Susan--you don't call her Sue or Susie--is one of those unsung people who keep an organization running smoothly. You know someone like her. The person whose hard work and dedication allows executives to sit in their corner offices and feel that they are dynamic leaders, or at least (as in my case) that things are going along reasonably well. She's a good manager, a no-nonsense type who's a perfect fit for her job of building our budget and making sure that there are no unpleasant surprises in our expense reports. The fact that she also strives diligently to have good working relationships with everyone makes her a treasure.
It's unusual for Susan to complain or to ask for help. She prides herself on doing her job well, and I suspect she thinks it's a sign of weakness not to be able to solve her own problems. So I was a little surprised when she came into my office and closed the door. It was obvious that she was quite upset. In short order I learned that Kratmeyer, our less-than-esteemed head of International Operations, had just raked her over the coals. It seems that the great man had summoned Susan because he was questioning the total cost of one of our infrastructure projects and, dissatisfied with her answers, wanted her to prepare a thorough analysis of the details so that "his people" could check over her numbers. He also wanted to see the vendor contracts Susan had helped to negotiate so that they could be "reviewed by business professionals." When Susan told him that Gornish, our CFO, had been an intimate part of the process, Kratmeyer exploded at her, telling her not to question him and that he had never understood why I trusted her in the first place. Now she was asking me how she should handle the situation.
After thinking for a moment, I responded that I'd take care of it. I said I would first alert Gornish that Kratmeyer wanted a third review (his own) of the numbers. Next, I would call Kratmeyer and tell him he was out of line for criticizing her and that if he had any problem with her work to talk to me instead of picking on someone who can't easily fight back. Finally, I would comment that if he wanted to waste time on looking over stuff that had been vetted by IT and Finance instead of selling products, that was his choice, but I thought it was foolish.
Susan looked both relieved and depressed. In a frustrated tone, she said, "I don't understand it. I've never given him any cause to dump on me, and yet he does it every time he can. Why? What did I ever do to deserve this type of treatment from him?"
I sighed. "Kratmeyer is one of those people who believes that his opinion is truth revealed. He doesn't need a reason to dislike someone. He thinks his initial gut feel is the same thing as logic and insight. Then he comes up with all sorts of reasons as to why he's right. Kratmeyer calls it superior business intuition, but normally it's just a selective search for data to support his own predetermined point of view."
"Throwing your weight around because you can isn't right," she said, "and making up your mind about people without looking at the facts is rotten business judgment. Anyway, thanks. I feel a lot better."
With that, she got up to leave, and I picked up the phone to call Gornish.
Herbert W. Lovelace shares his experiences as CIO of a multibillion-dollar international company (changing most names, including his own, to protect the guilty). Send him E-mail at email@example.com.
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