Wednesday, December 29, 2004

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Bomb

I have a tough boss. Well, I have two bosses. One is easy-going and one is tough. The work I do for the easy-going boss is much more interesting and engaging, and the work I do for the tough boss isn't all that interesting. I've been slowly figuring out how to automated that job and delegate it to volunteers to where there isn't much of it to do. The problem is, there still is some thing I have to do myself. And while I'm somewhat of a creative guy, the job calls for subjective creativity. And my boss considers himself to be a much more creative guy. He uses a Mac, even.

But he's a tough guy to work for. He often brings his personal life to work with him and days like that you hope that there's a colleague who's better positioned to take the brunt of it. You feel for them, but you're thankful it's not you. But, sometimes it is you.

And then one day, I stopped caring. And suddenly, the job has gotten so much better, and my working relationship with my boss has improved so much. In the end, do I really care where the picture is placed or how big or small the picture is? Is that really being creative? No, not really. Do I take it personally when he wants the picture somewhere else, or resized? Should I feel personally criticized? I made a bad choice? I used to think so. I used to get so frustrated, that my input wasn't being valued and my abilities weren't being respected.

But on that one day, something happened. The scales fell from my eyes and suddenly it all became clear to me. I would never be respected for that job. I could work really hard and be disappointed when I was overruled. I could push back because in the end I knew that I knew better. And I could further incur his wrath. Worse yet, once he was on a roll, I could expect to get even more "notes" on things not even related to the current project. Change requests to things he had approved, or even come up with in the first place.

But in that bright and shining moment, I realized that none of it mattered. It was part weasel, part ephiphany. But if I didn't push back, I let him get his own way, and occasionally commented that his changes were a good idea, suddenly my day was no longer destined to be insufferable. I could affect change that benefitted all my colleagues. I could allow the man to feel like he was getting his way and making things happen.

Ah, it was a thing of beauty. Suddenly, I had a receptive ear to suggest new things, and was even able to push through some of my own initiatives and prove that I could handle the task and actually make his life easier.

Jeff Rowe would have been so proud of me. Jeff Rowe was a former boss. He taught me so much, but I was so young, so green that he must have often bit his tongue. The last time I talked to him was my last day at Warner Bros. I can't remember why, but for some reason, he called the day I got laid off. He was the one that encouraged me to end my career at UltimateTV, but thanks to his contacts, work we had done with Warner Bros. was what allowed me to jump there. Warner Bros. afforded me a great opportunity to manage people and I think I did a decent job there and I really miss managing a team. Part of my quick rise, though, didn't give me enough opportunities to be a grunt. I'm not thrilled being a grunt, but there are some great interpersonal skills to be learned there. Sometimes I feel it's more about learning to be a weasel and to stroke people's egos, but I figure as long as I keep a really strong work ethic -- work hard, put in an honest day's work, and try to do more than earn a paycheck, actually better the company I work for -- then sucking up, ego-stroking and not taking things personally can just become extra tools in my arsenal.
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