expectations vs reality

the other day i was talking with a friend about expectations, how we believe that a job well done will be compensated based on performance. we bust our asses meeting deliverables, wiggling through knotholes, fighting fires our leadership has set due to poor planning, and when the time comes for promotion or bonus, we are told, “this is the best we could do” and the expected response is gratitude.

we also find that another less qualified colleague is “asked to take on a more senior role” a euphemism for “this person will be your new manager. you will train him (or possibly her) so that he will be successful.” we sit across from our managers face impassive as they explain why “harry” is the candidate they chose to lead the team and how they appreciate all that we do and really value our contribution to the business.  i’m not sure that the word exists to define or describe this systematic devaluation of talent. personnel who have proven, documented demonstrations, of their ability to influence, lead, deliver and yet they are passed over continually for promotion or tipped during review cycles.

in college we are admonished to attend class, take notes and study, and that will lead to performing well on the exam and earning the grade. for the most part, that is accurate. performance is based solely on input. sadly, what we did for four, six, or eight years does not hold true in corporate america. there is no preparation for this stark reality that results have differing levels of valuation.

corporations do not follow the academic profile of the “success path,” rather corporations have hidden, unwritten, covert codes that require a secret decoder ring like one finds in a box of Cap’n Crunch Cereal. to be successful in corporate america means to find that ring, the unwritten rule book, or to outshine your peers.


built into the fabric of every corporation for which i’ve worked is mediocrity and incompetence and both are rewarded.  people who have not demonstrated capability to lead are groomed for managerial positions, and overwhelmingly (in my experience) they are white males. i once met a woman who had aspirations to become an operations director. she asked for guidance on how to prepare for the role and was told she needed to become a lean six sigma black belt. that effort alone is about 18 months, not to mention to expense.  there are only a few black belts in the department and only one who holds the title she seeks, yet for some reason that is the mountain she must climb.  meanwhile three white men have been hired into the same position sans the lean six sigma black belt credential.

our mismatched expectations lead to disappointment. we are the wall against which they prop their ladder and climb above us to greater heights. these are simple truths of corporate america. a rule must exist requiring each department to have a set number of slugs, people who move as slowly as winter leaving the Northeast. people for whom urgency is a misnomer until a free lunch is served.


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