My employment satisfaction was at a high point about a month ago. I not only accepted that I would be spending the rest of my time at FalStaff, I was perfectly okay with it. Then my man Marc left for greener pastures. It was about that time that the power structure in the Reports Division started shifting in a way that I am still not comfortable with.
When Marc announced that he was leaving, I saw George (head of our sister department, ANG) talking to Golden Boy about “new responsibilities.” For the first time in my life, I sought out to sabotage someone’s promotion. This was a particularly easy trial run at the slit-throat pracitce. I basically alerted the ladies currently in the ANG QA and told them who their next coworker might be. They stood ready to make sure that didn’t happen. It didn’t. It looks like they’re going to leave the position unfilled.
I breathed a sigh of relief until I found out that he was getting new responsibilities. My boss Willard’s deputy Jarvis left a couple months ago and they never filled his position. I sent an email to Willard inquiring and, to no great surprise, he said that they were going to leave it be. That lasted about a month until they were reminded why Jarvis’s old position was created to begin with. Much to my consternation, Golden Boy Clem was tapped to replace him.
Jarvis was Willard’s deputy over report creation, not report quality assurance, so technically Jarvis was not my boss once I made the transition to QA and therefore Clem would not be, either. They also changed the position up so that it did not include a raise anymore (this seems to happen a lot around here. replacements are chosen with added job duties and given less prestige and money). I commented to Simon a while back that Clem was likely to leapfrog both us - this was the first step to that happening. With this raise, he was both a natural successor if Willard or George were to move on. It also opened to doors to a number of possibilities. Though I gather Simon has resigned himself to this sort of thing, I was left with an itch in the pit of my stomach as I watched it all unfold.
My anger at the situation was two-fold. First it was that Clem was now in a better position for greener pastures than was the more deserving Simon and that this was completely unearned. Clem is and always has been a low performer and one of the reasons he was moved over to OSI from ANG to begin with was personality clash with the all-female department. But the problem is assumed to be elsewhere because he’s a Good Soldier. He has this aura of competency and friendliness that is extremely hard to puncture. Willard, one of the most fair-minded people I know, expressed shock when I pointed him out as an underachiever.
Then he started making excuses for him.
I don’t know what disappointed me more when Clem was tapped for Jarvis’s position, that Clem was getting an undue promotion or that Willard could be so obtuse. Willard caught wind of the discontent and pulled Simon and I into a meeting to assure us that Clem has been given no managerial control and that he’s a process manager, not a manager of personnel. It helped to know that he wasn’t oblivious to our criticisms. But while it was good to know that he was more on top of the situation than I had expected, I still believed that he was making a huge tactical error. He’s letting Clem believe that he’s getting more out of this than he is.
I’ve been in groups before that have had “unofficial” leaders that had arisen by default where they never could have done so formally. When their weaknesses inevitably rise, it can be darn near impossible to wrest control away from them. They want to know why it’s so important that we stress that they aren’t leader, and then later they get upset that we don’t trust their guidance, and to the extent that we give in on the first couple even a little, he wonders why we won’t give him the title that he’s earned. It’s a constant struggle and I hate every minute of it. And I could see this happening with Clem.
Sure enough, late last week it came to a hilt. The conversation went something like this:
Clem: Marty, you can’t leave until this is finished.
Willard: Can I talk to you for a minute?
Willard: You need to ask, not tell, people what they can do.
Clem: Well it has to get done because blah blah blah blah…
Willard: Look, you just told him he can’t leave until he’s done, but you don’t have the authority to approve overtime, much less mandate it.
Clem: But I need that authority to do my job.
Willard: You job is to process requests, answer account manager questions about where requests are, and make sure everyone has enough work to do. Your job is to assign work, not oversee its completion.
Clem: You’re splitting hairs.
Willard: No, I’m not. One job function makes you responsible for things getting done and gives you the powers to assume that responsibility. The other doesn’t and doesn’t. We’ve been over this.
Clem: But if you’re not here, someone has to take charge.
Willard: Except that I am… right… here… and,
Clem: But what about when you’re not?
Willard: Let’s go talk about it in the conference room.
The subtext of Clem’s tone was “Why can’t you just give me what I want?!”
It was pretty obvious that Clem was fishing for the official title of number two. And so the process had reached fruition. He was using a position that seemed like authority to gain actual authority, just as Simon and I had guessed he would. Just as I’ve seen before. This tug of war has been happening ever since. Whenever I gave him some actual report creation work to correct, he complained about having to go back and forth. I also believe that he asked Willard for control of the database that I’m working on. Willard did not grant it, but he’s coming up with something similar for ANG (similar in the sense that it accomplishes the same ends, dissimilar in that his is laughably crude and my obscenely complicated).
And it’s been the tug of war I feared it would be. For a couple days after his “talk” with Willard, Clem was much more gracious. But then when I gave him back a FAIL he complained about having to go back and forth between his roles and then went to Willard to complain that I was grading him too toughly (truth be told, in other circumstances I might have corrected it myself, but the mistake could have been caught and fixed before it even got to me had he run a test print like he was supposed to - and this wasn’t the first time he made that error).
A long while back I was told that my smoking was going to come in the way of me and a promotion someday. In the abstract, I don’t really even have a problem with that. I’m not going to be here long enough for it to matter, really. But in the here and now it is driving me crazy. Not entirely for myself, either.
What’s particularly frustrating is that while I don’t have a future with Falstaff (because I won’t be in Deseret a year from now), others around here do. The thought of Clem passing over Simon makes me indignant. Not only Simon but Melvin the Prodigy, ten times the employee that Clem is, may too get passed over. Because they’re not of the right faith and because they don’t play The Game. One of the things I really liked about this company is how little attention it seemed to play to the schmoozing game.
The amount of hostility I feel towards him surprises even me. There are people there that I would consider less moral and even less self-righteous than Clem. Don’t get Marty Ross talking about Mac computers or Melvin Giles about Firefox. Yeah, it’s different, but seriously I would rather discuss religion and politics with Clem than I would computers with Marty or Mel. His personality grates on me less than others, objectively speaking. But I guess it’s all about context. It’s all about where the rubber meets the road. It’s Clem and people like Clem that make it difficult for non-Mormons to live and work in this state outside it’s urban capital. In an environment where Clem prospers, for reasons religious and mostly not, people like me don’t.
Simon, a lapsed Mormon, commented once that the LDS was the perfect marriage of Religion and Corporation. In one fell swoop, Clem has come to embody what I dislike about both.