“This is not good enough.” Five short words that would become etched into my memory…
In my last job, I learned a valuable lesson about company politics.
My manager and I were responsible for the projected financials of our core product.
The accounting team was responsible for providing the data for said projections.
The projections were useful for the Exco to make decisions (marketing, reporting, sales, you know… business stuff). My manager and I were pretty confident with our work and the statistical models we built.
The project was moving along nicely. Every month the actual numbers matched the expected numbers… until they didn’t.
That’s when things got interesting.
The accounting manager emailed us. He had called an emergency meeting with our CEO. Also, by the way, could we explain the difference in the actual versus expected results?
We worked late that night to understand the discrepancies. All things pointed towards incorrect input data and a few extra, miscellaneous, expenses we weren’t aware of. So we were relaxed, confident even. We could point out where the issues stemmed from.
The next day at the meeting things took a turn for the worse. The CEO was upset. Understandably so. He had to explain the hole in the projections to the board.
I remember him repeating “Listen, gents, this is not good enough”.
My manager and I just sat there and took it.
We pointed out where the mismatch came from. We were confident reason would prevail.
But the accounting manager had been cunning. He pinned it back to us. These expenses happened annually, how did we not know about it? This was odd. Something was fishy. We offered to check previous communication between the teams, but it proved unnecessary.
The CEO had made up his mind. He wanted (needed) someone to blame.
The accounting manager had sneakily manoeuvred his team out of the firing line. Which meant my manager and I turned into the fall guys.
That was the day I quit mentally.
“Not good enough”... yeah right. I had been one of the hardest workers in the team. I consistently pitched up with ideas and energy. This meeting and the repercussions from it felt like a betrayal. Why work into the early morning hours most days only to get thrown under the bus when they needed a scapegoat?
I learned an important lesson that day. From then on, I would control the narrative.
I wouldn’t just sit there and hope for the best. In future, I would stand up for what’s right and not assume everyone would play fair. Especially in highly charged settings e.g. where people’s promotions and bonuses were on the line.
Looking back, I’m happy I went through that experience.
It paved the way for me to quit (out loud) a few months later and embark on my writing and solopreneur journey. Something I may never have done if I was treated fairly.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
–Invictus by Williams Earnst Henley
Thanks to Rik van den Berge for reading drafts of this essay.
Originally published at https://johnnic.substack.com/p/controlling-the-narrative-52 on July 26, 2023.