Friday, July 30, 2010

Corridor Reputation

This is a cautionary tale: Don't be this person.

As most of you know, I am in training. If you are a Facebook friend, you know I am in training with a self-absorbed know-it-all.

This officer is one of those people who has an answer or experience for everything. You'd think she should be teaching the course...except of course she had never had the position she was going into.

When she wasn't busy pontificating, she was asking really simplistic questions that had already been answered.

She either really liked the sound of her own voice or really didn't notice the sighing every time she spoke up. Which was all the time. Even when we had gone over time and it was time to go home.

She is apparently a civil service conversion...she announced she had come in at mid-level and made clear her utter distain for Junior Officers. This annoyed me not only because she had never been one, but because we had several JOs in the class. Besides, I like JOs. They tend to be smart, motivated and energetic. My biggest goal as I go to post is to be a good boss to my JOs, because I think they deserve that. And I think they will be better bosses for it.

Her poor JOs will not get that.

But it goes further. She announced that the military in Iraq had a more positive experience because of her presence there. And she is convinced that the people at her onward post, which she made very clear wasn't one of her top choices, were either "idiot JOs" or idiots who didn't know how to deal with the local government.

She even asked the Ambassador who was speaking at one point how to deal with a Charge' who had screwed up relations with the country she was going to by not dealing with them at all. She was concerned that her new Charge' would prejudice the new Ambassador before she got there. She said she expected, because they had screwed things up so badly, even putting a first tour JO in the position she is to hold rather than letting her come to post early, that there would be a parade at the border for her when she got there.

No, I am not making that up.

So she said those things to the Ambassador, who tried to answer her diplomatically while the rest of the class gasped. And then afterward, I said, "Isn't your Charge' [name redacted]? She said yes, and went on to repeat how he had messed up. And I said, "I served with him in [post redacted]." "Yes, well," she continued, and went on to trash him some more. "I find that surprising since I found him to be an excellent officer. Very smart and nice. I'd serve with him again."

In other words, I know him, I like him, I am trying to help you put down the shovel because you have hit bottom. I am trying to help you realize that when you name your post, people will know who you are talking about. And not all of them will share your distain.

She never put down the shovel. She just kept digging.

Don't be that person. That is what corridor reputation is all about. Do people want to work with you? Are you a nice person? Do you pull your own weight? Or do you spend all your time bad-mouthing others while tooting your own horn.

It does not surprise me that she didn't get a post she wanted. Because to a person in the class, NO ONE wanted to ever serve with her. Her name is now on that list we all carry in our heads of people we would avoid our dream post to avoid serving with.

The Foreign Service is small. And posts are even smaller. You don't want to serve with people who are negative and arrogant.

That is corridor reputation.

Don't be that person.


Shawn said...

What is even more unfortunate is that she will continue to serve in the Foreign Service for as long as she chooses and end up FS-01 or even SFS eventually because no one ever gets fired for this sort of attitude. Maybe someday the EER process with be revamped to be useful, but until that happens, these sorts will continue to survive.

Ryan Miller said...

Digger - As an incoming JO starting on Monday, thank you for such an informative post. I got a whole lot of knowledge, and a good laugh at the same time. I would especially like to say thanks for your blog, as I have been navigating the FS entry process, I looked to your writing as a salve for the FS itch that I was scratching. Now that I am on my way, tomorrow, driving, with much caffeine, I say thank you for inspiring and enlightening me.

Ryan Miller

Digger said...

Safe travels Ryan! I'm glad you have found my blog useful! And good luck on Monday! I'll see you around FSI when you get there Tuesday.

And Shawn, she sadly is apparently already an 01 (or at least she referred to herself as the equivalent of a full bird colonel), but I hope given that she had such trouble finding a job, she won't be able to cross the SFS threshhold.

Shawn said...

A colonel, eh? That always goes over well with our military colleagues.

Consul-At-Arms said...

An FS-01 _does_ indeed carry the assimilated rank equivalent to colonel, but that's only in terms of pay. Actual precedence depends upon position, at least when posted abroad.

Melissa V said...

Thanks for writing this, it's good to remember that there are people with this kind of attitude everywhere in the world. I look forward to finally meeting you on Tuesday!

It’s Friday, and that means that the Weekly State Department Blog Roundup is up – and you’re on it (again)!

Here is the link:

(If I quoted your text or used your photo(s) and you would rather I had not, please let me know. Please also be sure to check the link(s) that I put up to you, in order to verify that they work properly. If you would rather that I had not referenced you, and/or do not want me to reference you in the future, please also contact me.)

ForeignObsession said...

My oh my! Someone forgot the 13 dimensions. hehe.

Thanks for the interesting post. I truly enjoy your blog!

Diplogeek said...

Oh, dear Lord. You've described the kind of nightmare boss I dreaded when I made the decision to leave my last job for the FS. Yikes.

And Ryan, if you're in the 155th, I hope we of the (Clapping) 153rd will see you at the welcome shindig on Sunday!

jc said...

Digger - You asked once about my status: I'm converting to foreign service from the civil service, I'm a PD officer, I've served in Iraq ... but I'm not an FS-01, so I hope I'm not *that* person.

Tidavs said...

You realize, of course, I'll need that name. (That's how corridor reps really work.)--Tim

Digger said...

@JC - definitely NOT you.

@Tim - I have to go see your wife Monday so I'll pass that name along.

fsohmygod said...

Please tell me that she's at least not in a tandem couple and isn't destroying someone else's reputation and career prospects too.

Sara said...

Three months into my first post - I've started a list. And I'm gathering information from my husband's classmates on people from their post. There's at least one at every post!

Anonymous said...

It is sad how quickly your "I don't want to serve with this person" list grows. Our whole post added one poor fella in Washington to that list after a recent video conference. After listening to him for just about 15 mintues, pretty much everyone at post decided they would never want to work with him.

Digger said...

There is a reason why "I'd serve with him/her anywhere" is the highest compliment someone in the FS can give.