. My manager, however, has never wanted to manage my small sub-team of four people. He’s always been trying to get other people to manage it. After the 3 members on my team either quit due to frustration or were forced to go elsewhere, my manager got his wish.

One day, a colleague, who reports to the same manager, started asking me philosophical questions over email about our approach, how we do what we do, our outreach efforts, our mass education work, etc. His concern and priority is not the student or the user so of course we disagreed. But I always responded. Finally he started meeting with me and telling me what to do and what I should not work on. I told him he cannot tell me that, he’s not my manager. He’s a project manager and can ask me if I have time to help on his project, but he cannot try to order my day or priorities. He said I should consider him my manager from now on. I said no. I have heard nothing of the sort. He gave up and went to talk to my manager (who doesn’t answer emails by the way). My manager, for the first time, contacted me and finally met with me apologizing and telling me that he had switched me to report to my colleague, this same colleague with whom we, together, were both reporting to my manager.

Not only did I not like a colleague being inserted between me and my manager #1, but he chose the worst person. I told manager #1, I had already said to myself, literally, that there are two people in the organization for whom I would quit if put under one of them. And manager #2 was one of them. I told him that if you asked what was my worst nightmare, it would be having manager #2 as my manager (and remember he’s my colleague). Then voila! It happens. Manager #1 reassured me and said he’s amazing and that people often have 2nd thoughts initially about him. I heard differently. He’s the type that people either love or hate. What I don’t like is that I know multiple people who are anxious before meetings with him. One has panic attacks. He has a multiple page document about how to work with him. He answers emails within 5 minutes if he can. He works nights and weekends (and has asked me to do so, to which I said no). He lacks an ability to empathize. And worst, of all, he had a plan to insert another person between him and I. What?

I was always open with manager #2 but it never paid off. Every time I was open with him I regretted it. I told him once that having him inserted between manager #1 and myself and then watching him insert manager #3 between manager #2 and myself felt like a double demotion. His response was that it was not a demotion. I told him I understand that and know that I haven’t done a bad job. What I’m telling him is what it feels like. He answered again, repeatedly, how, logically, it was not a demotion. I gave up. I wasn’t asking him if it was or convinced that it was logically a demotion. I was sharing how it felt and he kept answering with logic. On numerous occasions, he has been like that, sometimes disrespectful to me, my work, my time, my importance. When that happens I don’t respond to the disrespectful emails or comments, especially when his response is to toughen up. The hardest part about working with him is that I lost the favourite parts of my job—true instructional design and training. I don’t get to do either under him and he doesn’t understand how to deal with or use instructional design or teaching, he doesn’t value it, and he doesn’t understand how to measure it. Strange thing is those two things are supposed to be most of what I do, according to my role.

Manager #3 however is from my same hometown and is a people-person. So he’s the exact opposite. His philosophy is to make all of his people happy and that makes his life easier as a manager. I love it. So he knows that I want to be teaching in my position and have hated losing that under manager #2 (my 4th manager since arriving).

And so it goes . . . In November, manager #1 contacted me and asked if I could go to the Philippines to help with the crisis response and work to help train the government on how to use ICT in post-disaster emergency response situations. I gladly said yes as that project had been sidelined under manager #2. But Manager #2 cannot say anything if Manager #1 says to do it because manager #2 reports to manager #1. That project is my favorite project at the moment. I love it.

The latest change is that my portion of the organization is being dismantled and incorporated into various portions of the organization. My team will most likely join an HQ-based team. I’m not sure if it means I will move again, if we will do international applications of their work, if they will do domestic (North America/Western Europe) versions of our work, if we will simply join in their work, or something else. I don’t know if we will move or stay. I don’t know anything really. So we will see. Sadly, I think I will lose some of the community outreach work I do with the various communities whether teachers, students, business people, software developers, etc. We’ll see what happens.

No comments: