Thursday, June 21, 2012

An Apology

I've been a District Manager of one sort or another since 2000. Yeah, 12 years with a year where I demoted myself to Store Manager (I didn't think of it as a demotion -- it remains my favorite job, but the cut in pay and responsibilities mean it must have been a demotion.), at the same job. In that time I've learned a lot but I still have a lot to learn. The thing about that, or perhaps more correctly this level of management is that I don't believe I'll ever really know it all.

Sadly, when I started at the position I thought I did. And that's what I'd like to apologize for. To all the employees I had when I first started the job, I'm sorry. In retrospect my direct reports, the store managers directly under me on the org chart all handled me a little differently.

My favorite was Al who, getting tired of me one day, sent me to get lunch when I volunteered to buy, at a restaurant about a million miles away. He later confessed he'd done it specifically to get me out of the store and out of his hair for as long as possible because I was being annoying that day. We laughed about that (after I got over myself and he told me about it) right up until he passed away. He was one of my favorite managers/employees. He taught me the most about my current job when I shut up and listened instead of talking all the time.

Another person, who felt I'd only gotten the job by kissing the ass of my boss at the time and also felt that he should have gotten the job, was less fun in the way he dealt with me. He mostly didn't like anything I did and I could tell... I would, instead of paying attention to him or giving him any credit at all, dig in my heels and be more obstinate and officious and annoying. He, to be honest, put up with my attitude better than I would have in his shoes. It was a situation where in real life had we not been in the work relationship we were, had we just met on the street I think we'd have been friends. He's a good guy. I was just green, and an ass and he's right... he could have done my job and while I, of course still think I should have gotten it... if I hadn't been in his way I'm sure it would have been his and he'd have deserved it.

At one point during my training as a supervisor of supervisors my trainer said to me, "You know what your problem is?" This was NOT an encouraging way to start a drive that would take us in a giant loop around Texas over the next week. He went on, "You talk too much." Later that night we both called the chief of operations for the company, the person who promoted me and delegated my training to him and we both complained that neither of us could work with the other. "He's arrogant, condescending, and you can't tell him anything!" We both said. It was years later, after we'd both became friends that we found out we'd both made the same call and we laughed. I'd said "I'm not arrogant. I'm right." He later agreed that while it was true I was often right I was too smug about it, too insistent on those around me knowing it and that was the problem. He agreed I was as good as I thought I was, but the way I handled it was what was so annoying to everybody around me. I took what he said to heart because I thought he too was good and I really respected his opinion.

So, here we are, years later, and I feel like I'm better at it than I was then. I hope I am at least, and to all those who suffered through the years I was learning, I'm sorry. Thank you for putting up with my being an ass.
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