Monday, July 08, 2013

Hopscotch - pt 3

So, what I mentioned earlier about having the ability to learn about people and how to deal with their particular traits.  In this case, Greg is a perfect example.  Greg is what I call a benign curmudgeon.  I've dealt with him off and on for the last 20+ years.  Other people, when they hear his name (he has a distinct last name) say, "Greg, yeah...I think I've worked with him, but I can't be sure."  When we say "worked with" around here, we mean that we had some issue and maybe spoke to him over the phone for a total of 30 minutes. 

When I showed up in my new group, some people asked me who I was working with.  I said I would be taking over for Greg, after a transition.  One said, "Yeah, Greg.  I haven't seen him around for a while.  I think he was sick or something."

Hmmm.  Okay, this is something managers are forbidden to tell you about anyway.  However, in regards to manager, I learned from Ted that he wasn't leaving for a different division of the company.  What happened was his boss, the second tier manager, was leaving to take a different job.  And the second tier management job was offered to Ted.  Of course Ted jumped at the offer.  This performance area is considered a fairly prestigious area, with a lot of long time professionals who don't leave and rarely rock the boat.

One thing I learned about working with Greg was that he had been working this project by himself for the last 3 years.  The project is pretty complex.  But, decisions from above decided that his work wouldn't be published.  That meant that he wasn't under pressure to publish his results, but it also meant that no glory would be shined on his work.  He got little or no recognition because it was always "Greg's working on that thing that's not going to be seen publicly."  He was a bit tired of toiling in the shadows and wanted a change of pace.  But there's another thing I learned about Greg.  For about 1 year, of those 3 years, he had been dealing with a benign brain tumor at the base of his skull.  He showed me a slight divot where they took out the golf-sized tumor out the back of his head, where the neck starts.  So in a way, working on a non-pressured project was good for him.

But.  Having had a tumor scare like that, understandably, changed Greg's outlook on life and work.  It was important to get things done at work, of course, but he no longer put in the long hours and worked weekends like I still did (we'd both been at the company for over 20 years).  And in fact, in the morning (I typically arrive at the office at 7:30), I wouldn't see Greg "on" our internal chat program until 9:30 or 10:00.  And then, sometimes he would take 3 hour lunches.  He would leave for lunch and I couldn't find him until 2:30 or 3:00.

Okay, well the key thing was that he wasn't trying to blow me off.  He was just not going to stress out about rushing back to work and thinking about it 12 hours a day like I sometimes do.

And this is where I have to look at the situation and handle it with a bit of delicacy.  First, Greg was his own team for 3 years.  Now, I'm coming in and taking over.  And when I say, "Hey, why is this setup so odd?"  He would sigh and say, "Yeah, it's on my list of to-do's.  I just haven't found the time or excitement to get to it.".  Now, I was the defacto team lead.  But you can't order a brain tumor survivor to "DO IT NOW!".  You have to encourage or tease him into doing things with just a bit of urgency he didn't have before.

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