When, even if you are right, you are wrong


This is the last of my trilogy on what can happen if your boss gets in the way of your good work – and the consequences of his of her exacting revenge at the threat you have become.

The last line of my last post advised that if you have to leave, do so ‘with dignity’.

You may have gathered that I speak from personal experience. In the world of work, what follows is the one lesson I would pass on to my kids. For those young people who, I gather, read this blog early in your careers, eager to succeed and keen to learn – this one is for you.

In an earlier post, I quoted from the experiences of the former England rugby coach, Sir Clive Woodward.

Having won the World Cup, in the face what he felt was weak and inefficient management of the sport at HQ, he felt he was in a strong position to determine the terms on which he would be prepared to maintain his role and improve the sport.

When his terms were rejected, he resigned.

In the subsequent press conference, he vented his spleen. He describes this event twenty six minutes into his fascinating appearance on the insightful radio show Desert Island Discs.

Subsequent events, right up to today, have shown that Woodward was right in what he was attempting to achieve but wrong to lose his cool at a press conference. As his wife told him immediately afterwards, he burnt his bridges.

As I look back on my career, I have been guilty of this too. I have not left well.

On one occasion, where my company did not deliver on promises made to me and attempted, rather pathetically, to weasel out of firm agreements made, I lost faith in an agency I to which I had given my heart and soul for a number of years.

I resigned.

Further, I took it upon myself to write an analysis of the wrongs that had been done to me, the flaws of the London management team and the changes needed to improve the management of the agency. I predicted that if the agency did not take notice of what I was saying, its reputation and performance would suffer.

I sent my views to HQ and copied in the London management team at which they were aimed.

I came across this memo the other day. And I cringed.

I cringed because, even though every one of the points I made have subsequently been proved right, I was wrong to make them. I burnt my bridges.

Because of this, although not one of the individuals I pinpointed are there now, there is very little chance of my going back, however much I would love to do so.

If I had left with dignity – reputation and integrity intact – who knows?

So, if ever you are shafted by shallow office politicians, stabbed in the back by those around you, plotted against by an inadequate boss, please remember you have read this post, listen again to Sir Clive Woodward on Desert Island Discs, bite your tongue and keep the behavioural high ground.

I promise, in the end, you will be better off.

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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