“I will always have your back.”
Driving back from a very tense meeting, Mandy, my soon-to-be lead developer, was expressing her appreciation. The windshield wipers were working overtime against the rain, but all I was thinking about was the success of my meeting with my boss, Kevin, the VP of application development.
Her proclamation deepened my sense of patting myself on the back for having stuck up for Mandy.
The day before Kevin had informed me he wanted to deny Mandy’s promotion. Turns out a buddy of Kevin’s had recently lost his job and Kevin wanted to bring him on board – but he didn’t have a position open for someone with his buddy’s skill set.
I thought back to the day before when Kevin had popped into my office, plopped in my chair and said, “Have a minute?”
Like I had a choice.
“Of course, Kevin. What’s up?”
Kevin flashed that million-dollar smile, which meant he wanted something.
“Listen, a good buddy of mine – the best lead developer ever – is suddenly available. We can’t afford not to hire him.”
I knew we had no lead developer positions open in any of the other application groups. I had only recently received approval from Kevin to promote Mandy to our lead developer position.
“What are you proposing, Kevin?”
He leaned forward and spoke softly, just above a whisper.
“Mandy is a nice girl and all – smart, too! But is it really the right move to promote her to lead developer? I mean, everyone likes her, but come on, would she really be promoted if she wasn’t so easy on the eyes? “
I tried thinking straight as my face flushed in disbelief – and anger. I knew Kevin was a slick schmoozer, but I had no idea he would openly make such a chauvinist remark.
My blood was boiling. But I calmly said, “Kevin, we had this discussion when I asked to promote Mandy. She is by far the sharpest developer on my team. More important, the other developers totally respect her. She has proven herself time and again by solving the hardest problems. More important, she always takes time to explain her solutions to all the team members.”
“Yeah, yeah – that’s wonderful,” Kevin said. “But are you sure everyone likes her for her smarts? I remember you saying when Mandy was first hired, the rest of the team was acting like a pack of dogs when a new female joins the pack. They were always sniffing around when Mandy walked in, competing for her attention.”
Embarrassed at having said exactly that, I realized Kevin wasn’t the only one who had made an inappropriate remark. And yes, Mandy was the only female on the team – and she was easy on the eyes. But it was also true she could code circles around any guy on the team and was a much better problem solver.
It was true that I had seen a couple of the guys hit on her. But she was faithful to her boyfriend and was pretty good at diverting their attention back to work without making them feel bad.
“True, but Kevin, if you felt this way why in the world did you sign off on her promotion?”
Kevin leaned back in the chair and clasped his hands behind his head, searching for the right words.
“There wasn’t a better option at that time, right? None of the other developers were ready and neither of us wanted to do an external search. You and I both know the workload is growing exponentially and we needed someone right away since you now have two other teams to manage.”
Then Kevin leaned back in toward me with a bit of a smirk and said “Now we have a better option.”
“So now what? I already told her she was being promoted! I’m I supposed to tell her we simply had a change of heart?” My voice likely betrayed my attempt to keep my response from showing utter disbelief.