Sunday, June 25, 2006

THE FAINT AROMA OF SOUR GRAPES

At one time or another, most of us have been passed over for a job we really, really wanted. Not something that we thought would have been a nice opportunity, but something that fell squarely into the "my whole life I have been praying for this kind of chance to prove myself" category.

It's one thing to be passed over for some other candidate who's equally qualified -- or, gasp, better qualified. But what about when someone gets tapped who, in your opinion, would be a disaster in that position for the company?

In other words, to quote a reader in New York: "What do you owe your employer if they've made a decision that was not in your favor and which you think will serve them poorly?"

A friend of the reader's was being considered for a foreign assignment to train new employees. The company chose someone else who, according to the friend, has poor people skills, including impatience and general rudeness.

"Presumably the managers considered all angles of all the candidates before making their choices," my reader writes. "But I wonder if people like my friend owe it to their companies to raise their concerns."

The reader feels that the answer is "maybe," but she can't see a graceful way to do it.

"More important, is there anything to be gained at this point by being candid?" she asks. "I fear it will make my friend look petty and her bosses feel defensive."

Her friend is inclined not to say anything, thinking that it would probably come off as sour grapes. My reader agrees that it's far safer at this point to let the issue go, "but I'm not sure if it's the right thing."

My reader's concern over her friend's professional well-being is well-intentioned. And it's only natural for her friend to feel righteous indignation after a poor choice has been made in filling the spot she really wanted.

But is she obligated to alert her bosses to the damaging character traits in her colleague who got the job? No.

She's right in assuming that it would be difficult for her bosses not to register her concerns as sour grapes, but that in itself doesn't outweigh her duty as an employee to defend her employer's interests. Even if she feared being seen as biased, it would be her duty to come forward if she knew something factual about the colleague that her employers did not, something that truly might put the company in a perilous position -- for example, "She killed a man in Reno once, just to watch him die."

There is no factual issue here, however. This is essentially a judgment call -- "A is too rude to be right for this job" -- and, to be fair, it would be hard even for the employee to be sure that there wasn't some self-interest in her own feelings on this issue. Absent specific, compelling information previously unknown to her employers, there is therefore no obligation for the employee to come forward.

The friend's concerns are, after all, ones that her bosses should have uncovered in interviewing the candidate. If they missed these aspects of the candidate's personality, they did a lousy job in the screening process. It is not up to my reader's friend to set them straight on how bad a pick they've made.

It's equally likely, however, that after weighing their choice'sstrengths and weaknesses the bosses decided that, in spite of a reputation for lapsing into rudeness, that person was best suited for the assignment.

The right thing for my reader's friend to do is to trust her own instincts and let the matter lie. If their pick turns out to be the disaster she anticipates, the bosses will find out soon enough and,hopefully, take full responsibility for making a poor choice.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a good one! As long as job opportunities are gotten based on another human being, this kind of choice will always be made. The advice I give is to network and get to know where the REAL influences are. Just being good without support is not going to work. I have learn this from experience. However, once you have it, be the BEST, because this is what will sustain you! Those who are uncapable eventually fall by the wayside!

ECS said...

I on the whole concur both with Jeffrey's analysis and the comments of my fellow comment poster.

However, I think it is disengenuous to pretend that corporate decisions are truly made based only on the ideals of "who is truly best for this position." (I also wonder of the "fried" is the questioner. Usually. this is the case!)

As my fellow commentator more astutely points out, getting picked for a position in the politic culture that is corporate America, being best is not enough.

I suppose there is a place for analysis based on how things are "supposed to be" but let's don't pretend they ARE that way. They're not. Ms. Rude most likely got the job in part due to positioning. If Ms. Not Chosen is really ideal for the job, s/he can keep aiming for it... but she's best also position herself!

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Seglin:

I agree with your conclusions in this case, but I think
that the analysis of the situation may be off the mark.

Here is a situation where an employee with "poor people
skills, including impatience and general rudeness" has
been given a "foreign assignment".

The assumption by your reader's friend, and by you, that
the managers used the company's bottom line as their
criteria for this selection is suspect, in my view.

They got rid of a jerk, passing him on to some other
managers far away.

Perhaps the friend was retained at her
location because she has good people skills and is
not rude and impatient.

Maybe, too, the person assigned to this job did not
consider it highly desirable, and it might be a ploy
to get him to resign.

I think your reader's friend could position herself
for the next such opening by letting her managers
know that she'd enjoy such an assignment
herself and by asking what skills would be good to
develop against a future possibility. Perhaps her
co-worker who received the assignment possessed
some critical skill making the assignment rational
in spite of his deficits.

Cordially,

Ed V.
Newport Beach California

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Seglin:

I am retired from a company I was with for Thirty-five years. And I have seen this happen numerous times. The people that made the decision to promote will not recognize that they promoted a "Thunderhead", for it would make them look bad. So they either promote them again to get rid of them or try to hide them somewhere. To bad for these companies for I have talked to others that have seen the same thing.

sun_snow said...

Well, as well all know, recruiting is not an exact science. I wish it was, but let's face it, we as humans, are individuals, and g-d created us as such.

That is the beauty of us all.

As we know, this employer, may have not have made a mistake or error in judgment, but other influences or factors that none of us know were in "play". Nonetheless, we also all know that no matter what, we can not just fire someone nowdays...unless their was some gross injustices that was caused by this employee.
(Probably lose of money, but in which case, if this employee is over the age of 48-beware)

I would suggest to the person that they can complain all they want, but unless they can prove, without a doubt, that this person did not belong in this job, so be it.

Look for another job...if they are unhappy. I know, if this is not feasible, then keep a log of complaints or whatever, and next time reviews come up, present this to the higher beings to be, and show why you should be promoted.

There is so much grey area here, that there is truly no right or wrong answer...just do your best, and for me...no matter what..you will win!

Is employer responsible for expense if I might leave?

Every couple of years, Lil (not her real name, but let's call her "Lil") has to renew her professional license with her s...