Bitterness is an understandable emotion. But it always hurts you more than your targets.
I think I have had a lot in common with the journalists, some of them clearly former Journal Register employees, who lashed out at our company or our CEO in comments recently about the company’s Chapter 11 filing. You can read a sampling at the end of my blog post on the bankruptcy or on Jim Romenesko’s or Josh Benton’s or Matt DeRienzo’s.
I’m not going to debate here the merits of the financial move or the criticisms we received. I already had my say about the bankruptcy filing and I’m happy to give critics their say (I haven’t withheld approval of any comments on my blog post and just checked 14 pages of spam messages to make sure no critical comments got diverted by the spam filter). And I’ll grant that critics, even bitter ones, raise some valid points and questions.
What I do want to say here is that I’ve battled bitter feelings on many occasions in my career. The details aren’t important here, but I’ve been fired and have endured the deaths of two afternoon newspapers. I’ve been caught in the middle of a legal dispute. A publisher’s wife tried to get me fired. An editor forgot I had applied for a columnist’s position I dearly wanted. I learned from the bulletin board about someone being promoted into a position I was in line for. I’ve been passed over for other jobs when I was sure I was better than the people who got them. Twice in a row I changed jobs and moved my family for exciting new opportunities only to have the top executives change directions. I consulted a lawyer about an instance of age discrimination. I’ve been demoted and had my pay cut (five days before Christmas; thank you, Mr. Scrooge). I’ve seen more colleagues lose their jobs than I can count. And I had to deliver that unpleasant news to some colleagues after losing a fight to save their jobs (I was gone myself within a year).
Every one of those incidents felt like a profound injustice at the time and I’m sure each of the offending bosses felt they were sound business decisions. But you know (and deep down I know) that life isn’t that simple. Some of them were injustices. But some of them were sound business decisions. And dammit, some were both. And an honest appraisal would note that responsibility for those unhappy moves ranged from 100 percent the employer’s to heavy responsibility for me (since I didn’t make the decisions, I can’t say it was ever 100 percent on me). (more…)