I Am Sorry, LB
Fifteen years ago this month, there was an “incident” at work. I was managing a couple of development teams at a large consulting firm. One of my direct reports was a gentleman who was 25+ years my senior. He had been working at the company since before I learned how to ride a bike. We had scheduled a deployment for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. While it sounds like a strange week to do a deployment, it was for good reason. Our company was going through a name change on January 1st, and our systems needed to be updated to reflect the new name prior to that date, just not “too prior,” if you know what I mean.
My aforementioned direct report was in charge of one of the applications targeted for deployment. There were no enhancements, no bugs to fix. It was simply a “search and replace” exercise. He needed to find instances of the old name—old acronyms, old abbreviations, etc.—and update them to reflect the new name. While it was simple enough, it was laborious nonetheless. Well, he failed to do his part, he got it wrong. I didn’t take kindly to the net effect, the effect being that I and others were going to have to work even more hours during the holiday week to clean up his mess. You see, while it was a simple fix, there were hundreds of locations—lines of code, screens, etc.—that had to be examined to ensure that everything had been updated. It was, to say the least, time consuming.
At 30 years of age, toting a great deal more energy and a significantly smaller filter, I told him how I saw it, this man nearly twice my age. Truthfully, energetically and emphatically. What happened next was not expected. He wept a great deal and he wept for a long time. And when his head arose, he told me that I was a bully. And that I was “just like the rest of the bullies.” A few weeks later, he resigned with a negotiated severance.
For the past fifteen years, I thought it was simple—I was right, he was wrong. In reality, I had half of it right. I was right. But now I also know that he was, too. I was being a bully. All my life, I have stood (and will continue to stand) behind words like integrity, quality, courage and communication, and I know I walk the walk. But maybe, just maybe, a bit of sensitivity might have helped. And when I reflect, as I often do this time of year, on the eleven years since I started Kenway Consulting, I am extremely proud of the integrity, quality, courage and communication that Kenway and I have displayed. But maybe, just maybe, a greater focus on sensitivity and empathy for the roles and views of others should have been emphasized.
Yesterday, a colleague of mine suggested I learn to “live in the grey” a bit more. Message heard. To everyone I’ve negatively impacted with my direct approach, I apologize. I have no regrets about what I said, but I have many regrets about how I said it. I will do better. I promise.
Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to All!