My apologies, first off, as this blog will do some repeating of a theme that I have stated before. However, the story delivered was too good to pass up.
You may recall that Sarah was famous for saying one thing and doing another. An example of this would be what she expected of other people versus what she expected of herself. As illustrated in this post, Sarah was famous for imposing standards on others that she didn’t follow herself.
Sarah was famous for giving incredibly short deadlines or huge assignments and expecting them to be done in miraculous time. Within that time, she would pester, micromanage, and constantly harass the employee who had the task, asking for progress reports and how things were coming along. If the progress was not to her satisfaction, she would make mention of it, as ‘everyone loves my honesty.’
During those times when an employee would say to her that they were swamped with work, and thus couldn’t meet her deadline, Sarah’s famous phrase was, “You’re not busy; you’re just not efficient enough”. The office was filled with stories of how mailboxes had to be empty and replies had to be given within a day, or the department, meaning Sarah’s ego, would suffer. At times these excuses were used as fodder to get rid of an employee Sarah didn’t like, but other times they were used by her just to bolster her opinion of the employee’s laziness or inefficiency. She couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t liked. After all, didn’t she tell the people that they were inefficient, thus putting them on the path to greater things?
With Sarah’s ascent to the top of the ladder, the demands on her time became greater. The old tricks for efficiency didn’t seem to work as well anymore, and she found that her inbox was filling up, she had more items to do than time, and still the work was piling up. However, being Sarah, she failed to see the irony that this presented, or in the words she had spoken so many times.
So, when she was approached by one of her direct reports regarding some items that needed her signature, she didn’t blink twice at her response. The items, needing her signature, were for sensitive projects across the enterprise. Without her approval, they were stuck in the queue, and they were keeping the folks who wanted to get these projects started waiting. She was holding up the course of business at the company.
What was Sarah’s response? “My inbox is filled to capacity, I am swamped in my work, and you only handed these to me three days ago. I will need at least a week to process things, and that will be my timeline going forward.”
For anyone who had been on the receiving end of Sarah’s efficiency speech. For anyone who was taken to task because they had three unanswered e-mails at the end of the day. For anyone who had to suffer Sarah’s one hour visits to show her people exactly what they were doing wrong, whether or not she truly understood the problem, it was a moment to smile. Sarah now gave herself a week to respond to things, even when she expected her people to do so in milliseconds.
And, while they smiled, it was also tinged with sadness. They knew the irony, or the sheer hypocrisy, would never dawn on Sarah, who would go right along telling people how inefficient they were. The only consolation? It might take a week for her to notice now.