I typically have very few complaints when it comes to my work. I like what I do. I like the people I do it with and feel generally fortunate to be in such a position. Though our office is “small” by office standards (30-ish employees), unfortunately, we still experience our share of office politics. Up until this job here in Nashville, I had never encountered any sort of stereo-typical office culture. I never had many officey jobs in the first place, and the semi-officey jobs I did have were comprised of like 3 or 4 people. 3 or 4 people does not an office culture make…more of an office folklore…or something.
Anyway, so here I am. Going into my third year of being a member of this office family – a family which is often fun, supportive and encouraging, but which also has its stunningly dysfunctional moments as well. It is one of these latter moments that has my knickers in a knot.
First of all, architects are not business people. I know this. But beyond my own duly recognized non-existent business skills, I remember in grad school being told by more than one professor that small architecture firms often don’t last long because instead of the partners coming from degreed business backgrounds, they are themselves architects (i.e. non-business-oriented people). Naturally, there are firms that defy this rationale. My firm, for instance, was started by 2 architects, was run by 4 architects up until recently, and is now up to 5 partners – all architects.
The problem is, despite being talented architects, none of them have professional or educational backgrounds in business management or human resources, and sometimes it shows.
Last Friday at 4 o’clock we were all prompted to go to the conference room. In the middle of the large granite conference table was a monumental white-frosted cake with “Congratulations” written on it in blue, red and yellow icing. Some promotions had recently been doled out and this was the official firm-wide announcement.
Yay for promotions! I’m all about promotions…when appropriate. And by appropriate, I mean deserved. Needless to say, I wasn’t the only one who had to figuratively pick my jaw up off the floor after learning who amongst us had been promoted (and more importantly, who had NOT been promoted).
Here’s the thing, if you want to give someone a merit-based raise for doing their job exceedingly well, then give them the raise they deserve. But don’t feel obligated to also give them a title that they not only do not deserve but will never be able to live up to. All that does is cheapen what those with that title have done and continue to do. Further, it’s an enormous slap in the face to those who are CLEARLY much better-suited to that type of promotion. It just puts a bullshitty tinge on the whole affair.
I blame it on architects being terrible human resource managers. But even crappy-ass managers should have the capacity for fairness and the integrity to make decisions not based solely on placation. It doesn’t take a degree to know that making major decisions, decisions which will assuredly effect the future of the firm, on principles of keeping the peace and not stepping on anybody’s toes, is fucking retarded.
It's maddening when people desperately try so hard to be fair and diplomatic that they end up being tragically UN-fair. And the fact that they aren’t even aware of the tragedy is more cause for irritated bewilderment.
So, for today (and maybe tomorrow – I haven’t decided yet) I am giving office politics, and office culture as a whole, the bird. That’s right, I am flipping off office politics. So there.