Kool Derby

I have a colleague who worked for an oil and gas company in Tulsa, and he recently informed me that he quit his job of more than 13 years after hearing that he would be demoted. Interestingly, he would receive a position of less stature, but his pay would remain the same.

Craig and I stayed in contact because of our project management affiliation. I met him at a convention several years ago, and was impressed with his uncanny ability to understand the core functions of project management. When you presented a situation to Craig, he understood the methodology one should follow to resolve the issue. In other words, he could take a step back and consider the different dynamics that could impact the project.

The Situation

Craig is pushing 50 years of age, and he has been in the oil and gas industry for most of his working life. About 20 years ago, he assumed a project management position, and was the go-to person for his company. However, in the past several years, he has been unable to get along with key stakeholders of the organization. The veterans of the company understood that Craig was brash in his approach, and largely ignored him when he was unreasonable.

However, times change and so do the people. In Craig’s organization, new leaders were hired, and many of them were unwilling to put up with an abrasive attitude. While Craig had excellent knowledge, they were uncomfortable assigning him as the Project Lead. The leaders felt that he could turn off potential clients.

Craig Meets with His Manager

On a Wednesday morning, Craig was asked to visit with his manager regarding an “update.” When Craig arrived at the meeting, he could feel the tension in the room. This meeting did not have a work-related feel to it.

“Craig, you’ve been a hard-working employee here for many years, and we value what you bring to the table,” said Lenny (manager).

“However, it appears that your approach sometimes rubs people the wrong way. I would like for you to take an inventory of the feedback I am giving you, and do what you can to make it better. We want you to succeed.”

Craig’s Reaction

Lenny provided Craig a golden opportunity to right the ship. Even if he was only partly in agreement with his manager’s evaluation, there was time to take corrective action. However, this would mean that Craig would have to “eat crow” and admit that he was wrong.

As Craig explained it to me on the phone, “I am not going to give in here. They can go to hell! I’ve been with this company for far too long, and they are wrong! They need to apologize to me!”

Craig sent an email to Lenny informing him that everyone else was wrong about him, and that he was not going to make any changes. That was the bottom line! In fact, Craig noted to Lenny that he was insulted by the discussion.

The Aftermath

Lenny called another meeting with Craig, and informed him that he would no longer work on high-profile company projects. However, Lenny respected the many years of service, and would keep Craig’s salary at the same level. Thus, this was a demotion, but Craig kept the same compensation structure.

Upon learning of this decision from Lenny, Craig submitted his resignation, packed his belongings, and was out the door. That fast!

During our call, Craig mentioned that he was looking for work, and that it was much more difficult to find a position that paid equal to what he was making at his old company. After a few weeks had passed from the resignation, he agreed that overreacting to the situation was wrong, and wished he had handled it in a more productive manner.