Battle-Hardened Veterans

I was browsing in the CareerCenter on my company's intranet the other day (never mind why) and I ran across a job listing that gave me pause. It was my own job. The one I have right now, I mean. Well, not exactly the same. I quickly looked at the "hiring manager" and exhaled in relief.

Not my manager, so I stopped worrying about that, but started wondering about something else. Why is the Company hiring someone to do what I already do? This is not good. Am I not doing it well enough? No one had talked to me about this. I get good reviews, but still...I printed out the listing and took it to my manager, and she was as puzzled as I was. She made a few calls that reassured me, "It was just a mix-up." A week later, the posting remained.

I thought about applying for it, offering to do my job and this one at a discounted rate: I'd take a pay cut on the second job (maybe 20% less). I also wondered why there had evidently been no takers -- is my job so awful? Am I the only one dumb enough to do this for a living? Mostly, I just stewed on it. It seemed so clueless, to have two jobs that did the same thing.

I got cranky.

"More politics!" I groused. "If they really wanted to cut costs...," I harrumphed.Then out of the blue, I was asked to help interview the candidates for this other, duplicate job -- "my evil twin." I said yes, of course.I imagined asking the hiring manager why we would employ my evil twin.

In my fantasy, he says, "Our people need to be tough. Our employees are battle-hardened veterans of bruising internal battles. We don't let anyone have access to the customer unless they've successfully run the gauntlet of internal politics. Only the toughest survive to make it to you, the customer."

He'd pause to wipe the blood out of his eyes.

"Yes, this development model does cause a lot of attrition, but it's worth it. Our customers tell us that they like best to work with the bitter and cynical products of mindless turf wars." I had a hard time seeing this as a deliberate policy.

I decided that most likely the whole thing was an oversight. I went to a few interviews. I still wasn't sure why I was helping interview for my own job, so I didn't have much to say. They seemed like nice people (and you all know how I feel about "nice").

In the middle of all this, our CEO gave a speech that struck a chord with me: "Let's not waste our resources, fighting among ourselves," he said. "We have no enemies here: the competition is outside. Focus your attention on the competition, not on the other employees here." This focused my thoughts remarkably.

We're like kids fighting in the backseat of the car while nuclear war rages outside. I decided to stop sulking. I was able to see that including me in the interviewing process was a wise and generous act. My evil twin was hired recently -- and at the same time our functions are being pulled together into the same unit: like a lot of people, I'm having to learn to collaborate whether I want to or not. I guess we're hard-wired for competitive behavior: the trick is to point all that energy at our competitors, not the guy in the next cubicle.

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