When I was out visiting my brother in Vancouver this past summer he gave me a copy of a book written by the current CTO of Tellus, Ibrahim Gedeon. I finished the book yesterday and thought that it might be interesting to talk about some of the highlights.
The sub-title for the text is “Life Lessons from the workplace as seen by a technology executive” and I would have to say that much of what Ibrahim observed, I have observed as well. Ibrahim’s view is from the inside of a technology giant (Nortel Networks), while my view was from the outside in smaller competitive companies like Mitel and Newbridge. There is no doubt that the political climate at Nortel was orders of magnitude more intense than where I worked, but we seem to have experience the same events from different angles.
What I would like to do in the next series of posts, is quote a passage from his text and provide my view as it relates to the passage. I do encourage you to get a copy of the book and follow along with both perspectives. The book is very reasonably priced and can be found at: http://ijgbooks.com/weeding.html
Most proofs in science start with definitions of things that we know, so before we consider the sections that follow, we need to define “Wanker”. We’ll skip the Wikipedia definition as not quite ready for prime time and proceed to the more PG rated version.
Definition: “Wanker”, British slang for a person that busies himself or herself with no results or gratification for others.
On page 22 Ibrahim writes:
“I hate to beat a dead horse, but Nortel’s continuous knee-jerk belt tightening was the beginning of the end.
I have been around enough of these types of leaders to conclude that their rationale for their decisions and actions are rooted in the sheer desire to save their own skin or ensure they are blameless. They ignore the obvious signs of trouble within the organization. Their efforts, if you can call them that, are typically of no consequence. And the result is managerial inertia, with either nothing being accomplished in spite of executive actions. or nothing being accomplished because nothing is even being seriously attempted among executives who are essentially trying to find a hiding place to wait out the storm. It is when a few iterations of cost cutting imperatives arise that they are often flushed out for what they truly are.
Usually after a few rounds of cost cutting, a number of the executive team members are let go and a number of others leave of their own volition. No doubt some low performers are let go, but often good leaders that want fundamental change and realignment of the organization are also let go or they leave in frustration. The reasons are numerous, but the most popular official explanation is they are not seen as a team player.”
Over this past summer I mentioned to a bunch of the people that I was working with, that I was once told that I was difficult to work with and they couldn’t stop laughing. They couldn’t see how the person they were working with could possibly not be a team player. It was not an easy transition from a management position back to a mobile app developer, but after 8 months of hard work and may hours of “Drinking from the fire hose” I achieved my goal. I understand what Ibrahim is saying though because I have been the victim of wankers.
What Ibrahim does not mention about this unfortunate sequence of events, is that the people in charge can, and often do, cast the person they are trying to get rid of in a bad light. This can make it hard for the person to re-establish their career as they have to prove that their employer was wrong. I call this effect “Poisoning the well”.
So my conclusion is that Wankers walk among us and work beside us. As Ibrahim proceeds through his observations, he helps us to recognize behaviour that can be attributed to wankers, making it possible for us to recognize them. What to do about them however, is a completely separate topic.