Going for Broke

August 29, 2016

Going for Broke

Saying ‘no’ when Larry asked you to join a clandestine project was fraught with land mines, as you saw.  Is the answer to say ‘yes’?

The pros and cons

If you put together a pros and cons list, it might look like this:

Pros of going for broke Cons of going for broke
The project could be great career move. You’re violating your employment contract.
Lots of people get to the top by breaking the rules. If you`re caught, you could be fired.
The game could make you big money. Nothing comes of the project and it`s all risk, no pay-off.

Your terms

You think the pros outweigh the cons but want to square things with your conscience. You stipulate you`ll work on the project only on your own time and your own laptop. Meetings have to be off the premises. Larry agrees although his ` Aren’t you the stickler?` is more than a little mocking.

At first, it goes well

The game is very cool, with levels within levels and all kinds of weapons you can acquire through a complicated ritual. They’ve only done the opening sequence but you see the potential. This could be big. Every evening, you send the test data from home and meet the next lunchtime to discuss.

Things get complicated

Larry: Hey, Caleb’s kid is sick, so he’s heading out. Let’s meet now.
You: It’s only 10:00.
Larry: Won`t take long.
You: Can`t we do it at lunch tomorrow?
Larry: Caleb might not be back, depends on the kid. The small meeting room is free.
You: Larry—
Larry: Oh for god’s sake, are you in or not?
You: Yes, but—
Larry: Then get off your high horse and come on.
You: (Pause) Okay.
Larry: Think of it as your coffee break if that helps your conscience.

What’s all the fuss about?

I mean, fifteen minutes work time and fifteen minutes using a free company meeting room. This incident is probably nothing to get excited about. But as the project progresses, there’s likely to be an accretion of incidents.

  • Malcolm (the boss) sees you meeting and asks why. Somebody has to lie.
  • You use your workplace computer to demonstrate a sticky point.
  • One of the others who`s working on the project at the office can’t get to his screensaver quickly enough. Malcolm asks uncomfortable questions which result in a response which is a lie.

All not very important incidents. But, over time, they can build up until even you are tangled in a web of tiny omissions, commissions, and side-steps. This particular web might be brushed aside, but as I said in an earlier post, it`s more about the accumulation of these webs over your career.  Will there be a point when you can no longer be seen or see yourself?

Is there a right answer?

If by ‘right’ you mean one with no adverse consequence, I doubt it. It comes down to what you care about, how you want to be in the world.

It’s not about making ‘the’ right choice, but being able to live with the consequences. It’s deciding whether this time, this place, to say ‘thus far, no further’ to retain your self-respect or walk away to fight another day. It’s about bringing yourself to work, the topic of the next post.

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