Wednesday, July 15, 2009

L Millz and Corporate America

Lastings Milledge is a baseball player who is currently a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He also is someone who can teach people a valuable lesson.

Milledge was drafted in the first round of the major league baseball draft a few years ago - twelveth overall This basically means he was judged as one of the top 12 amateur players in the country in 2003. That is talent!

I remember when he was a top prospect with the Mets ... Someone they envisioned being a superstar.

Milledge made it to the major leagues quickly, and was the youngest player in Major League Baseball for a while in 2006. Just for reference, some players drafted in the same year as him haven't made the majors yet. He played decently for the Mets, but despite that, they traded him to the Washington Nationals, in exchange for two decent but not as talented players.

The Nationals are the worst team in baseball today. One would safely assume they would be doing everything in their power to acquire talented players. However, they just traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a less talented player.

Welcome to baseball purgatory, Lastings!

Basically, despite being super-talented, two organizations have given up on him - one of them being the worst team in the league. Why does that happen?

Here are Milledge's comments, as told to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:
"Maybe I get too comfortable sometimes around veterans, and I think that maybe might rub some people the wrong way," Milledge said. "I'm just not the typical rookie guy who comes in the clubhouse and sits there quietly. I joke around. If you've been in the game 15 years or one year, I'll mess around and joke with you. That's just the kind of person I am. I like to communicate with everybody, Latins or whites or blacks, whatever. [...]
I think that rubbed people in New York the wrong way. I know I rubbed Billy Wagner the wrong way. But that's who I am."

Now, it's entirely possible that he was stuck with a bunch of jerks on both teams...though unlikely. For two teams to give up on a talented player, it's likely that he rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, to the point where both teams gave up on him and got rid of him, and got less talent in exchange for him in the trades.

This is in stark contrast to guys like Derek Jeter, Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols...they are extremely talented ballplayers as well, but the difference is, they have never been traded. Why not? Because they not only are talented, but they also have gone out of their way to adapt to the culture around them. It's very egocentric to expect a company, or a team, to adapt to you. Companies won't waste their time.

There is a lesson in corporate America here. I see a lot of students who are really good (both in the IT major and outside of it), and some of them are almost arrogant about it. If multi-million/billion dollar corporations are dumping talented baseball players over concerns they have with attitude, what makes you think a company won't get rid of a talented network administrator (for example) because they are annoying...or late...or rude?

With all the things we teach in our classes, this is one thing you can't teach. Be nice. Smile. Avoid "yeah, but...". Take a little crap at first, even if it means staying late or doing something a little outside your job description. Hold your criticism, or give it out in small bits, spun in a positive fashion. If you are going to be at a company for a while, remember, you can't change anything overnight. If all you do is complain that things can be done better, remember that by doing so you are saying that the job everyone else is doing at the company is not as good as your idea. People think that's presumptuous. Eventually, you can start to make changes, but if you come in the door as a pain in the ass, you'll be out the door pretty quickly. It's a delicate balance, to be sure.

I was one of 13 full-time faculty members hired by PCCC in 2003. I was one of 4 that didn't leave or get let go in the first five years. Did I do things I didn't want to do? Yes. Did I do things I wasn't hired for? Yes. Did I teach two nights? Yes. Did I go out and pick up dessert for meetings? Yeah, a few times. If I had given "no" answers a lot, I'd be back at my old company, making a lot more money, but enjoying it a lot less.

Self-righteous is easy. Putting ego aside is hard, and if you can do that, you can help yourself keep a job. Sometimes, when you rub other people the wrong way, and you know why, it's an opportunity. "Hey, maybe I should work on that character defect" is much better than simply saying that "corporate America sucks".


Anonymous said...

“The oldest habit in the world for resisting change is to complain that unless the remedy to the disease should be universally applied it should not be applied at all. But you must start somewhere.”
Winston Churchill

Anonymous said...

Ironically enough, I was asked to give a reference for one of our graduates last week. The recruiter relayed to me how impressed he was with this student's people skills and modesty, something, according to the recruiter, that he does not usually experience with IT people.

If I had an "IT only" background, I may have agreed that this was an IT only issue. But I remembered back to the first World Trade Center bombing. There was a plan to put the Office of Emergency Management in the Trade Center after repairs. You could literally hear a chorus of echoes: "You're going to put an OEM in a high profile target?!?! Are you insane?!?!"

Of course OEM ended up there and the rest is history. Would softer voices have persuaded the powers that be? I don't know. But I did learn as a security consultant, many people in the security field have big egos and thin skins. My favorite experience was troubleshooting an IP based camera setup for a bank. The software was installed on an unpatched Windows 2000 server during the height of the Blaster worm outbreak! Try to put a positive spin on THAT installation!

Professor Cameron said...

Just for clarification, we see people like this every day. For example, I have jury duty, and the woman in the break room just can't be bothered dealing with people. We're taking her away from her other job responsibilities, which seem to be "reading her book".

We see people every day who hate their jobs. That's a given. If you want to get a job and keep it, being likable is critical, sometimes even more so than excelling at your job.