Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Accountable but Not Responsible

How does one manage when one is not in charge but is held accountable as if one is?

This is the situation that I faced yet again for the X-teenth time at work:  a project which was supposedly critical and needed to be done - demanded, actually - for which, when a plan is presented, is promptly torn apart, red-lined, told how to be executed without offering any support in executing it, and then promptly left with the "This is what we should do."  All with a 40 minute meeting to discuss the thing.

The takeaway for me:  I am to be given all the responsibility and accountability for being in charge, but I actually have no authority to make my own decisions to design and/or execute on the plan.  My job is to create the work, patiently wait for my betters to "fix" it, and then humbly accept that I will do all the work.  Oh yes, and that they will get all the credit.

I cannot tell you how unbelievably discouraged I was as I walked back to my desk.  Staring at the pile of work that was already present, I sighed deeply in frustration.  It is as if I have no ability to actually influence my job or even my career - instead, I am a small cog who has been robbed of even the causality of actions.  My job, it seems, is to shut up, thank my betters, and work harder.  And to accept responsibility for things that I had nothing to do with.

My question is how to deal with this.  This is not the first time this has happened since my arrival here.  Certainly there seems to be no change come from any other quarter and I really have no other option in terms of others to go to.  Do I simply be quiet and seethe as I continue to try to make headway?  Do I (once again) raise the issue as a point of discussion, risking looking like "that nagging employee who is never happy"?  Or do I simply quash any sense of aspiration or self worth and accept that I am tool to be used by above me, having no independent thought or action but being completely willing to be sacrificed when something goes wrong?

How does one change the course of one's work life?

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