On Professionalism

Day 5. 48 pages, 19,689 words.

So, the less said about Monday the better, but I did say I would vent it out. This seems really silly now and I should probably just let it go, but whatever. I have other crap to do today.

Some of you will already know that I have been an accidental and unknown part of my company’s Mumbai office’s e-mail list for about seven years now. I’ve really enjoyed reading their messages and … meh, I’ll let me tell this, the way I did last week. I finally contacted one of the big Mumbai e-mailers, to let him know that I was a) on the mailing list, b) being terminated, c) appreciative of the interesting stuff I’ve received over the past years.

The following e-mail is clearly edited for confidentiality.

Hello,

You’re probably wondering who I am. Well, I am a Senior Technical Writer over in the Lionbridge office in Espoo, Finland.

Many years ago, I worked with [censored] to create a [censored] newsletter. As part of the information-gathering effort, I was placed onto a Mumbai mailing list.

I have been on the mailing list ever since.

I’ve loved being a part of your community, even though I was a silent partner. I have read your [censored] (and shared a few of them with my co-workers here in Finland), and the mails from [censored] about [censored]. I’ve learned a lot about [censored], your holy days, and everything in between. Thank you for all your efforts.

Sadly, I will not be at Lionbridge much longer. It is with a heavy heart that, after eleven years, I received my termination notice as part of [censored].

I was actually laid off on the last day of March this year, but I have a work obligation until the end of July and so I will be here for a while longer. However, it will only be [censored].

I didn’t want to leave it too late, and miss my chance to bid farewell to my Indian colleagues. I feel as if I have gotten to know you over the years, and I will miss your visits to my e-mail inbox!

I am attaching a short tale (in Word docx format) about the end of my time here at Lionbridge. I would be delighted if you were to use it as [censored] – it may not be your usual traditional variety of wisdom, but it is the truth about my own professional and personal growth. A growth which, I feel, you have been a part of.

I hope you will find it appropriate. I intend it with the greatest respect.

I’ll attach the story here too. Okay, it’s a bit sanctimonious and self-righteous, but I feel quite proud of the way I’ve conducted myself through this unpleasant end to my professional time with Lionbridge, so why not share it? I don’t think it’s accusing or implying anything bad about anyone else.

As a bit of background, the Mumbai contact I e-mailed has been sending out inspirational and thought-provoking little stories each week, so this was mine.

A man worked at a company for eleven years. When the company fell on hard times, the man – along with many of his co-workers – was laid off to cut costs.
Although it was sad and a lot of people were upset, the man understood that it wasn’t a reflection on his talents and professional conduct, but a sign of the times. And, since he had worked at the company for so long, he was given four months at full pay in order to help support his family while he looked for a new job.
When his employers asked him to go to see a new customer, and to work on a final project during his four-month entitlement, the man was reluctant. His co-workers, many of them good friends of his, told him he should not agree to the request. Companies had a legal right to make employees work after being fired, but they never actually did it – they could not expect devotion and pride in the job from a worker they’d just fired.
At first the man planned to tell his employers just this, and take a leave of absence from the remainder of his work obligations. But at the end of the day, he attended the meeting with the new customer and agreed to work on the project. He did the best job he could, and made the deliveries his employers had promised to make. All this, to build a relationship between a customer and the company that had already fired him weeks before.
His friends asked him why he’d agreed to perform such a thankless job that he could easily have evaded. “You worked hard and loyally for eleven years,” they told him. “You were a valued part of our team, and they laid you off. You don’t owe them anything.”
“That’s true,” he said, “I don’t owe them anything. But I owe myself. I didn’t want to end eleven years of my life on a sour note. There’s nobody involved in this – not my employers, not me, and not our customer – who deserves that.”
Moral: Don’t pretend to be professional if you only do it when it’s easy.

I wasn’t really expecting them to post this story. I was sort of hoping to get some sort of message back, thanking me for my note and wishing me well. This was one of the only cases of inter-office communication I’d ever taken part in, and I thought it was a really interesting bit of cultural education. We are, after all, supposed to be a communications company with a global feel.

So, how did they respond? You can probably guess.

Did you guess “they didn’t, they just cut you out of the mailing list”? Because that’s what they did. I didn’t get my Monday wisdom this week, and didn’t get so much as a see-ya from my colleagues in India.

I don’t know why, but that hit me really hard. It was like a final fuck-you, a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with this company’s spirit. What sort of a community are they building?

Fuck it.

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19 Responses to On Professionalism

  1. brknwntr says:

    Wow, I have plenty of unhelpful nasty comments, but this doesn’t seem the time. I’m sorry the did you like that bro, that’s cold.

    • stchucky says:

      I appreciate that. I keep trying to see where I might have been out of line, or where there might be a cultural reason for their reaction. I admit I was a bit pompous, but I was also sincere.

      There might be a simple corporate-policy explanation, specifically that they weren’t allowed to put me on the list and are therefore hoping the whole thing will just quietly go away if they ignore me. So, heh, that didn’t work out for them. Which is a shame.

      I also have this enduring mental image of the responsible party sitting over there in Mumbai, sweating and thinking “holy shit, what have we been saying on this mailing list over the past seven years, what has this guy seen us telling each other, what has he seen us saying about the rest of the world?”

      But I really doubt that is the case. I think it was just callous laziness. And I’d come to expect more community, warmth, and general soul from our Indian brothers and sisters.

      • dreameling says:

        I also have this enduring mental image of the responsible party sitting over there in Mumbai, sweating and thinking “holy shit, what have we been saying on this mailing list over the past seven years, what has this guy seen us telling each other, what has he seen us saying about the rest of the world?”

        That’s a hilarious image. I want to think there’s at least a little bit of truth in that.

      • stchucky says:

        “Oh Vishnu, the International Women’s Day e-mail…”

      • dreameling says:

        Classic. Classic.

        *sniff*

        Good times.

  2. dreameling says:

    That’s a lovely little personal story I would’ve loved to have seen in a weekly Mumbai email. It would’ve been the best and most meaningful story they ever posted.

    Of course, that’s also a very heavy story at heart, with very sad implications about the real world, and the Mumbai mailing list is all about team spirit and peppy wisdom and smiley happy times and making people feel good about Lionbridge (and thereby contributing more to Lionbridge). Getting fired does not tick any of those boxes.

    Or maybe you should’ve written “laid off” instead of “fired”. [1] The PR folks apparently go for that.

    [1] Honest-to-god callback to another reader’s reply in a previous post of yours!

  3. aaronthepatriot says:

    OK, now before I write *anything* else let’s all acknowledge I’m from a different country with different corporate experiences, and also have no idea the vast collection of these Monday Emails from Mumbai (MEM) you have, the impact, and whether or not you have ever emailed them before (not regarding being on the mailing list, but for other reasons).

    So the first thing I would say is, too soon?[1] Don’t abandon hope yet, ye who hath entered here. I would give them a bit more time to reply before fully believing that they truly are going to just ignore you. Aside from removing you from the mailing list, that is.

    [1] Ok can I back the Truck up and change my first thing to “if you never hear back then fuck those people”? But my SECOND thing I would say….

    The perspective I’m seeing this from is I view you as kind of like I was in high school, hopelessly in love with this girl who had no idea I existed. Now, details vary and I’m exaggerating that description, but only because that’s basically your situation here. There was a girl like this, and it turned out we went to college in the same town, and I briefly came across her (not in the best way, hur hur) at a party. As I discussed this with others, one who talked with her after me said she told him I was stalking her and it was really creepy. Ouch. Yes, there may have been a mix tape on her doorstep the summer after graduation, but come on! That’s harsh!

    But to them, from one perspective you are me in my analogy. You’ve been having a fairly deep…interaction…with them for all these years. But they didn’t really know about it, did they?

    And then, out of the blue not only are they made aware of it, but in a sense this was a professional error they had made, and you were giving them uncomfortable and unfortunate information about yourself at the same time. I have also been here, with the crush-on-a-girl situation, but let’s stop making this about me! It doesn’t usually work out well.

    Now, different cultures, different countries, these factors may not all work the same way I would expect them to, evidence to the contrary. But they’re in a strange spot and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if there was an “oh shit” factor that was causing at least a little hesitation about how to respond.

    Other than, of course, to correct the error. I mean I really think they should be forgiven for that part. Even if it does sound like Office Space “We *fixed* the *glitch*”….

    As for the rest, yeah, if you never get a response then fuck those people. I’m really sorry you are feeling this way, and that human decency apparently is not in the equation for them.

    As a side note let me comment on this professionalism thing: you are indeed quite professional, I must agree. I have always noted this, and I think in the end I was supporting your decision to be responsible here, but the fact that it is the right thing to do, even for yourself, doesn’t take away from the professionalism. So, good work, man.

    Here, an anecdote from a pretty good future world human evolution story I read. They were speaking of empathy and logic, and how they are often incompatible. And Abraham Lincoln, I believe, was used as an example to disprove the assertion above.

    The story goes, vaguely, that Lincoln was in a debate with a coldly rational friend of his, as to whether logic had any room for empathy, or if it discarded all notions of empathy by rule. Lincoln held that he was highly empathetic but yet also highly logical, in his own estimation. And as they were arguing, it came to Lincoln’s attention that an animal was far up ahead on the train tracks . He ordered the train to stop. He got out, rescued the animal (work with me here, I know, it doesn’t quite seem possible), and boarded the train again.

    Upon reboarding the train, his friend declared victory stating “Ah-hah! See, your stopping the train and putting yourself at some risk with a wild animal just to save its life was not logical at all! Pure empathy drove you to that decision!”

    To which Lincoln replied, “You couldn’t be more incorrect. I rescued the animal because I would feel horrible if I did not, hence it was logical for me to do so!”

    Heh still makes me smile. You would feel horrible to be selfish in the way some of your friends told you to be, hence it was logical for you not to be.

    Also I’d like to note, further on the topic of professionalism, that your letter near the start of this blog had more redactions than George W. Bush’s National Guard records. Bravo!

    • stchucky says:

      Wow. What can I say? These were all just really, really excellent points, and I’m sure you’re right. Even if you’re not, I’m going to work on the assumption that this is how it’s gone down.

      Great perspective. Great comment. GREAT CLEAVAGE!

      /OrderOfTheStick

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        Sir, I am honored. To be fair, I had several hours of boring meetings to think of all this shit. LOL

        Can we whisper of a dream? *what if…all of this…was reality?*

        (TYT reference, hoping you got it, LOL)

        Great perspective. Great comment. GREAT CLEAVAGE!

        *buttons top button on shirt* My bad!

      • stchucky says:

        I don’t always giggle when I whisper of a dream, but when I do, it’s because Cenk giggles into his lapel mike first.

      • aaronthepatriot says:

        You just made me giggle right now!

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