I started this website to teach other women the concepts I successfully used in my career. Little did I know that I preparing myself for my biggest challenge yet into the male-dominated workplace.
I want to share this experience because I was in such an extreme condition and yet I dramatically changed the company in one year. I will not lie and say it was easy because it wasn’t – this was the hardest I’ve ever worked. Work consumed my life. But my experience demonstrates the capabilities of women when they are empowered to apply themselves. I am now in awe of what is in us to achieve.
This article long so read it when you have a good half hour. I dealt with a lot in my job and this article discusses only about 25% of the issues. I included music clips – the songs I associated with the issues and sang over and over again in my head to maintain my sense of humor. And as you will see, I needed my sense of humor!
I was recruited to be the General Manager of a construction company (I will call it DSC) because of my experience creating a process-driven workplace. I was a little wary about the job. Just because an employer says he wants a process-driven company, doesn’t mean he really understands what a process-driven company is.
Because this company was not in the U.S and not American, I wanted to make sure it was solid. I was assured the company which was part of a larger group of privately owned companies was profitable, functioning well and in a market full of opportunity. So, I looked forward to what I saw as an adventure.
Upon my arrival my boss welcomed me with a card showing a tranquil dirt road ascending a gently-sloped grassy hill. To him, this expressed the extent of the difficulty I would encounter in my new job.
That was my first hint. This is construction and there is no such thing as smooth roads. I suspected that dirt road was a bit bumpier than depicted. But, no problem, there’s a reason I drive a Jeep not a BMW.
By noon on my fourth day, I knew DSC had serious financial issues. Neither DSC nor the corporate financial department understood or used the basic principles of construction financial management. I thought back to a construction financial course I took many years ago and realized I was in the worst case scenario. DSC was projecting revenue it could not justify and didn’t know its outstanding costs. There was no way to know DSC’s true financial position.
Then as I do with every company I work for, I applied the Dollars to Doughnuts Concept. I discovered DSC had no idea how to make money in construction because there was no project management. This meant the entire middle section of the concept was missing. While a gap between the top and bottom section is common, within this corporation, they weren’t even aligned. The corporate level didn’t know what DSC did as a business, how they functioned or how they should function. And since no one within DSC had any project management training, they didn’t know how they were supposed to function either.
I thought about the four quadrants of knowledge. This corporation was in the “we don’t know what we don’t know” quadrant.
Or in layman’s terms – this is the blind leading the blind.
That gentle grassy hill just got very steep and rocky. I had to teach everyone the most basic fundamental principles of the construction business and how to integrate them into construction management processes.
My first DSC Theme Song
I didn’t need my Jeep, I needed a rock crawling Rubicon Jeep with a 5” lift!
During my first two weeks, I had a steady stream of people from the corporate staff and our sister companies inform me that DSC’s fundamental problem was a lack of accountability. I found this ironic because in the management meeting, anytime someone was questioned, they deflected by bringing up something DSC was doing wrong. I made a HUGE mental note of this. It seemed everyone liked that DSC wasn’t functioning because they used DSC to avoid their own accountability. That meant possible trouble in the future. Once I get DSC on track, how will they react when they can’t deflect onto DSC and have to address their internal performance issues?
By the end of that second week I realized a lack of accountability was merely a symptom of DSC’s real fundamental problem – Autonomy. DSC valued autonomy above all else. Each person did what they wanted, when they wanted, how they wanted. And they fiercely protected their right to do so!
Its excessive value for autonomy made DSC an extreme male-dominated company. DSC was so deep into the Blue Zone that it didn’t know there were other colors in the rainbow! Even the women were pure blue.
To understand DSC’s and the corporation’s culture you have to go back in time at least 60 years and forget all management concepts that have been developed since. (This job involved time travel too!)
I pulled out some old articles written in the 1980’s that discussed old management styles to refresh my memory. I read: “People choose which competencies to develop based upon their self-image. They develop an idea of what it means to be a manager and act accordingly.” I remembered one of my first articles, Understanding Why Being a Manager Is So Important discussed this passage and I pulled that out too.
DSC is a unionized company (yes, I hear the collective U.S. groan) and most of the current supervisors had been with the company for decades. They remember the days before professionals were needed, when their senior union supervisors ran all the work. Now that they were the supervisors, they wanted the same status and autonomy their predecessors enjoyed. They believed, and were corporately empowered to believe, that when it came to doing “the work” they alone could make all decisions. There was no need for management or technical professionals such as project managers, quality managers, estimators, schedulers or even engineers for design.
The union members had a pre-industrial revolution era concept of how to do work. (Now we are really going back in time to the days before building codes! Scary but true.) They believed in the master craftsman that independently decided how to construct the project and directed the trades in what to do. As a worker moved up vertically from foreman to general foreman to superintendent , he grew in status based upon his expertise. And because they didn’t have any horizontal perspective, the higher a supervisor was in the vertical hierarchy, the greater his autonomy – there were fewer people he had to answer to. At DSC Autonomy = Status. Listening to them I often thought of teenagers, anxious to achieve adult status at 18, and no longer be answerable to mom and dad.
The DSC org chart depicted these beliefs. DSC did not have a central office and each division operated from client sites or various corporate offices. Each DSC division was its own independent company working an assigned territory and reported only to me. They did not trespass onto each other’s territory. There were no shared resources – they did not share personnel, tools, vehicles or equipment. Trade workers worked for a specific superintendent and were not allowed to work for another.
I continuously hired project managers and other professionals in an attempt to fill in the middle management ranks and delegate my massive workload. But every manager I hired created more work than he relieved. The reason – each and every one of them got pulled deep into the Blue Zone and continuously engaged in intense arguments with the union workforce. The union workforce did not want a middle management layer to erode the status they waited decades to attain.
I spent my days (Sundays and holidays were the most frequent) breaking up arguments and averting physical fights, leaving me to do my work late into the night. One night while working with Mad Men playing in the background I heard:
Don’t fight with the Pig in the mud.
You get dirty.
And the Pig loves it.
I replayed the scene several times – that described DSC! I made up signs and plastered that saying everywhere. But every male manager still wound up in the mud. They ALL also wound up at the hospital with stress related ailments. Eventually they all left.
Status was important at the corporate level too. Going back to my old reference article, a passage read “It suited the self-images of the managers that they were superior, the brains for others who could only supply the brawn.” This fit the corporate culture! Most of the corporate staff was located in another larger city where “higher quality people” could be found. The town and area DSC operated in was industrial, “dirty” and a blue collar working town, (think Hunger Games, District 13) not a desirable place for professionals. Our physical separation enhanced the distinction in status between blue collar and professional.
The corporate staff did the strategic planning – the highest level of thinking. It wasn’t until my last couple of weeks that I understood that as a general manager I was under/inferior to the corporate staff. In this hierarchy they did not need my input. According to them, they were responsible to audit and evaluate (critique) DSC performance.
It always seemed odd to me that I didn’t discuss what DSC was working on with anyone. In management meetings the corporate staff gave detailed reports but the operating company GM’s (those of us who actually produced revenue) had only 5 minutes once a month to list our top projects. But if you understand that the corporate staff didn’t believe they needed our input to do their jobs to support us, it makes perfect illogical sense.
As I was writing this article I came across another passage I marked back then: “To managers employees were considered expendable, factors of employment, no different from machines. Managers demanded an allegiance they did not return. Workers responded by developing an allegiance to their unions.”
No wonder I marked it – that is DSC and the corporation in a nutshell!! I often thought to myself: Welcome to the 1950’s!!
At the corporate level, they were obsessed with returning DSC to its past glory days of being the local contractor who successfully competed with the big out-of-town general contractors. For decades DSC successfully grew without any project management or professional support! But that was 10+ years ago and a very different business climate.
The Corporate Theme Song That I Sang Several Times a Week!
Back then it was simple – Clients’ big oil money flowed like water. DSC did their work on a time and material basis – they went out, did the work, made whatever changes to the scope they wanted and got paid for every dime. This was construction project and financial management at its absolute simplest.
But then the environment changed dramatically in 2009. Oil money no longer flowed like water – oil companies competed for investors who expected higher returns, forcing them to crank down tight on budgets. DSC’s simple environment suddenly got complex – safety, construction management, quality management and financial controls were now required. But DSC didn’t evolve; it didn’t learn how to operate in its new complex construction market.
Complexity is the ultimate enemy of Autonomy and it beat the crap out of DSC! The complexity of construction project management put DSC on life support but without financial management, no one even realized it! By my third month I realized DSC would not survive another year without drastic and immediate changes.
DSC, who used billable rates established in its contracts, was losing money on every man-hour worked. Their billable rates were so far out of date they did not cover their costs. I “joked’ that their project manager rate was $20/hr. lower than the rates I used 12 years ago!
Because no one understood contracts, no one read the contracts so no one knew the contracts allowed for an annual adjustment of overhead costs. (I thought: ever hear of inflation?) Their oldest contract hadn’t updated overhead costs and non-union wages in 9 years! Even worse, that contract was about to quadruple in work. Do the math: lose $7 per man-hour for 60 men working 10 hours per day, 365 days a year! (7*60*10*365 = $1,533,000) Ouch!
Luckily the time to increase rates was upon us. I recalculated rates and increased the rates as much as each of our Clients allowed (It gave me something to do every night from 11:00 pm to 3:00 am for two weeks) I also restructured the profit calculations to capture more profit. They collected $2.50/hr. profit on regular time rates of $54/hr., overtime rates of $80/hr.and double time rates of $106/hr. I was shocked – $2.50 profit on costs of $106! I told them that was just plain Un-American!!
Rates were only one issue – DSC was hemorrhaging money everywhere. Another root problem was the women’s lack of clout. At DSC “the girls” as they were called didn’t carry the job title of Project Administrators as they do in most construction companies. They were Administrative Assistants. DSC hired girls with a clerical backgrounds believing the girls simply filled out forms in Excel and administratively cleaned up after “the guys.”
But their responsibilities weren’t that simple any more. Project Administrators are the first line of defense in protecting the financial integrity of projects. They watch over the financial and contractual processes and for this reason, good construction companies empower Project Administrators. Without any clout the girls at DSC couldn’t resolve issues. The filled out their Excel forms the best they could, then built walls for autonomy and to protect themselves from accountability for the incomplete work.
Without communication and teamwork issues remained unresolved. The associated costs mounted into hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then because the issues seemed too complex to resolve, the costs were routinely written off.
Early on, I hired a phenomenal young woman to help me clean up the mess. She quit after 3 weeks and confided in me why. She worked with one of the men before (he recommended her to me) and didn’t want to work under him again. She felt that with her college degree and her experience she shouldn’t be “his girl” who cleaned up the mess he made of projects. She was burnt out from doing that with her previous employer and she knew she deserved more professionally. Because she was close friends with this man, she didn’t want to get into a power struggle as she asserted herself and ruin their friendship.
I felt bad for her because she was so capable but like the women of DSC she was pure Blue and that is what she really struggled with. She acted like a man thinking that is what she needed in order to get ahead but no matter what she would always be “his girl” and personal administrative assistant. (I always got a kick out of listening to her cuss up a storm while her little Prada handbag sat daintily on my desk.)
Her story emphasized just how deeply male-dominated the culture was. After she left, I really had to think about my strategy to move DSC to the Purple Zone.
I already began separating people into two groups – those that were willing to grow and learn (“Roundies”) and those that weren’t. The ones who weren’t willing to grow, I started calling “Flatties”. They believed the world was flat and that if we sailed too far in the direction I was taking DSC, we would fall off the edge of the earth into the abyss. When I discussed new processes, you could see genuine fear in their eyes! Their fear of the unknown, of losing autonomy and of having to acknowledge what they didn’t know would always prevent them from reaching the brave new world of the Purple Zone.
My Second DSC Theme Song.
The Flatties resisted change with everything in them. One woman was anointed as the head of the resistance movement. Her tactic was to resist until you gave up in complete frustration and backed down. In construction men often resolve conflict this way – he who backs down first loses. I was fascinated that a woman was so effective in this technique with the men. I secretly liked her for this and hoped she would become a “Roundie”.
Unlike the men who engaged her in the Blue Zone and failed, I engaged her from the Purple Zone. No threats, no hostility. I gave her a firm explanation of why procedures were changing and expressed my excitement as to how much better everything will be! (In the new world is it sunny, warm and we drink mojitos all day!) As she resisted, hoping to wear me down, I didn’t budge and maintained my chipper attitude. I responded to each and every email she sent – I could not allow her to have the last word. I kept responding and it took hours, if not all day or two days, until she gave up. The Flatties were no match for the American Dream Team! (That’s what the Flatties called the Americans in the company)
Over several months, most of the Flatties eventually left on their own. A lot of people were scared about the Flatties leaving because they were perceived to have the power and knowledge base – if they left then DSC would immediately fall apart. I’ve heard that same fear mongering many times and always found that once the bad apples leave, the good people who were pushed into the back corner step forward and flourish. And this is what happened at DSC. (Baby and Johnny tore it up on Kellerman’s dancefloor!)
I will admit that I was surprised how much so many people blossomed. They literally became different people!
With a lot of the resistance gone, I concentrated on closing out hundreds of projects with hundreds of unresolved problems. I gathered “the girls” from all of the divisions together to create a cleanup team. Some of the girls hated each other threatening to quit if they had to work with each other. To turn DSC around I had to start with the women and get them to the Purple Zone first.
I never imagined I would have to lead women from the Blue Zone and train them how to work in the Purple Zone. I encouraged and empowered their female traits and praised their use of their female traits. Soon, they all started talking and chatting away – the girls became women and a team. I used our clean-up process to train them on project change management. I encouraged them in their role as the protectors of project financial integrity. I expected them to speak up whenever they saw something wrong. They now had the clout to stand up to the men and correct them when they didn’t follow processes.
My New DSC Theme Song
And the men responded as most good construction men do – they loved the support! There was no fighting in the mud!
Empowered Purple women led the men to the Purple Zone. Hallelujah! At times the women ventured into the Pink Zone and I was surprised by how Pink some of these formerly Blue women could be. It was actually refreshing to see women be natural and true to whom they really are.
About the time we started the clean-up process I hired a new cost analyst. He was phenomenal. He knew construction financial management, he understood processes and he worked in the Purple Zone! He didn’t get dragged into the Blue Zone and fight in the mud. He took an enormous burden off of me and he was an amazing asset in growing DSC.
Mid-way through the clean-up process, we finally moved into the new central office. Standardizing processes was about to become so much easier! With everyone in one room the DSC divisions were finally forced to work together. To prevent problems, I assigned the cubicles. When everyone got situated I realized a huge mistake on my part or maybe it was just a glaring reminder that this was still a male-dominated organization. The office had rows of cubicles, two of which I considered the core rows – one with the Estimating/Planning staff and one with the administrative. In other words, one row of all women and one row of all men.
(As The Woman In The Room, I hung my head in shame!)
I had to fix this! There was one woman in particular I wanted to move over to the Estimating row. I had mentored her for months because she was in a non-traditional role. When hired, she was treated and paid like an administrative assistant and her real abilities were ignored. (I will write more about her in a separate article) I wanted her to work closely with a young man in the Estimating row because they had opposite professional weaknesses and strengths and they needed to learn from each other. Over the next few months a couple men left, and I moved her. That was the beginning of the real transition. I hired a planner – another young woman. Then, another project coordinator, also a young woman. The row was now this beautiful mix of 3 men and 3 women. Purple!!
The administrative row had a vacant cubicle so one of the superintendents used it when he came to work in the office. After a few more movements, the entire office was a wonderful Purple Zone workspace!
The project management process chart we developed together was printed large and hung on the wall. We had a small conference room where I met with the project coordination staff to review projects. My cost analyst met with the admin staff regularly to ensure DSC financials were on track. I designed a new organizational structure that addressed the realities of the limited labor pool and the DSC skill level. We were beginning to function.
For the first time in several years DSC was profitable! Our new work made good margins because we were following our processes and people were empowered to speak up when they questioned something. We started to come together as a team and one project administrator arranged pot luck lunches for celebration. We still had a very long way to go but we were moving in the right direction. I was so proud of my purple team!
Remember how I said that the corporate staff liked that DSC functioned poorly because they used DSC to deflect issues from themselves? For a few months, I was quietly saying that the time was coming when DSC would start functioning and that the corporate departments would also have to improve their performance. That time arrived.
I don’t remember what triggered it, but I came up with a somewhat tongue in cheek theme for DSC: DSC- Not Quite the F*ck Ups We Used To Be!
The multimillion dollar question was whether or not the corporate departments could accept the new emerging DSC. Were they willing to admit to their “opportunities for improvement” and take action to improve their performance too? Or would their pride stop them?
Department 1 had always been difficult to work with. I reported to HR several time that Dept. 1 management and personnel were demeaning to DSC employees. There was one project administrator in particular they openly denigrated in public and she got to listen to it on a regular basis. It was cruel. During our conference calls I felt like answering their questions with “because we’re stupid, that’s why.” After the calls, I could see the hurt on the faces of my team.
Dept. 1 was developing a new system for DSC which was several months behind schedule and plagued with issues. Dept. 1 said it was the fault of my administrative supervisor. But the underlying issue was that Dept. 1 didn’t understand how DSC operated and went forward with designing the system without a process map. The first system we reviewed had the process backwards.
The system highlighted the new complexity of our work. Completing the system took a long time not because the DSC admin supervisor was being…I will say it…a Bitch…but because Dept. 1 didn’t consider all of the administrative components outside of DSC that had to be integrated into the system. The problem was not a person; it was not understanding the complexity of the process.
As we moved to another issue with Dept. 1, DSC and a sister company proposed the standard industry process which was simple and easy. Dept. 1 rejected the process and instead came up with a cumbersome process that still didn’t do what we needed. It created a new mess! I will admit that I called their process “stupid” because it was. I told them we would be humiliated if anyone in the real world knew this is how we handled the problem.
In our next meeting to figure out how to make this process work, Dept. 1 came up with an even more complex system that required extensive system reprogramming. (WTF? They haven’t even gotten the other project right yet.) So, my Cost Analyst asked our boss if our initial solution was open for discussion. The response was ugly. (On the upside we learned our quiet and polite Cost Analyst had some brass huevos!)
Even as DSC greatly improved its performance we did not gain Dept. 1’s respect. They always reminded me of the “smart” kids in school who always had to brown nose the teacher for attention.
Department 2 whose support was critical to DSC projects refused to work with us. Even though they worked under DSC contracts, they proclaimed their complete autonomy and that DSC could not direct any Dept. 2 actions. Even my requests for support were met with “we will take it under advisement.” DSC managers and supervisors complained constantly that Dept. 2 personnel did nothing all day and never went out to the projects.
In construction, conflict between Dept. 2 and construction personnel is common but it is usually because Construction feels Dept. 2 is being too zealous in its duties. This was the first time I ever encountered Construction complaining that Dept. 2 was not being zealous enough.
Part of the conflict was due to the different pay structure between Dept. 2 personnel and DSC’s union personnel. During a typical work cycle, union personnel were paid for 15 hours more, even though they worked the same number of hours. This angered Dept. 2 personnel so they weren’t anxious to be proactive in their duties and they had very high turnover. Dept. 2’s solution was to hire women for the job because they won’t argue over pay like men do. (Yes, you read that right!)
Two years earlier, Dept. 2’s lack of diligence caused DSC’s largest client to shut down all work. Even after this Dept. 2 only did the minimum required to get DSC back to work. They did not continue to grow their functional expertise. Their current Sr. Manager, a self-proclaimed Intellectual, stayed at the 30,000 ft. level, and only associated with Dept. 2 through his manager – he didn’t associate with the working class.
The Dept. 2 Manager did not believe in the new stringent industry principles for this function and often thwarted them. (The cause for so many arguments with DSC management). His attitude put DSC, its personnel and our clients at risk. Until his attitude changed and Dept. 2 became champions for their function, clients would continue to limit DSC work on their sites. The bottom line is that DSC could not grow until Dept. 2 got their sh*t together!
Elevating issues to our mutual boss did not help DSC. Dept. 2 had one responsibility that DSC complained for years that Dept. 2 was not doing. For six months I followed up monthly directly with the Dept. 2 Sr. Manager and Manager requesting the reports. I was always promised them but never got them. I finally went to our boss to ask for his help. The Dept. 2 Manager was standing right outside the boss’s office so our boss asked if the reports were being done. The Manager replied that they were. End of story.
Our boss was very young for his position and inexperienced in industrial construction; he was more suited to the scope of work of one of our sister companies. One of his flaws is that he couldn’t deal well with problems. So, he just always wanted to hear that everything was fine. If you told him all was good, gave him the thumbs up, he didn’t dig any deeper. Managers used that to their advantage – an autonomy preservation techinique.
In early August DSC had an issue (yes we screwed up) that required Dept. 2’s support. At first Dept. 2 didn’t even respond. When they did they made mistakes, then more mistakes which upset the Client and gave DSC a big black eye. The Client requested Dept. 2 to produce the same reports I had been requesting. It took days and when Dept. 2 produced the reports they were incomplete and filled with obvious errors. Now the Client was extremely upset and the stuff hit the fan! This was the same Client who shut down work two years earlier because of Dept. 2. So there was a lot of stuff hitting an industrial sized fan!
Our boss realized he had been misled by Dept. 2.
DSC personnel were embarrassed and hurt that after all of our progress, Dept. 2 could bring us down. Our mistake was recoverable but Dept. 2’s errors…maybe not. August became a miserable month – it seemed like everything fell apart and that it was all beyond our control.
Complexity was once again, crushing DSC. Even though DSC could internally make vast improvements we were not autonomous. We relied on corporate departments to do their functions well so they could support our work. They failed us.
Internally, I questioned if we fighting a losing battle to save DSC. My gut told me that I had taken DSC as far as I could.
DSC’s future hinged on whether or not the corporate functions could learn from their mistakes and now admit that they needed to improve their performance too.
Because my boss wasn’t experienced in the industrial application of Dept. 2’s function, I explained to him how my previous employers exceled in this area – they got “Religion!” Our client has “Religion.” Our Client is waiting for us to be born again!! We need to let them know that we have seen the errors of our ways! We will confess our sins, we will atone and go forward into the shiny light and glory! Are you with me brother? Let me have an “Amen!!” Sing it! Do you feel it?!
Can I get that Amen?! Nope. My boss is agnostic.
The first week of September we forged forward anxious to get back on track. Later that week, my boss walked into the DSC office, looked right down my beautiful Purple rows and tells me he doesn’t like it. (Somebody wants to asserts himself.)
The next week I briefly met with him and he says he doesn’t like my organizational structure. He wants to go back to the old hierarchal structure that he and my predecessor designed. (You mean the structure that failed and had managers fighting in the mud?)
Call me naïve. But, up until that meeting, I thought the DSC I was fixing was the screwed up company my boss inherited. I thought I was helping him out. But I was wrong. I was correcting the DSC he created. He created the overly-empowered union members who fought with managers. He created and encouraged the gap and misalignment between the operating companies and the corporate office. He believed in and reinforced the vertical hierarchy. He believed in Autonomy – he had Autonomy Religion!! He was the one entrenched in the Blue Zone.
He never wanted the process-driven company he hired me to create. Our early conversations were not about a process-driven company but always about how soon I could fire two individuals. Get rid of them and the Glory Days return! All this time he and I were on different pages!
Nonetheless, I kept getting things back on track. DSC still hoped that our relationship with Dept. 2 would change dramatically. After our boss realized they lied to him about producing the reports, we thought he would finally listen to us and we would get the support we needed.
I invited my boss and the Dept. 2 management to a meeting with my staff. The meeting went very poorly. In the spin, DSC got blamed for the Dept. 2 not being able to produce the reports. (Wait a second! If you are saying that DSC prevented Dept. 2 from doing the reports, then you just admitted that Dept. 2 abdicated their job! Do you get that? No.) My staff pushed back like I had never seen them push back before. They asked direct questions but got NO answers.
After the meeting, it was the first time I heard my staff openly blame my boss and say he was part of the problem. Before the meeting, my boss said he wanted to build a bridge between DSC and Dept. 2 but in the meeting he burnt that bridge down.
The next time I met with my boss and Dept. 2 accusations were launched at me. I understood how my managers had felt, being enticed to get into the mud for a fight. I kept my responses short and direct, I was not going to get dragged into the Blue Zone. I felt like I was supposed to submit to the corporate staff, accept their abuse and DSC’s lowly position in the vertical hierarchy.
Sorry guys. It just ain’t in my nature to be submissive and you know that! !n this case everything in me screamed not to submit. This is the wonderful thing about being a woman – you pick up on so many signals that men will tell you are not real, but they are! My instincts told me not to trust them. Something’s up.
My boss and Dept. 2 had to avoid all personal accountability to the Client for the way Dept. 2 messed up in August. If the Client believed the accountability was at the corporate level, (as it really) then there would be huge ramifications to the entire corporation.
So, right from the beginning they openly made DSC the scape goat (and I suspect me directly). But that in turn had even bigger consequences which I don’t think they understood. I knew that being the scapegoat placed me in a precarious situation. Any issue in the future could result in legal consequences to me personally. I do not want to wind up in court in a foreign country. I could not submit. No job was worth that.
I was dismissed.
I was told “There were many complaints about you,” making it sound like everyone in all the companies complained about me. From his tone I was supposed to interpret that I was a horrible person. (Sorry I need to wave the Bullshit flag! I understand that you may want to hurt me but I know who I am, what I have accomplished and what my team thinks of me.)
I will always remember my body language when I asked the question – I was very relaxed like a friend just told me a funny story. I was even smiling. So, “People in DSC complained about me?”
Pause and stuttering. “No. The complaints all came from Dept.2 personnel.” Then it was something about “not being on their team.”
I didn’t say anything else because I knew it would do no good. He was coached to say nothing else.
In a male-dominated, hierarchal, status-driven organization, the person on top gets to decide who will be held accountable for anything that goes wrong. It is the opposite of ‘the buck stops here.” It is the opposite of process driven company. In a company like this, that values autonomy, an individual’s independent actions are to blame for problem. One of my fellow GM’s described our boss’s management style as- fire the right person and problems go away; hire a new person and all is wonderful again, until it isn’t.
So, after working 100 hours per week for weeks and on end, the inevitable question is: Was it all worth it?
Yes! Because I learned that the concepts I discuss really do work, even in the most screwed up, archaic, male-dominated company! I now have enormous confidence in myself and my concepts. This experience put all of the concepts of The Woman in the Room in one environment and I saw how powerful they are! I know everything in my career has built to this moment and I know my mission is to empower women to lead the male-dominated workplace.
And one more thing – God bless America! I am so glad to be home!