Saturday, May 08, 2010

Gravy Train

One of the most commonplace workplace complaints is about A doing the work B is too lazy, incompetent, unwilling or some combination thereof to do. It would be tolerable if it ended at that even if A was not officially expected to do any of this and instead B was. But rarely if ever is the story that simple. Someone higher up (C) that both A and B report to will make it seem it it was really A's job to begin with and that B was expected merely to provide direction and commentary. B's deficiencies end up working as their advantage.

In effect, C is implying that B is supervising A's work. The ineffective and incompetent peer is being at least symbolically promoted over the deserving one. Unless A challenges this narrative and refuses to have reality spoken out loud and acknowledged, that becomes the official version. In six months, B will get promoted over A for having provided leadership. The obvious irony of the situation would have escaped everyone except A.

I used to imagine that this kind of problem is the exclusive preserve of full time employees and that consultants were somehow immune to it. Recently, I had that notion dispelled. When I became a threat to an expensive consultant's gravy train, he acted like a B with me being the A and our common client being C. I also used to imagine that silly stuff like this did not bother me and I left work behind at the parking lot - that I found out was not entirely true either.

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