As much as we would like to think that it is not the case, popularity contests very much exist in the workplace. One Reddit user shared the story of her coworker who was an excellent employee, but a little off-putting. His reputation around the office was about to be his downfall, until she decided to step in and back him up on the merit of his work. Now, he is being elevated to the position he deserves.
This is Willie's story, I was lucky enough to be along for the ride. Have you ever worked with someone who you know immediately is really something special? I've had a few opportunities to work with people like this and my first thought is 'I want to help this person get wherever it is they're going.'
I worked for a non-profit for a while after retiring from the Army. First day on the job, one of my peers on the leadership team pulled me aside and warned me about one of the guys on my team.
Jane: You'll have to keep a close eye on Willie. He's low-effort, takes a lot of hand-holding, rubs people the wrong way, and honestly we're considering firing him.
Me: Thanks for the heads up! You never know what you're getting into at a new position, so I appreciate having the info.
But then I started working closely with Willie and made some discoveries. Sure, Willie was an introvert - kept to himself and could be a touch socially awkward - but he knew his job inside and out. He managed my department's logistics requirements precisely - we always had what we needed, but never too much excess static stock on hand.
He found innovative ways to work with our community partners. He built new initiatives that capitalized on existing resources without incurring additional costs - a very important skill to have in a non-profit.
He impressed donors so much that he actually convinced them to contribute significant sums in support of his additional duty department - and he wasn't even part of the fund-raising team. Willie was a quiet rock star, and I quickly realized how lucky I was to have him.
Despite all this, the rest of the regional leadership team seemed to have it in for him. I found out later what it was that set them off. Willie had made an off-hand comment to Jane about a year before I joined.
Nothing sexist or bad, just a casual observation about a physical aspect of the office space that Jane interpreted poorly. She shared it with other leaders in the org, they decided that the comment made their teeth itch, and it became a snowball that quickly rolled over Willie's reputation.
The comment was relayed to me by a third party a few months after my arrival. I went and talked to Willie about it directly - I wanted to get his take. Our discussion revealed that it was totally innocuous, but misinterpretation had caused a misunderstanding and the damage was done. Rather than asking questions of Willie to clarify, they assumed a bunch of sh*t and ran with it.
The stage was set, and Willie had realized that he didn't have a future at our location. Leadership had made up their minds about him and were actively blocking his options when they learned about any moves he was trying to make.
I knew of at least 3 instances where they torpedoed his chances for interviews at other nearby locations in the organization, tripping him before he even got out of the gate.
Willie knew if he was going to advance, it was going to be somewhere else. He started looking for new work and he eventually found something at another branch of our organization in a different state. He kept it very quiet, got the interview, and the other region was assessing the different candidates.
The only other person in our region who knew about it was me, and that was only because I'd spent months gaining Willie's trust - he knew he could confide in me and I wouldn't sh*t on him.
Around that time, Jane hit me up again about Willie :
Jane: I'm amazed by the changes in Willie since you came on board - you've really done a lot to mentor him and get him up to his full potential!
Me: I have done a lot of work where Willie is concerned. Some of it was helping him with professional development . . . but most of it has been focused on shifting the leadership team's perspective.
He's really not that different from when I arrived, but as you just indicated, your perception of him has definitely changed. I've put a lot of effort into just letting him shine, giving him credit for the good things he does, and staying out of his way.
He didn't need micromanagement, he needed room to run. Every time he achieved something I made a point of highlighting his success and the benefit it brought to our organization. The work I did wasn't on him, it was on you.
Jane: ' . . . ' Back to Willie: I asked if he wanted me to go to bat for him in the hiring process with the other region. He said he'd appreciate the help so I called the manager at the other location and told her 'I don't want to lose Willie, but all the reasons why I want him to stay here are the same reasons why you need him there.
The problem is, if Willie stays here the organization is going to lose him because they won't promote him. I'd rather have him stay with the organization in a different place than lose his commitment and skills entirely.'
She hired him. Of course, it was all him - skills, experience, interview - she knew she was getting someone amazing. My recommendation was just icing on the cake - made it easier for her to decide what she already knew.
Willie's taste of sweet, sweet revenge came when the leadership team had to eat crow as they congratulated him on his move. Willie knew this team of 'leaders' had put a lot of effort into making sure he'd never advance. Some of their 'congratulations' were less than genuine, including Jane's.
The cherry on top was that the pay and position at the new job was half a step above mine and the rest of the leadership team. That's right - he moved on, he moved up, and he outranked us all. A most excellent 'eff you' to the folks who had stood in his way.
Willie: You can hear people's conversations in other offices because walls only go up to the drop ceiling.
'The work I did wasn't on him it was on you.' - that was beautiful. Kudos.
That sort of BS is why I'll never work at a non-profit or donate to one again. The saying about seeing how sausage is made holds true for non-profits. Unless one has insider knowledge that a particular non-profit isn't a bunch of donation wasting middle-school drama, it's safe to assume that any given NP wastes more than 1/2 of whatever you give them.
I am a lower level Engineering Manager. One member of my team is an absolute rockstar developer. He does twice as much work as anyone else, and unlike the others, he does it right the first time. He also mentors the other team members, making them better developers.
The only thing is, to non-Engineers, he comes off as abrasive or condescending. He's not rude or crude. He just doesn't sugar coat anything. Well, he's on his 'final warning' from upper management for his 'negative attitude'.
If they do fire him, I'd sure like to see their faces when they realize how far the team's productivity drops. Except I won't be there, because I'll be leaving with him. I would not be surprised if half the team also walks out. F#$k around and find out!
Willie: 1, Leadership team: 0. Love to see it. The moral of the story: don't underestimate the quiet ones who know their job inside out.