Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wooly Bully

While I haven't written about my struggles at work with a troublesome internal client, some of my friends have heard bits and pieces.

Previously this guy (we'll call him Candor) has ignored my direct questions or responded to me indirectly by going up and down the chain of command. (You know - he goes to his Senior VP, who then goes to my SVP, who then goes to my manager, who then comes to me with this guy's concerns.)

A few months ago I met with Candor and expressed my concern over this style of communication. I asked that he come to me - the project manager - directly with his questions or thoughts about the project so that I could address them. I explained that this would be more efficient and productive, and that it is my preferred workstyle. He agreed to this, and he saved face by telling me (and my management) that he wasn't aware that I was the PM on the project.

Further, Candor has an administrative assistant keep his calendar, which is unusual for someone at his level in this particular organization. If I want to ensure his attendance at a meeting, I have to call this admin and ask her to manually check his calendar. I also assume that she has to ask his permission to place anything on his calendar, because she typically cannot answer definitively whether he will attend any given meeting or accept an invitation on the spot. Just for reference, nearly everyone else in the organization uses an automated Lotus Notes calendar and either accepts or rejects invitations herself as she sees appropriate.

Last week I scheduled a core team discussion at the request of another core team member. The discussion is intended to open up the dialog between the line of business and IT on a more efficient and cost-effective way to implement and operate one of the processes associated with the project. Candor apparently did not like the topic of the planned discussion and had his admin call me to suss out what would be discussed and why. When provided with the proposed details of the conversation, the admin admonished me that Candor had already provided his opinion on this topic and saw no reason for the meeting. I was to "hold the line" on the conversation and cancel the meeting.

I did not cancel the meeting, given that I believe it is a discussion that will benefit the company overall, and he has had his admin call me several times in the last 24 hours to find out why I have not cancelled it.

From my perspective, it appears that Candor, having had his usual manipulations through upper management both named and short-circuited, is now trying a different manipulation approach through his administrative assistant.

I now see Candor as a bully, and I've determined that I will not sit meekly and mutely by while he attempts to pull strings behind the scenes (and from behind the skirts of his SVP and administrative assistant) to obtain his own outcome - an outcome that to my mind is not beneficial to the company overall. Further, no matter the outcome, I object to his methods, and I will work to expose those methods.

I realize that this is a high-stakes challenge. Unfortunately, this guy has bullied those around him for years without being called on it. It must be working for him (and the organization) on some level, and I am a low-level PM. Who am I to question his methods? Then again, if not me, then who? If not now, then when?

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