Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 21, Issue 49;   December 8, 2021:

Surviving Incompetence: II

by

When your organization undertakes a misguided effort that will certainly fail, you have options. One is to head for the exit. To search for a new position in such circumstances requires some care. Example: an internal transfer might not really be an exit.

When the organization you work for, or the team you work with, makes a commitment to a course of action that you're certain will fail, you have some difficult choices ahead. Last time we examined two strategies that can be helpful if you feel that the inevitable failure won't cause irreparable harm to you personally. And we observed that if irreparable personal harm is almost certain or very likely, it's time to move on.

So if you decide to move on to another position with more upside (or less downside), here are two suggestions: beware internal transfers, and pause to reassess.

An internal transfer might not provide safety

The side mirror view from an automobile

The side mirror view from an automobile. Faintly printed on the mirror are the words, "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear." It's a common warning on side-view mirrors. There should be a warning for retrospectives. Something like, "Insights you acquire here are subject to cognitive biases." There is a reasonable risk that you'll miss important and painful realizations, and focus instead on less important and less painful stuff. Have courage. Look at the hard stuff.

Image by askifte at PixaBay.

An internal transfer can be a most appealing solution to the problem of finding a quick exit from a high-risk position. You might not need to relocate; the interviews can be convenient; the employer is more comfortable because hiring from within can be less risky than hiring from "outside."

But there is risk for you. The fundamental problem is that in some situations, internal transfers are only partial exits. When you exit by means of an internal transfer, you might not be out of reach of your former supervisor. And if the outcome you feared does come to pass, your former supervisor might take steps that could affect the success of your exit strategy. For example, for executives, a change of portfolio might not protect you from the coming failure. You'll still be available for anyone who wants to exact a price for failure. For non-executives, your former supervisor might decide that you were partly responsible for the unfavorable outcome that you had been warning about. And if your annual performance review requires commentary from your former supervisor, you might be heading for an unwelcome surprise. Such an event would of course be unfair, but it could happen.

There's more. One of the reasons for seeking an exit was to escape the consequences of bad decisions made by others. If the only people in the larger organization who were making bad decisions were your former colleagues, then the internal transfer could be an effective means of escaping those consequences. But if your former colleagues can remain in place even though they make bad decisions, a natural question arises: are there more makers of bad decisions in this organization? Given that you've already found some such people, it seems possible that there are more makers of bad decisions lurking about. Possibly there are a few among your new colleagues. A repeat of the present unpleasant scenario is possible.

Pause to reassess

You're If irreparable personal harm is almost
certain or very likely, it's time to move on
probably familiar with retrospectives in the context of team building or project management. Retrospectives identify what we've done that worked, what didn't work, and what we might add to help us improve. A personal retrospective has similar objectives. It differs from team or project retrospectives in a very important respect: there is only one attendee.

To be effective, a personal retrospective meets three requirements.

It has an objective
Personal retrospectives can have a variety of objectives, but in this application, you're trying to learn what you could have done that might have made unnecessary a quick exit from what was supposedly a satisfactory position. Formulate three questions that might help meet that objective.
A commitment to honesty
You must be willing to examine yourself, your situation, and the constraints you encountered as you made choices.
Enough time
You need not complete the personal retrospective in one sitting, but each session will require 10-15 minutes of quiet time before you can really start to work. Commit to two or three 30-minute sessions.

Examine your results. Did you find any insights that might help you in your search for a new position? Can you ask in interviews how the organization handles failures?

Last words

If your most recent previous search for a position preceded the pandemic, keep in mind that things have changed since then. Because many organizations are now more comfortable with virtual operations than they were before the pandemic, you might consider broadening your search to include virtual positions. Relocation might not be as necessary as it once was. And that means that you can choose from a wider array of possibilities. Since searching for positions is essentially a numbers game, more possibilities means a shorter, easier, more fruitful search. Happy hunting! First in this series  Go to top Top  Next issue: Do My Job  Next Issue

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenEMudcCzvnDHFfOEmner@ChacTcmtXTCJBjZfSFjIoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Workplace Politics:

The 1991 eruption of Mount PinatuboManaging Pressure: Communications and Expectations
Pressed repeatedly for "status" reports, you might guess that they don't want status — they want progress. Things can get so nutty that responding to the status requests gets in the way of doing the job. How does this happen and what can you do about it? Here's Part I of a little catalog of tactics and strategies for dealing with pressure.
Jeffrey Skilling, in a mug shot taken in 2004 by the United States Marshals ServiceKinds of Organizational Authority: the Informal
Understanding Power, Authority, and Influence depends on familiarity with the kinds of authority found in organizations. Here's Part II of a little catalog of authority, emphasizing informal authority.
Two barnacles affixed to the shell of a green musselGetting Into the Conversation
In well-facilitated meetings, facilitators work hard to ensure that all participants have opportunities to contribute. The story is rather different for many meetings, where getting into the conversation can be challenging for some.
A laptop with password stickiesWhy We Don't Care Anymore
As a consultant and coach I hear about what people hate about their jobs. Here's some of it. It might help you appreciate your job.
A high-occupancy vehicle lane on Interstate 5 northbound near Shoreline, WashingtonNarcissistic Behavior at Work: V
When someone at work exhibits narcissistic behavior, others respond. Some respond by accommodating the behavior, and those accommodations can include special and favorable treatment of the person behaving narcissistically. That's one place where trouble can begin.

See also Workplace Politics and Critical Thinking at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

A micrometer capable of measuring to |plusmn .01 mmComing July 13: What Do We Actually Know?
Precision in both writing and speech can be critical in determining the success of collaborations in the modern workplace. Precision is especially important when we distinguish between what we surmise or assume and what we actually know. Available here and by RSS on July 13.
A mallet. The same object can be either a tool or a weaponAnd on July 20: Overt Verbal Abuse at Work
Verbal abuse in the workplace involves using written or spoken language to disparage, to disadvantage, or to otherwise harm others. Perpetrators tend to favor tactics that they can subsequently deny having used to harm anyone. Available here and by RSS on July 20.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenEMudcCzvnDHFfOEmner@ChacTcmtXTCJBjZfSFjIoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power

Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?

DecisBullet Point Madnession makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.