Cult of the New Person

Let’s say you are in management and you hand over an idea for the “Galaxy” project to somebody who has just arrived at your company. The response is usually: “yes, absolutely we will figure this out. No problem, leave it with me.”

You present the same idea to somebody who has been at the company for years and they’ll say “yeah, but remember when we tried to introduce the ‘Aurora’ project three years ago and half of the customer service team quit because they couldn’t cope with the onslaught of complaints? And, are you sure the flux capacitor can handle all that data? With the ‘Life Star’ project five years ago, it was brought to a halt and we were up for three days trying to get it going again. There are still some issues we haven’t resolved with that.”

No wonder that management likes new people. They are really positive. They are also usually more expensive which no doubt means they are better.

So the new person forges along with their new project. Well they take a few steps forward confidently. Then, they sidle up to the old person. “I just have a quick question, about that flux capacitor…”

The new person continues and it turns out that they bump into the same kind of challenges that the old person does. The flux capacitor can’t handle the data and the customer service team is overwhelmed with all the complaints.  Over time, they become like the old people. Experienced, skilled and undervalued.

Like most people, I have been a new person before. But I have been an old person a lot more. That’s why I am grumpy. I am really loyal to companies. I don’t just jump around in search of something better. I focus on delivering the best I can where I am. I don’t spend a lot of time telling everybody what I am working on. I just quietly deliver. But I get a bit irked when somebody new comes along and says “we’ve never done this before.” Well, yeah, you haven’t. But we have and we did a damn good job.

New people in positions of authority often want to change things. They want to fix everything. Problem is, people who are already there don’t always want to be fixed. They might actually be doing a really good job. Experienced people have a really good insight on what could be improved. Let’s say you are getting things 90% right. Might make sense for the new person to talk to the 90% people and figure out how to address the other 10%. “Hey, how can I help you with the little stuff?” That’s not usually what happens. Lots of babies and bathwater flying everywhere is what usually happens.

Don’t get me wrong, we have had some fantastic new people join us lately. When you are under the gun for a long time, particularly if you are understaffed, you don’t really have time to look at a better way to do things. Our new people have been able to look around and make a few suggestions that are really helpful.

New people have the opportunity to focus. They aren’t being distracted by the old, messy stuff. They have a blank slate. They aren’t clouded by the complications.

It’s not unusual for a new person to start asking the old people to do something. I had something to do. That’s why we hired you.

The people that matter (management, executive team – whatever) tend to concern themselves with the bright, shiny things. That makes sense. Focus on what is important. Except, of course, that sometimes the existing team is so busy with the not so shiny stuff that it’s really hard to find some time for the important stuff.

The longer you are there, the more of the existing stuff you are still stuck with. They don’t give that stuff to the new people. So you waste people with the most experience on all the dross.

That’s the way it is. Until I decide to be a new person.

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