Back in the captain’s chair

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Warning! This is not a blog post about writing or any of my current projects, even though NaNoWriMo has kicked off. It’s about life in general. I could have posted this on www.bakedgoodsandbourbon.com , but it didn’t feel like the right vibe for it. So here it is.

Today, I went to work as a ‘boss’ again. Not the boss, and not the chair I left just over a year ago, which is a position I still hold in high regard and sorely miss. There are so many ways the new situation is different from the last. First off, I’ve got a much smaller team, and that team isn’t really in my full charge. I’m more of a lead, I think. Further, I don’t have a budget and the constraints I have in terms of direction and strategy are far more restrictive. I can’t really see past February, strategically speaking. As part of the new gig, I’ve got a shiny new office that’s larger than any office I’ve ever had before. I feel like a solitary pea rolling around in a big unfriendly can.

This all started coming together some weeks ago and has been in motion for months. Even after I was given the new title and a modest pay-rise, the whole thing remained in limbo. Even right now, I’m still not really sure I understand why, but I have some guesses. Even in my new spot, with my new badge, there are still irregularities that have me assuming I’ll be bumped back to my cube by next week. In truth, this ‘boss’ thing doesn’t change much, it’s the same situation I had last week excepting that I now have authority to directly delegate and assign tasks. I don’t know that my authority extends beyond that, and that’s okay, but it gives the whole thing a different flavor.

Tuesday this week was a hard day because it was the first day I’d taken up residency in my new office. I’m going to be honest. That didn’t go well. The space has been vacant for a year, and was beginning to attract a lot of attention. There also happens to be a certain emotional attachment some folks have to the place because of it’s previous occupant, whom they all liked very well. To complicate things further, I am nearly the most junior member of my larger group, yet I am among the most seasoned supervisors in their ranks (one of my new team members is, I think, perhaps as experienced in this realm or possibly more.) In any case, just moving into the office seems to have lobbed a political hot-potato over an already uneasy fence. If rumors are true, and I suspect they are, that potato was more of a dirty bomb, and I still have yet to see the full effects of the poison. My least favorite comment started with, and yes this happened, “Don’t Take it personally but…”

I took it personally.

It may be the person who said those words even reads this blog, and will be offended, but frankly I’m not certain I care, I see it as the height of unprofessionalism to waltz into someone’s office, someone who heartily believes he has done what needs to be done to demonstrate the best possible qualities necessary to do the job, and tell them they should not be there. Regardless of who you’re mad at, that’s personal.

I made it through the day, did what needed to be done, spoke to one of my new team-members (she was finally notified of things), though everyone else had to hear it through rumor, which is also going to make life difficult over the coming weeks and months. I made it through the next and into this morning.

Today, I sat down in my chair, fired up my computer and had a visit from the other new team-member. She had finally been told what the plan was, and asked if she was going to be okay with it. She was. For my part, this removes all ambiguity from our working relationship. I have been in a position where I necessarily needed to give tasks, guidance, and make decisions for a few months, but it’s been an odd dance for me not to over-step, as I may have done when I was in my 20s. I now finally get to do that without the reservation of treading on my supervisor’s authority, even if a bit of dancing remains necessary.

By this afternoon, I remembered why it is I enjoy this role. I remembered how being ‘the boss’ give me satisfaction in my job that’s impossible to describe. To be clear, it’s not about taking credit for a project or product, that’s always a ‘we’, it’s not about being in charge for ‘power’, because being a low-level manager is never going to get you that anyhow. To me, it’s about being the guy who helps facilitate the team’s work in a more abstract manner. I like being the guy the team can go to with a question and get a reasonable answer with background, without double-speak or obfuscation, and with certainty that a decision or discussion will not be reversed without a specific explanation, or even the person who isn’t just going to turn a problem about into ‘your problem.’ To me, it’s a good day at work to have a team member come and say – ‘I think we should do it this way,’ and be in a position to respond with. ‘Yes, that’s a good idea, do it.’

Before today, I never felt I had a team in this job. Sure I’m in a team, but they never took to me. Even my most trusted source of information and guidance tells me things like ‘your project is going to fail,’ routinely. This feedback only manages to come across as ‘I like you well enough to be honest, we don’t like you here and really don’t like what you’re up to’ Nothing makes it clearer that you’re in the out-group. So, it feels good to be with a supportive team again, even if the team too small to accomplish even half of what we have ahead of us in the next four months. Sitting in that over-large, unfriendly office where covetous stares challenge me while I sit at my desk, and many co-workers, uncertain of my status, pass awkwardly by, and others who stop in shock realizing the office is no longer empty and possibly available, I am reminded of what it is that makes me smile in the face of a challenge.

If nothing else, this situation is teaching me what I really want out of a career, what really give me motivation when I drop into my seat in the morning. With all that off my chest, I’m off to NaNo!


Photo credit: Tom Mrazek Sit down and watch the world pass by… via photopin (license)

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One thought on “Back in the captain’s chair

  1. Knowing of your turmoil the past few months, I for one am glad you found a place and are starting to gather a team who will help you defend it. Make that office your own!

    Liked by 1 person

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