“You’re getting reorged.” That was all my now former boss told me in the hallway. It wasn’t something I wanted to hear at that moment. Why? For one, I liked my old boss, and I also really needed to go to the bathroom. It wasn’t a good hallway conversation.
“You’ll be reporting to Bruce.” Who? I’d never heard of him. Bruce was new to the company, coming to us from a construction equipment firm where he was a sales VP. It was a strange fit, especially considering that he now had some IT people reporting to him. He shared his resume with the group at our first meeting. This guy was a serious corporate go-getter. He literally rose from the mail room to the big corner office. Bruce’s achievements on his resume, if true, were remarkable. He lived in a fancy gated neighborhood and drove a European sports car. He had a nice looking family, a son active in high school sports and a college-aged daughter who turned a lot of heads. More on his kids later.
But it didn’t take long before Bruce’s management style started to rub people the wrong way. IT guys are used to a laid back atmosphere. Not Bruce. He insisted on a strict professional dress code, right down to the shoes. Core working hours were mandatory and enforced. Flex time? Forget about it! He also insisted on keeping the supply cabinet in his office. Folks hated groveling for paper and pens, having to justify a need for them. The guy was a tyrant. It was like working for R. Lee Ermey. For those of us in IT, it was hell.
It also became apparent that if you didn’t have aspirations of upper management, Bruce didn’t respect you. Being a peon was okay as long as you showed what he thought was a drive to make it to the top. And that drive didn’t leave room for much else. The serious go-getters he was grooming didn’t have time for soccer games with the kids. Even vacation requests were often denied.
Yet one day Bruce confided something to me. It was a short remark, almost made in an off-handed way. He said that he was trying to spend more time with his son and daughter. They were close to leaving home and he felt like he had a lot of lost ground to make up. That was about all he said on the matter, but it stuck with me.
It was an epiphany. I knew I didn’t like Bruce, and I thought he didn’t have anything to teach me career-wise. Was I ever wrong. Bruce taught me a LOT. I learned in that instant that I didn’t want to be a Bruce. How many people look back at the end of their career and wish they’d spent more time at the office? None! I decided to trade a thick resume, big job titles and plaques on the wall for quality time with the kids. It means I’m not going to be a chief technology officer one day. It also means I’m not going to miss things like “Doughnuts with Dad” at my son’s preschool. It means I don’t miss bedtime.
I don’t know what happened to Bruce. The next reorg came and swept me away to a better place. Bruce eventually left the company, hopefully to retire and spend more time at home. But knowing him, he’s probably still trying to conquer the corporate world in another big building full of cubicles. I’m sure he’s still slaving away trying to get another penny added to the EPS this quarter. Hopefully his daughter isn’t out looking for something to replace the father figure she didn’t have.