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Epic Office Politics

Holidays focuses the crazy in my family, but I'm used to crazed holidays. I work in the food service industry after all. These last few years at work have seemed abnormal. The insanity has been spinning round faster and faster and I don't know if it's because of the Internet or because of Obama or its El Nino or possibly even the presence of the Great Satan - Gluten. I have a pet theory that it's mostly due to overpopulation. Too many rats in the cage; that sort of thing. Or it could be a top down, management leadership sort of thing. That old chestnut.

The big off kilter thing that's happened this past holiday season was that my immediate supervisor, T, the Assistant Director, got himself fired under mysterious circumstances that I'll likely never have all the details about, but can pretty much guess. He was a great manager and a fun guy; we shared musical/film/TV tastes. We even hung out sometimes. He did a lot for my work place and for me. But his Achilles heel was avoiding confrontation, playing favorites, and being one of the biggest flirting horn dogs I've ever seen. He was also a big proponent of nepotism - he hired his wife and two sons within 6 months of being hired himself. How did all of this unprofessional behavior go on unchecked? Well, his boss, The Director, (and ostensibly mine also) chose to look the other way because T made himself nearly indispensible. At least to his/my boss. T did all the niggling things his boss didn't want to do, thus freeing him up to move onward and upward in the executive chain of command. Moving up that ladder and becoming the big boss involves, near as I can tell, delegating all tedious work to your underlings and spending your days shuttling between committee meetings. Small colleges seem to be big on committees. At least the one I work at is. The committees don't actually have to accomplish much or anything at all; they're just an integral part of the small, liberal arts college infrastructure and social lifeblood.

But I digress.

T. was also great at picking the low hanging fruit of operational problems, but he pretty much hit a wall once all of the easy stuff was done and things got....hard. His HR skills were mediocre at best. This combined with the nepotism, favoritism, horn doggishness, and avoidance eventually combined into an HR train wreck of epic proportions. In the end, T's sexy texts to a young married mother of two under his supervision were discovered by her husband who promptly took the texts straight to the home office where our brand new corporate HR director had a small stroke before summoning T and his boss to a termination meeting overseen by the CEO and one of the VPs of the company. I got caught up in the malestrom when T was called out of a meeting with students we were both facilitating. I finished the meeting without him and went looking for him only to find him in our office trying to explain to his irate wife that the texts the angry husband had just shown to her before he jetted out to the home office were, in fact, no big deal. Uncomfortable doesn't even begin to cover that situation.

This whole debacle didn't come to a head quickly or in plain view. It developed over the course of about three years during which T became bolder and more confident in his behavior once he realized his boss, The Director, was totally in his pocket. The Director is a "no news is good news" sort of guy which is perfect for a guy like T who had near total control of the narrative. Many, many people came to the Director with concerns. There was even a time when T. was forced to explain himself to all of the supervisors in turn that, in fact, there wasn't anything going on between him and another married employee under his supervision. Once the official explanations were handed out along with T's wife's stamp of approval "I know my husband and he would never...." that whole incident was forgotten and we moved on and things got quiet. No news is good news. But only for about 18 months when it all happened again.
              And the two women involved/vicitmized? Divorced with custody agreements. T is working for one of our suppliers now. His wife and kids are still working for us. The Director is still here (much to my confused speculation). T's replacement starts on Monday and it's been disseminated to the whole staff that there's a new sheriff in town. And we all know what that means. Meanwhile, The Director's calendar is booked up with meetings, conference calls and webinars. No news is good news.

A personal epilogue to the whole T debacle:

Towards the end of T's tenure, when things were getting pretty weird, I let it be known to T that I wasn't happy with his favoritism, etc. and that he should be very careful or he could lose his job. I did this after he traded a weekend with me so he could take his wife to a U of M football game. Turns out he didn't take her. He took the employee he was focused upon instead. Her husband had people out looking for her because she had "disappeared" and he had had to leave the kids with relatives while he made his shift at work. I knew this, but didn't discuss it with him. I merely told him he was treading on thin ice. Not a threat - just a heads up. This was a tactical mistake. My yearly review was a few weeks later and it turned out to be one of the worst ones I've ever had. I know it was because I called T on his bullshit. I'm in the process of getting that report expunged from my file, along with anything else T put in there - nothing he did HR wise should have any credibility whatsoever.



Feb. 21st, 2016 07:56 am (UTC)
Wow--that is quite a turn of events.

I am continually surprised that in this day and age people don't know better, and don't know that someone is always reading something somewhere.

You comment on committees is spot on.