Alex Stockwell

UX, DevOps, Fatherhood, Miscellany. Not in that order.

The Supervisor and the Subordinate

A tale of two hats

As I start having people working “under” me, a strange dichotomy about expectations is fast becoming apparent: the intentions of the supervisor are often completely different than the perceptions of the subordinate.

When I was at the bottom of the food chain, and a superior asked me “How are things going?”, “How projects A, B, and C are progressing?” or even as pointed as “Are you finished with X yet?”, I would break a sweat and profess the best version of the current status. I would sugar coat issues and emphasize how hard and efficiently I had been working, in the hopes of sufficiently addressing what I perceived to be the root cause of their questioning - which I always thought was some variation of “Is he done yet?” or similar self-preserving concern. Because after all, we have a short deadline, an impossible budget, and the director is going to shove a count-sheet binder up the manager’s ass if the manager’s project isn’t progressing as fast as they would like. So of course this must be why the manager is asking if things are done - they’re covering their own ass.

However, now that I’m wearing the other shoe, I see things completely differently. I want to ask how things are going, and I want to do it regularly, because I want to help. That’s what I’m there for. And what am I going to do if they’re behind schedule? I always imagined a scene of yelling and screaming and a mandate of 12 hour days, but really that’s just stupid, and pointless. I would try to help divide and conquer the work, or “manage the expectations” of the director so nobody is surprised by the change of plans.

I guess I’m realizing that expectations and perception are two very different animals, and it’s something I wish I knew a long time ago.