that’s not exactly truePosted: April 30, 2013
“Never heard of him. That’s not exactly true. We were like brothers.”
— Airplane II
When I was direct assigned to my current role at work two years ago, right at this time of year, I had a counterpart in another organization with whom I was required to work closely. I found Jan (as I’ll call her) grating, irritating, and difficult to work with. In general I didn’t much like the job in those days (things have since changed). I was unhappy with my then-manager for her role in my being assigned the position, and I was looking around for other options, of which there were few.
Still, Jan and I developed a good working relationship over time and a mutual respect evolved. When it came time for performance reviews and my manager polled my peers, Jan’s praise of me was glowing, almost to the point of being embarrassing. When the company offered an early retirement program for which we both qualified, she told me one day, “Please don’t tell this to anyone. I’m telling you this as a friend, not as a colleague. But I’m thinking of taking early retirement.”
Eventually priorities in Jan’s organization changed, and the close collaboration came to an end. She was later assigned other tasks. Recently, however, interest in the project revived within that organization, but under another individual. Jan came to one last cross-organization meeting where we introduced the new person.
I took a few minutes to thank Jan for her contributions and mentioned how I appreciated her help in showing me the ropes in my early days in the new position, when I was a deer in the headlights or drinking from a fire hose (depending on which metaphor I was in the mood for). Which was in fact true, despite the other stuff that was also true. She said that this was one of those projects where ten years from now you would remember the people you worked with. She said it was fun in those early days.
I said that yes, it was fun. That’s not exactly true. It wasn’t. And I don’t like lying. But there was no reason for me not to maintain a cordial relationship with Jan. We can each go off working on our separate projects maintaining a good feeling about our past collaboration.
That’s not a bad thing.