Career Limiting Moves – Assigning Blame

I worked for a vendor implementation partner in the early part of my career, and oftentimes that meant having to set up a training lab, from unpacking rented PCs and plugging them in to getting a full training environment installed and configured.

This included the operating system (usually Windows NT 4 Workstation or Windows 98), installing all Windows Updates, and Microsoft Office, plus the vendor’s training software. It was easily a four- to six-hour long process per PC, though of course I could parallelise my tasks and set them up at roughly the same time.

One Friday, I was asked to go into the office over the weekend to make sure that around ten machines were ready for a Monday morning training session.

I asked that the PCs be installed with the operating system and Microsoft Office before I got there on Sunday because it would be quite time consuming to do everything from scratch. The person I asked said that they would be done on Saturday, so that I could go in on Sunday and at least enjoy half of my weekend.

Sunday rolled around and in I went, only to find that the PCs were still in their boxes. I was furious, so I phoned a colleague who worked for the vendor to find out why it hadn’t been done. The call went to voice mail, so she had an excellent quality recording, of me saying I was having to work the entire day on Sunday “to fix [redacted]’s f**ckup”.

Classy, right?

On Monday, the boss called me in. This was the managing director, not my immediate boss.

She proceeded to quote back to me my voice message verbatim. While surprised that my colleague had ratted me out, I of course was still upset and suggested that the person didn’t do their job and I was left to sort it out.

She explained to me that whether or not that was the case, the language was totally inappropriate and calling a vendor on the weekend for something that did not constitute an emergency was unprofessional. In any number of scenarios, I could have been fired for my behaviour.

Chastened, I took away several important lessons: it doesn’t matter whose fault something is. The job had to be done, and I was around to do it. Furthermore, it is important never to be caught bad-mouthing someone on the record, no matter how good a relationship you have with a vendor. It will always come back to bite you.

Have your own career limiting story to share? Find me on Twitter using @bornsql.

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