A day in the life in a dysfunctional department

"We are being treated like Harry Potter – being forced to live under the stairs while everyone else gets to live in the house."

This is an actual quotation from one of my developers after he learned we are going to be forced to consolidate our spread out team into our larger area. We are not rearranging desks or making anyone’s space smaller. We would simply be moving existing people into the open cubicles in our area. These people would be our own people – our peers in our department – versus someone from another department.

The temporary head of IT (the former CIO who was retiring until he suggested his replacement be fired) had to leave for a family emergency, so asked me to fill in for him at a meeting with department heads. The department heads were all people who oversee teams in our building. Subject: Office Space (or lack there of).

I looked around me while at my own desk and knew what was going to occur. I have four vacant spots just near me. I knew they were eyeing our team of six people and wondering if we could move them into our space. This building has been at 90% capacity since I started at the company. With the recently announced organization changes, I knew what was going to happen – consolidation. I went into the meeting with the attitude of "let’s do what we can do to control who is in our area" and be a good team player.

I guess that was the wrong move.

The temporary head of IT after hearing about the plan to consolidation objected…..immediately. "No, they should use up all of the conference rooms before they force us to give up even one seat in our department." We need our conference rooms, I reminded him, we have enough meetings in areas where we should not because, one could argue, that we don’t have enough conference room space as it stand. Removing the few we have would be dumb. Plus, it would give someone maybe 6 seats…..maybe. After going back and forth, he seemed to finally get it.

Or so I thought…

I came back from talking to someone to be beckoned over by the temporary head of IT who was talking to my team. "You should be part of this since you were in the meeting. I’m just telling them about the decision to consolidate people into this area. Don’t worry," he chuckled, "I threw you under the bus." I shrugged and commented, "as you should". I know his game, and I also know not to play into it. I have much more experience at this than he does. Or at least diverse experience that has honed my skills.

Looking at the faces, you would have thought the team was being told we were laying off half of them tomorrow – and that it was their job to decide who was going to be cut. They seriously were depressed and upset and feeling unappreciated because we did not have as much extra space as we wanted.

When asked why, one summarized it nicely. "We are always the red-headed step children at this company. And then they want stuff from us, but won’t give us what we need to do what is needed."

Another guy chimes in "yeah, if you won’t let us have what we need, you can’t complain about our service."

The conference room they are looking to have people make into space for three people? It would literally like be putting 3 people in your bathroom to work. We are not talking your living room – we are talking your bathroom. Meanwhile, I have four people occupying an area that is as big, if not bigger, than my living room. But cramming people into space that is not really large enough for three people isn’t bad. Not in their opinion. Those guys deserve is somehow because they do less.

What kills me more than anything is that the owner of the company commented last week that we need to remember that the enemy is outside of the company – not within. He reminded us that we need to be a team – to work together – to do what is needed to support each other. Three days later, we are back to this idea of us vs them.

Even Harry Potter at the end protects the Dursley’s and makes sure they are safe too. Even a children’s book teaches a lesson that you take care of those who need to be taken care of. The enemy is outside.

Maybe instead of the management book, I should make them read Harry Potter — all seven books. Maybe that is more their speed.

What do you think?

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