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Amusingly MOSS ...It's funny how difficult some stuff is when it really shouldn't be

If there is ever a time to be aware of how powerful your words are, it's now.

Jonathan was sitting in his grey fabricated cube, wishing he were anywhere else.  It was 9:43 PM on a Tuesday night, and his monitor was spraying that harsh, bluish off-white glow, just as it had been for the past 14 hours.  Jonathan was in a foul mood, but it wasn't the long hours that bothered him, as he was accustomed to late nights at the office.  He was well-paid, after all, and was grateful for his job.  He enjoyed conversations with his co-workers, and thought it was pretty cool how his company let him work just about whenever he wanted to.

What was eating at Jonathan this particular Tuesday evening at 9:43 PM was that Bruce, his project manager, had just sent him the third utterly ambiguous reply to the same specific questions he'd be asking for days now, and the expectations of his client were the same as they've always been - delivery tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM.  He had been working on this system for only a month now, but when you've been assigned to rescue a two-year long project that was spiraling out of control, a month seems like a year.  Jonathan grumbled under his breath about how he hated this situation, and wondered how he managed to let himself get into it yet again.  This time, he swore to himself, will be the last.

Jonathan was bewildered, wondering what he could have done differently to get the answers he wanted from his project manager.  Was he asking the wrong questions?  Why on earth was he on the hook for delivery, when it was Bruce that was mismanaging the client's expectations?  Nothing seemed to make sense, especially since he was on his third 5-Hour Energy drink that day, and last night he swore to his wife that the absolute-drop-dead-worst-case scenario would leave him being back home in 17 minutes from now.  And it took at least 32 minutes to get home.  Great.  Another fight to mediate.  At least the kids will be in bed, he thought.

It was at this time that Jonathan decided that drastic measures were called for - after all, he was the one getting screwed, and there is no better time than the present to take matters into your own hands.  Eric Longfield, the CEO of the company, had recently visited his office branch and reassured everyone at a power-luncheon that he had an open-door policy.  If anyone were in need of anything, all they had to do was let him know, and he'd do everything in his power to see to meeting their needs.  Jonathan decided to take Eric up on his offer.

Jonathan was excruciatingly careful in how he crafted his email to Eric.  After all, Eric was the CEO - there was a certain reverence required when approaching him in any capacity.  He detailed how his project manager didn't answer any of his questions, and how it was utterly unrealistic to expect him to deliver tomorrow.  He also mentioned how he never saw any goals, and that he felt as if his work wasn't necessarily pushing towards the finish line (if there was one).  Jonathan felt he had adequately communicated the gravity of the situation.  He thought that surely an email that serious will absolve him of having to deliver anything, because it wasn't his fault for the project being in disarray in the first place. It was someone else’s baby, and he was just the sitter... so he thought.

The next morning, Jonathan’s mood wasn’t much better. The fight with his wife went very poorly last night (not to mention that it lasted until 1:30 AM), and he spilled his $7 mocha on the way to his car. And things only went downhill from there.

When he reached his desk, he saw his voicemail light blinking on his desk phone. One… two… three… four… five blinks? Who could have possibly left five messages between ten o’clock and seven-thirty this morning? He didn’t want to find out, but he knew he had to.

Message one, left at... 10:02... PM… Yesterday.  Hey Jonathan, it’s Eric Longfield. I tried your cell but it went straight to voicemail, so I thought I’d call you here too. I got your email, and wanted to talk to you about it. Please give me a call when you get in first thing.  Thanks.”

Message two, left at... 10:34... PM… Yesterday.  Jonathan, Bruce. You were supposed to have everything done tomorrow morning, and instead of a call from you saying that you were done, I get a call from Eric Longfield. What do you mean that I’m…”

Jonathan jammed the “delete message” button as hard as he could with his thumb. He didn’t need to hear the rest of the messages. He slumped in his chair, took a deep breath, and tried to collect himself enough to hold a conversation with Eric, and hope to make amends with Bruce.

Does this story sound familiar in any way to you? How much value do you put into what you say about others? Do you find that you let situations, even the dire situations, dictate your words?

In the end, Jonathan was able to keep his job, but he had to work long and hard re-build the bridges he tore down that Tuesday night. Thankfully, Eric saw this as an opportunity to grow Jonathan, and showed him how dangerous sand-blasting really is. The project was delivered eventually, and Jonathan worked on other things, but this simple truth stuck with him:

Your words are more powerful than you think.

Posted on Wednesday, March 11, 2009 6:30 PM Other Stuff | Back to top

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