What a week it has been around the office. I’ve been back for a week from our most recent vacation up to the MT/ID area, and I was feeling pretty refreshed.
I had gone the whole vacation not even thinking about work, and after I got back I was even feeling super recharged from a Personal Finance (PF) standpoint. The field I’ve been working the last 3 years is almost ready for drilling and we’re just finalizing the field development plan. The other project I’ve been working on has gotten extended as we’ve come up with more ideas to test than upper management was expecting, so that has been fun too. There was even another minor reorg/power shift while I was gone and I lost 2 of my 7 bosses, so now I’m back to having only 5 baby, yeah! All, in all it was looking up. And then the rails came off of the train… I essentially got ambushed in a meeting that wasn’t even my group, and taken to task for things I didn’t work on and wasn’t responsible for. It didn’t matter though because I was the one that was there accounting for any and all work done on that project. Let me back up and set the stage for one of the weirdest, bizarre, and unprofessional experiences I’ve ever dealt with in my career, and how knowing where we were in relation to Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) helped me keep perspective and make the best out of a wack-a-doo situation.
Meeting or Ambush?
I’d gotten invited to a meeting for another group separate from the one I work in. I was supposed to be support, just in case the person that called the meeting, let’s call him Tom, had any questions regarding the field development aspect. From all descriptions, it was supposed to be an update from that team on their overlapping work in my field. However, 5 minutes into that meeting it was clear, that wasn’t the case at all, and it was directed solely at me and my team. Keep in mind there are about 20 people in the room, 8 of which are upper management, and then there is me. I’m representing the development side of my field, yet I have no management from any of my teams present and no one else from those teams present. Just me.
The meeting started with a question on how we planned to reduce the uncertainty associated with our geomodel, and I reminded Tom, that as I’d told him in our meeting 3 weeks ago, here’s what we were doing to lower the uncertainty and address the issue. Tom then proceeded to question the quality of my work, my teams work, our supporting teams work, my manager, my other manager, our GM’s background and his decision making abilities and the fact that our team was putting lipstick on a pig and selling it to management. Yep, it was that sort of meeting and it lasted an hr and 15 minutes. The most senior manager in the room tried to adjourn the meeting 3 separate times to no avail. The first one was about 10 minutes in when it was awkward for everyone in the room because it was essentially me and Tom talking at the table in front of a large audience, lol.
Let’s Not Get Personal
I initially started off a little defensive, and my blood began to boil a bit. Then I realized, “This is just work. I don’t know what Tom’s deal is or why he thinks I’m the one that should address this, but whatever. Let’s just get through this and move on…” I took some deep breaths and detached myself from my emotions and for every negative point that Tom had an issue with, I brought up how we had already addressed it, and how it fit into our development plan. It reminded me of my thesis defense, except I was not only defending my thesis, but about 3 other ones I didn’t even write. Hilarity at its best.
Being able to detach from the “I’m being personally attacked” mindset and frame it as “Tom has concerns, however misdirected they may be, and I’m the only personification in this room for him to address them to” led to a rather calm well reasoned response on my part. I think having proper perspective is key in those ambush, wtf, work situations. Me from 8 years ago would have jumped on Tom’s crazy train and gone sailing off the rails with him and it wouldn’t look professional from either of us. By keeping the proper perspective, after the meeting I had 5 upper managers apologize to me for whatever that was that had just happened, but better than that, they all told me I did an excellent job keeping my composure and being able to defend ALL of our work so well. In short, they were impressed. Small win for this guy!
Freedom to Not Give a F@&!
I think this was helped out by knowing that it’s just work, and I’ve got the freedom to not have to deal with work if I want to, so that seemed to make it easy to detach on a personal level. By not living at or above our income level, we have been able to save enough money so that we are about 2 years or so from being able to “early retire”, or at least retire from a 5 day a week career environment. As unprofessional as that whole “meeting” was on Tom’s part, I didn’t feel like my livelihood was threatened. I knew that if all hell broke loose and I was out of work that afternoon, financially we’d be just fine. Yeah, it would suck and I sure as hell better get a good severance out of it, but I wasn’t too worried because I know where we sit financially.
That’s the short version of one of the weirdest encounters I’ve experienced in my career and definitely a first for this company. Sure it sucked, but it wasn’t enough to make me go file an HR complaint or anything, I just chalked it up as Tom having a bad day and me being the whipping boy apparently.
What about you, have you ever experienced a situation like that? Did it work out well for you or did you jump on the crazy train too? Did you feel like Johnny Paycheck and telling anyone involved, “You can take this job and shove it!”