5150 Business Strategy

Life in the Corporate Fast Lane and Still Remaining Intelligent

I Don’t Give a Rat’s Ass

Looking back this phrase was a turning point in my career. The architectural firm I was working for had fallen so far into anarchy that the staff dictated what was acceptable direction for management. After evaluating processes I made a decision to change the vendor the firm was utilizing to process payroll.

This international firm was utilizing bush league vendors that were ill prepared to meet the needs of the firm. However, the payroll manager felt she knew better than I what was best for the firm and opposed any change. Of course this was the same payroll manager who committed to keying payroll data into several systems, not once but three times. Think about it – actually keying in daily information for a firm approaching 1,000 plus employees three times. Her claim to being state of the art was the color coding of the spreadsheet to highlight anomalies! Can you say – REDUNDANT, or to be less politically correct – dumb ass.

So, a meeting is arranged to meet with the payroll vendor in order to inform them of the decision moving forward. Things had gotten so bass ackwards at this firm, however, that immediately upon telling the sales rep that we had decided to make a change he replied, “Well, from discussions with your payroll manager we have decided that moving from us would be the wrong thing to do..”. After the shock of the sheer audacity of this vendor to think he could overrule a decision,  I made the now infamous statement – “I don’t give a rat’s ass about what you think is the right decision for this firm. This meeting is over and you can pick your things up and get out!”.

The payroll manager in attendance went pale from shock and the vendor stammered his surprise at what he obviously took to be an inappropriate response. The staff at this firm had grown so accustomed to having their way on every issue due to weak and ineffective management that this turn of events indicated an unwelcome shift in the power structure. So much so that the payroll manager went straight to the human resource manager reporting my disgusting use of language and that she could not work with “that man”, meaning me. Remember this is San Francisco where liberalism rules and trampling upon the rights of vendors and not allowing for socialism in the decision making process is akin to being the second coming of Rush Limbaugh.

The immediate impacts were not evident but over time it became apparent that the human resource manager, as well as my payroll manager, saw me as the antichrist. Let me say that human resource managers are a valuable and indispensable resource in any firm unless……  the human resource manager is the source of dysfunctionality. In that case they become an impediment to needed change as they enforce the status quo and can essentially blackball anyone in the organization that they find fault with – that was clearly the case here. Not only was the human resource manager dysfunctional but it could be argued that she should have been on a heavy dose of antidepressants – pass her the bottle of zoloft, please!!!! Ditto the payroll manager in question.

It was OK for her to question my judgement in an open meeting attended by staff. When I responded in kind, however, she would reprimand me for not being a “team player” and lecture me on the inappropriatness of raising issues in a public forum. What was good for the goose was not good for the gander – can you say double standard?  Of course, as the human resource manager she carried so much more credibility for understanding the inner working of the human psyche and what motivated people. In reality she understood nothing about human nature except on how to deflect criticism from her own shortcomings by painting others as deficient. Truly an unbelievable display of the ability of someone being mediocre at what they do running amok in an organization.

This is the same person who at one meeting asked me to step outside to settle a dispute – not to discuss the differences mind you, but to fight it out. I would have done so except I was in a no win situation – if I step outside to settle the dispute she would claim I initiated the transgression whether it was verbal or physical. If it became physical, which I am sure she would claim, I for sure would lose as she would have kicked my ass being the little spark plug she was. Actually, I think I could have fought her to a draw but it would be a close decision.

The payroll manager had written her ticket out of the organization and I replaced her shortly after this incident. The human resource manager lingered on for my tenure at the firm continuing to cause innumerable bad decisions to be made and was quite instrumental in several large scale disasters – a failed ERP implementation being one that cost the firm $5.0 million. Can you say OOPS…………..my bad.

As you may have surmised by now, many of the most dysfunctional situations I have experienced occurred at this large prestigious architecture firm. Contrary to what most may think, I look back on these as good experiences as they not only tested my professional skills in ways that no other organization could, but also the personal fortitude needed to survive the experiences and come out stronger. They laid the groundwork for future successes. As I have always said, if you can survive in the worst most unpleasurable business environment then anything less than that is a cake walk.

Lesson learned: I don’t give a rat’s ass about what anyone thinks about a situation they have no business being involved in and/or for which they lack the credentials to offer valuable insight or knowledge. Many business decisions must be made which will not please everybody, it is the nature of the beast.

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