Friday, October 05, 2007

Working with "Zombies"

No, I don't mean people who haven't had their first cup of coffee yet. I mean people who are "dead", but don't know they're dead. I.E. people who are being let go but haven't been told yet.

Three times in the last three years I have been working side-by-side with someone who was going to be fired, but who hadn't been told yet. In each case our shared manager told me of the situation so I could pick up some of the other person's responsibilities and accounts. In other words, "WM, find out as much about John's work and client base as possible before we tell him the bad news and he bolts."

In one case I was on a one-week road trip in Asia with the zombie. I was going out to dinner with the guy, having drinks, hearing about his family. The whole time I had to put on a nice face, smile, wonder how he was going to put his kid through college after he was fired, then ask, "So, what's going on at SuperGlobalTek? Weren't you in there last month talking to them about our Gizmo 2000?" And then mentally take notes on my new account.

Did I feel guilty about any of this? No, not really. In each case the manager asked my opinion about the guy before making a final decision, and in each case I agreed that they weren't pulling their weight. In each case they were simply in the wrong role or industry. And if someone isn't in the right job, and therefore not doing a good job, it benefits both the company and the person if they move on. In one case I was basically doing the guy's work anyway.

In each case, though, when the zombie eventually did find out they're dead, they always came back to me. "WM, when did you know about this?" I'd lie. "Wow, I just find out. I'll check my network to see if I can get any job leads for you!"

Of course it makes me wonder what the people around me know about MY job and situation. Because one of these days I may be a zombie and won't know about it.

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