Out of the Frying Pan, And The Fire Didn’t Burn

An uncomfortable conversation supports growth

I felt lost, confused and frustrated–not sure what to do.

Decades ago in my first role as a manager our little team of three was responsible for managing a few products at an integrated circuit manufacturer. Our duties included product definition, launching, pricing, customer service, delivery oversight, and more.  George**, one of the guys on my team was the service agent for a couple of large customers.

He was also in law school.  I admired his drive, until his studies caused him to call in “sick” quite a bit.  When he was in the office, George’s work product was exemplary. When he was out, our other teammate and I had to do quite a bit of extra work because customer service needs to be timely.

I am not sure why I did not discuss the situation with my manager, but that’s a topic for another day. After a few delays, I mustered my courage and asked George to talk about it. I shared about his exemplary work and how I valued him as a member of our team. I then outlined what my day looked like when he was out–he was surprised.  He had not really considered the broader ramifications of his absences.

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We talked about the need for consistency in customer service. I shared that his lack of passion for customer service was okay given that it was an entry-level position and that it didn’t seem like it was his long-term career goal. However, we needed him to be in the office more, or find a job that did not require the high level of presence. I told George that because of his outstanding work I would help him find another position and write a recommendation.
I fully expected George to choose to leave for a different job.  He did not.  He focused on doing a great job as a customer service agent, and was soon promoted to manager.  I cannot tell you much about why George chose to change. Unfortunately I was not there during his transition. I had left for greener pastures so I heard the news of his promotion from others and did not have the mindset to want to understand it more at that time.

I am not even sure our conversation had any effect on George’s transition. I do know that I am glad I jumped out of the frying pan and that we talked.

What challenging situations in your life changed because of a you had the courage to jump out of the frying pan? What got you to initiate the conversation? Please share!

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** George is not his real name

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