Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Thought Picnic: Gentlemanly conduct still matters all the time

The setting in which we find ourselves
On the sacking of Rex Tillerson as the US Secretary of State by President Donald Trump, I can reflect on an episode in my own life just a year ago. I was into my fourth year at the same organisation, where after a stint of two years I was invited back to work on another project.
When I was leaving the first time in 2016, every manager I had worked for and there were 4 by then, one on the verge of leaving the firm had the courtesy to meet with or call me, even from South Africa to thank me for the work I had done.
When I was invited back, I acquired other managers, intermediary and direct who I worked well with until a reorganisation led to my having a new manager instituted over me. For some reason or another, apart from the introductions, we never got on to a smooth start.
It was not working for me at all
For the six months that I worked for him, he did not appear to have any confidence in any I did, I was constantly asked if I knew what I was doing rather than being given the support, encouragement and backing to do the sometimes critical jobs I needed to do.
On many occasions, I was not accorded the formality or structure of understanding the direction in which he wanted to lead the team, rather, my roles, responsibilities and work activity were changed without notice, without communication and frequently learnt about through third parties.
My workplace in the space of half a year became a place of disillusionment and unhappiness as every attempt to engage my manager yielded no appreciable result. Then, one Thursday morning, it came to a head where after undercutting my influence in a change that was primarily under my control, I had literally been reduced from designing systems to shifting boxes.
In the 29th year of my working in IT in various levels of expertise and reporting to middle and top-tier personnel, the conversation in conference came down to macho talk as to whether I was going to do what I had been instructed to do or not. That for me was the very last straw that broke the back of the camel burdened with indignity and disrespect. I handed in my phone and badge and walked out of that job. I was done.
I handed in a formal notice the next day explaining the reasons for my leaving and received no acknowledgement nor compliment, I had become a nobody to him.
Maybe some of us are too old-fashioned for modernity
There are many things I have encountered in my working life and what least impresses me of everything kind of attitude is the occasional lack of courtesy and disrespect that some people in management seem to have a natural expression of their personality that they have apparently never learnt is bad or just think is normal.
As someone brought up in a somewhat old-fashioned style of comportment, decorum and formality, in address, dress, communication and interaction, it does affect me, if those graces are absent.
It is such a grace that was absent from the way in which Donald Trump dispensed of Rex Tillerson by the deployment of a tweet. Rex Tillerson was once the head of the world’s largest publicly traded oil company.
Gentlemanly conduct still matters all the time
The very least Donald Trump should have done if he ever were a gentleman, which in my mind he never was despite the money he has, the kitschy possessions, the company he keeps and the way he presents, should have been to meet Rex Tillerson face-to-face and inform him of his intention to fire him.
To have done that with a tweet is utterly discourteous and disrespectful to Rex Tillerson, but it says much more about Donald Trump, he is crude, he is not cultured, badly brought and definitely not a gentleman.
You do not sack one of most senior members of your team without meeting them and having a chat to them, but it is sad that these basic elements of courtesy are disappearing from our communication, we are deserting the cultured for the uncouth and accepting that development as the norm. I can’t, I won’t and where such persists, I would neither tolerate nor accept it.
When a man decides I am nobody’s boy
It spoke volumes that when Rex Tillerson gave a final public address to his department, he never once mentioned Donald Trump nor thanked him for the privilege of being asked to serve his country and many noticed.
Rex Tillerson did not need to be the US Secretary of State, he was not being promoted beyond his capabilities that he needed to have fealty and obeisance in deep gratitude to Donald Trump, he was his own man, not a yes man.
There is no doubt that Donald Trump is attracted to two kinds of people working for him, those given positions they are neither competent nor capable of that they just step in not believing their luck for opportunities they never earned and that comes with serious issues, the others are stars and the successful in their professions that he taps in order to be able to brag that he can get the best people to work for him.
These stars or trophies owe Donald Trump nothing and eventually, there would be friction when whatever they do does not feed The Donald’s ego or when disagreement on issues gets taken personally for a president so insecure and constantly found defending himself caught in the warp of an impostor syndrome.
Sometimes, you have to jump first
It could be said that the smarter person would never consider the idea of working for a garrulous, truculent and immature person like Donald Trump, but sometimes a greater call is made of you and you almost begin to believe that you can contribute, for Rex Tillerson, he probably should have walked away a while ago, jumped before he was pushed.
I had that inkling too, for all that I had already done, it was very likely I would have been pushed when my contract came up for renewal in a few months then, I decided, rather than suffer that indignity, I would jump at my own choosing and it was the right decision.


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