The Recliner Principle II

Originally posted 2015-05-13 23:09:10. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

If I show up at your door, chances are you did something to bring me there.” – Martin Blank

“Everyone’s got their own recliner, don’t they? As long as nobody’s forcing them out of it, they’re going to stay there as long as they can, with as little movement as possible.” – Me

I think I might have accidentally made a few people’s lives Hell yesterday.

Sorry about that.

See, way back in early 2009 (and yes, that “2009” is “way back” now blows my mind, but that’s a topic for another day) I wrote The Recliner Principle.

If you haven’t read it yet, you should – it’s a cautionary tale of evaluating where you are at your job, figuring out if you’ve gotten a little too complacent with the status quo, and how bad that can wind up being for you.

How bad?

Well, when your manager discovers you have it…or even worse, discovers that they have it…

Again, to set the stage properly, if you haven’t yet read The Recliner Principle, go check that out over at

It all started pretty simply – I met a former co-worker for lunch yesterday.  He’s moved his way up the food chain to where he’s a manager these days.

While sitting there waiting for our respective lunches to arrive, we got to chatting about his team.

It’s a six person development team that handles internal projects, and he’s had the same team, with the same people on it, for about three and a half years now.

Not him.

As he sat there laying out their virtues (as any good manager should), I started thinking about how tight the job market is right now talent-wise and all of the people moving around into different positions to get more money, or more challenges, or for any of a number of reasons…and so I started asking questions, looking to find their motivation for staying.  I mean, he’s a great guy and everything, but my former co-worker (who knows I’m writing this, just for the record) isn’t exactly what one would call a “battlefield commander”.  He’s a solid enough manager, but he’s not the type to “inspire” people or to really draw people to him with an overwhelmingly magnetic personality or anything.

So…why are they all still there?

They’re not grossly overpaying them.   In fact, it seems they’re lagging a bit on going market rate for most of his positions…which is typical, but is also one of the reasons why people move – to make more money.

They’re not H1B visa workers, so they’re not worried about losing a visa sponsorship or anything.

None of them live really close to the office, so it’s not like convenience of commute is a driving factor.

And so I asked him how he felt about his team’s skills.

Him: “I have every confidence in my technical team”.

Me: “Really?  EVERY confidence?”

Him: “Every confidence.”

Me: “Would you take that team behind you to a cold-call on a business opportunity to get new work for the company if that’s something the company decided to do?”

Yup, damn, in the recliner…

Him: “Ummm…”

Me: “EVERY confidence?”

Him: “Well…yeah…maybe not…”

And that’s when we started having the candid conversation about whether it was possible that his team was still there either because they’re suffering from The Recliner Principle…or maybe perhaps because he was, and that’s why they were all still there.

I could almost see the wheels turning in his mind.

He started recounting incidents that he’d let slide…probably more times than he should have.

Timelines that had been missed…that he always believed and carried forward the excuses about.

Little things that kept cropping up like defects missed in testing that he had to rationalize to his managers.

As he let out a heavy sigh and muttered a word that starts with “f” and ends with “uck” but isn’t “firetruck”, he started to realize that he’d been sitting in the recliner himself with regards to his team, and that maybe they were there not because they liked working for him, not because it was challenging enough for them, not because they were entirely happy with their jobs…but maybe they were there because they couldn’t find another job anywhere else.  Maybe they weren’t that good.

And who knows? Maybe they really arethat good and just got into recliners of their own and have been a little lazy lately.  Maybe they really arethe right people for the jobs that they have.

But maybe they aren’t.

And just like it’s a bad idea for you to get into the recliner at your desk…it’s even worse when a manager does it at theirs.

That’s all for this time, now go read something else

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