An argument over paging space, and who won

There are ways to persuade. Embarrassing those who disagree with you in public isn't one of them, no matter what your opinion of them is.

Dear Bob ...

I have been in the computer business for 30+ years. A couple of years ago I was laid off and found myself unemployed for the first time in my professional life.

The number of specialists who do what I do is an incredibly small number. I interviewed with a company (the interview came down more or less to the last ten minutes of lunch) where the speaker who was doing the hiring started out by saying I was over qualified for the job. I was, but I needed the job. I had been off work for 6 months and had sent out so many resumes I think I owned a small chunk of the USPS.

Their offer was a cut in pay -- 5K (US) but it was reasonably close so I went for it.

I started in on a Monday and it took me all of one day to size up the department. My boss's only purpose in life was to have his pencils sharpened in the morning and no one was allowed to talk to him the rest of the day without an appointment.

His promotion to management was not for his skills but for showing up on time for 10 years. That was how bad it was (I may be giving him too much credit here but I am trying to be fair).

To help you understand the environment: The former idiots who ran the place decided that they did not want to spend 100K on a security product so they wrote themselves one. I had been given orders to get rid of it. The security administrator was an ex-systems type that like to play word games. She would not give me a straight answer to any question. The rest of the department were old farts and were extremely difficult to work with.

A couple of months later the DB people told my boss they needed more paging space, so I ran reports. They indicating that we had plenty of space (typical 40 percent used) but the DB people insisted they needed more. When asked why, their retort was, "Well we said so."

I went to the boss and asked whether we should give it to them or not. He would not give me a yes or no answer for anything. So I did nothing.

Then we got called into a meeting with the big bosses (without knowing why the meeting was being held). The first sentence was "Why can't the DB get more paging space?"

I looked straight at my boss and I said because he didn't authorize it. You should have seen the panic on my boss's face, as he actually had to own up for "something".

I continued on that the charts I produced and distributed indicated we didn't need the additional paging space. The DB people were aghast that I could show numbers that indicated they didn't know what they were talking about.

What was sweet was the numbers were not one instant in time but were taken over 3 months, showing no increase in usage. Of course the first words out of the DBs mouths was that my numbers were wrong. I suggest that we open a problem with IBM, as these were IBM's numbers.

Then they started to dispute any and all numbers from IBM. I just looked back and said, "Prove they are wrong and we will take a look again." I was the first person in the company to stand up the the DB people.

I have never seen a company before or after that was so ... insulated from the real world. I actually expected people to do their jobs (for which I was fired).

There are two levels of double talk (maybe 3) and I do not care for any of them.

- Straight Talker

Dear Straight Talker ...

Well, I'm sure it was satisfying, but not so sure it was a good career move. Still, we all have to make our choices and I certainly can't claim to be overly patient with arrogant and incompetent idiots.

I also feel obliged to point out that had you spent a year doing nothing but trying to craft a way to be as ineffective as possible you couldn't have found a better one. It appears you decided your job was finished when you were able to prove you were right and the DBs were wrong.

Now imagine that instead of being right, you gave yourself a different goal -- of doing your best to make sure the company made the right decision. Humiliating the company's paid experts in public? Bad idea. Whenever someone embarrasses someone else in public they damage their own reputation in doing so.

You forced the company to make the decision by choosing sides. Nowhere in this does it appear you first asked the DBs to meet privately so you could go over your numbers with them and find out how they had reached their conclusion.

You didn't ask for advice, and wrote to describe the events after the shooting was over. For whatever it's worth: There's a big difference between being right and being persuasive. One of the major factors in being persuasive is that you find ways to bring people over to your side, instead of pushing people over to the other one.

- Bob

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