The Pensky File

The Devil You Know

I was recently given some work to do by the Hi-Pot* in our team. We’re peers but I figured that being in his good books would perhaps reflect some of his shine to my tainted career. I was wrong. Mr Hi-Pot was looking to offload the scum from his work pile. His close relationship to the Director locked me in since he had “a word” about my delivering the appropriate outcome. So, I’m stuck doing garbage and unable to escape because of the obligation to my unrepentant superior.

The scope of the project is to assess “the degree of risk” within the operation of the sales function. The first measure of which was a survey filled in by the sales team itself. I scoured through the responses only to find the the Director had over-written them. Apparently this was so that the “right” answer came up during the external audit.

There are three wrongs here: my acceptance of bad work; the palming off of said bad work by someone who should be well-intentioned; and a superior with poor integrity. It’s not good for the company.

*Hi-Pot = High Potential (also Golden Boy or the Director’s be-yatch) 


The Quiz – What’s a CLM?


Here’s an example of the leadership in my company and how frustrating and morale sapping it is.

During lunch hour our team used to do the quiz from the local paper. Fifteen questions and each participant wrote their answers on whatever scrap or Post-it they could find. Once the answers were read out, everyone self-scored, honesty system applied. Trivia was a lot of fun for the group and it helped bond us.

The quiz became quite popular and we soon had people in adjoining pods playing. Sometimes when we missed lunch we ran through the quiz at the witching hour of 3pm, when batteries needed charging.

Somehow our fun got noticed and I got tapped on the shoulder by my manager, “Psst. You’d better stop doing the trivia. The Marketing Director saw you all and isn’t pleased.”

Two things annoyed me here: (1) It’s only light trivia, taking up 15 minutes at most and it’s not like we don’t do our work; and (2) why did the Director have to speak to my manager instead of either joining in or telling me directly?

Was this the day when my career path and high potential status were permanently blotted? Was this a Career Limiting Move?


The Vicious Cycle: Being Bitter At Work Doesn’t Make Things Better

The Vicious Cycle

My current job has no real description. The work is mostly to do with numbers: how they can be made a better shade of black and how they can be re-engineered into a pretty graph or poignant table in a presentation. I know I’m good at this. My problem is that I’ve been doing it for a few years and I really don’t know where it’s going to take me. I’ve been cast into a familiar groove (“the numbers guy”) by the powers that be and it is making me bitter.

I guess it all started when I was able to convince my superiors that I needed a job with more adventure; looking at uncharted areas and pioneer a new view for the company. I guess I could talk about these dreams better than I could practically make them come to life.

So now, I’m stuck. I’ve been doing more or less the same work for three years (the last 12 months have been utter torture). I have learnt nothing new; my bosses don’t understand what I could potentially do (bad communication on my part) and they don’t know what they could give me to do — other than the numbers. So, still stuck.

The trap is that some skills are hard to find and when unearthed will be plumbed for all they’re worth. This is when the stone grows mossy. You get angry about the lack of progression and the monotony of it all, but the superiors don’t care. The job’s getting done. You’ve added nothing to your skills so it’s difficult to take those advancing steps. The blackness creeps in, you get despondent, work less hard and you settle into your rut.

I’ve had this cloud over me for too long. Sick of it all, I decided to take charge. I want a rewarding career and am sick of being a corporate nobody. By chance, I came across this . It has made a world of difference to my attitude. In the end, planning my escape begins with this positive frame of mind: I am responsible for my happiness at work.



It All Starts at the Top

 Et tu, Brute?

To me, company leaders are a way of marking the history of an organization. They’re the corporate equivalent of  tree-rings. The survivors bear the scars of everything that has passed and has shaped them into the beings that they are now.

The leaders in my company have had years and years of experience in the industry. As much as this has helped them push the organization onto its high perch, I think that this has bred bad behavior amongst the staff but also shuttered them from anything really new.

I think of it this way, we are social creatures. We imitate those that seem to be doing well for themselves. In my company the mantra is, “As long as the job gets done, I don’t care how you do it.” In such a dog-eat-dog environment with no moral scruples, it’s no wonder that so many people are disenchanted.

I read this article about “infectious leadership” and thought about our guys at the top: 



The Window Seat

Getty Images

I don’t know if it’s just my state of mind but I feel that I’m being cut out of the loop. Invites to meetings go missing. Problems where I have particular expertise are handed off to others to solve. Do they know that my heart isn’t in it? How do I maintain the facade?

My moral compass is spinning. I want to be seen as a hard worker, a guy who’s willing to put the work in. Problem is, I don’t care too much for this company, I don’t have respect for (most of) its people and the way things get done.

Right now, I feel like the guy who’s sitting by the window, waiting for the first chance to get out.


Say What You Mean, Do What You Say

Environmentalism is a deservedly popular trend these days. My company is no different from others in trying to flash their green credentials. So, a “green report” was produced to demonstrate how much less water was being used in the manufacturing process and that there was great progress in achieving carbon neutrality.

The release of the report was through email with a link to the corporate intranet. Within days, paper copies were sitting on all the desks at head office.

Now I wonder, did anybody in PR actually understand what the environmental cause was really about? Head office people are always on their butts, reading email and thumbing their Blackberries. Who needs a paper copy and isn’t this contrary to the overall cause?