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Congratulations. . .I Think

January 17, 2014

I should be happy, right? I should be thrilled that someone who had worked for me was doing well? So why wasn’t I?

Mark was a great engineer, a great employee, but he lacked the experience on how to get promoted in a large company. That wasn’t a problem. When I became his manager we created a plan. I made sure he got a chance to work on high profile projects and that the rest of the department, especially the managers understood his contributions. He in turn, did great work and increased his visibility. I’ve always considered this one of the most important roles that a manager plays. I’m supposed to be able to help my team, many of whom are developers or engineers, to navigate the corporate political structure. And I was good at it. It was especially easy when I was working with great employees like Mark.

Aside from his political inexperience, Mark’s biggest liability was that, like many people, Mark was a terrible speller. As he increased his visibility he ended up sending more emails that went to a wider group of employees and managers. A typo, especially a misspelled word really stuck out. I worked with Mark to setup automatic spellcheck in Outlook, and I occasionally proofread his emails before they went out.

Our plan was a success. Eight months after I got put in charge of Mark’s team, he was promoted. I was thrilled for him. I knew how hard he had worked for that promotion and more importantly, how much he deserved it.

Fast forward a couple of years and we’ve gone our separate ways. Mark went to work for a Health Care provider in their IT department. And then I got laid off. It’s not the worst thing in the world. Work in IT long enough and you too will probably get laid off a time or two. But, the economy was struggling at that time and the job market was slow. As weeks turned into months, I continued to keep in contact with my support network. This included Mark, of course. In fact, he recommended me for a position in his company. I would have been his boss. Like so many interviews during that time, they decided I wasn’t the right fit.

And then I saw a LinkedIn update from Mark. LinkedIn sends out a notification to all your contacts when you get a new job.

Mark has a new Job. Send him a congratulation email.

Mark’s new job is Vice President of Domestic Techology

I should be happy right? I should be thrilled that I helped move his career along.

VP? Really?

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to work through. I had to sit down and really look at not just how I felt about Mark and his new job, but how I felt about my career. Was I right to choose a management track several years earlier? Should I have stayed on the engineer track? Should I try to go back to the engineer track? Would I be okay working for Mark if he has an opening? How much of my enthusiasm for coaching my team is a result of the fact that I outrank them on the corporate org chart? Am I that guy?

Ultimately I decided I was okay with Mark’s new status. I was more than okay, I was excited for him. I could honestly say that I was fine with my career decision to move into management. And so I decided I didn’t begrudge Mark in the least. He deserved it. And I wrote him an email and told him that.

I also pointed out that he had misspelled “Techology” and he probably wanted to change that.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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