AOAPM 1: The Chief Moron and the Christmas Party
Guest post by Vik Tree
Friday, December 15th 2023, a fancy hotel, London.
This post is presented by Sprig - build a product people love.
Sprig is an AI-powered platform that enables you to collect relevant product experience insights from the right users, so you can make product decisions quickly and confidently. Next-gen product teams like Figma and Notion rely on Sprig to build the user-centric products people love.
At Snyk, Sprig was an indispensable part of our product stack, and now, readers of The Product-Led Geek can get 10% off!
It was just gone 11 pm, and I was already six pints deep in my favourite session IPA when the Chief Moron came and sat down at our table. Until that point, the evening had been going pretty well. I’d even go so far as to say I’d had fun - something I really haven’t come to expect from the typical semi-mandatory social situations our company kindly hosts. But then again, when it comes to socialising outside of working hours, I’d much rather do it without the people I toil day in and day out with.
It was the KinetiKode office Christmas party, and so far, with a combination of strategic seating planning with my product team ahead of the night and an array of deft tactical evasion moves in the heat of the moment, I’d managed to avoid most of the people who seem to conspire to suck any joy from the profession I’m desperately trying still to love.
But whether it was my level of inebriation or just a moment of sloppiness, I didn’t see the Chief Moron approaching, and by the time he sat down and opened his mouth, it was too late. The vibe was instantly shattered.
“Happy Christmas Mars Bars!”
I’m the product manager for team Mars. We’re one of five teams in R&D, all named after planets in our solar system. Mars Bars is the name that the Chief Moron has ‘affectionately’ chosen to use every time he greets us. And every time he greets us, I’m sorely tempted to reply with, “Shove it up Uranus!”.
Strangely enough, nobody picked that particular planet for their team name.
With this much beer inside me, it took an inordinate amount of effort to avoid the quip and instead make a more measured reply.
“Happy Christmas to you, too, Jim.”
Still, regardless of what comes out of my mouth, I have a face that can’t lie, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Jim - our Chief People Officer, aka Chief People Moron - shortened to just Chief Moron - knows how I feel about him.
“So Vik….I was chatting to Clive on a call earlier, and he thinks we need to bring forward the launch.”
Clive is our CEO. Based in New York City. Led a company to IPO before joining us about a year ago. 53% approval rating on Glassdoor. Never seen in anything other than beige trousers, a company polo shirt and loafers with socks. It was Clive who brought in the Chief Moron.
And it was only earlier today that we’d had yet another meeting with too many people - including the Chief Moron - in attendance to agree on targeting Wednesday 14th February for the launch of the new self-service experience that Mars are leading dev efforts for.
I gave the Chief Moron moniker to Jim not long after he started, partly because it really irks me that he goes around introducing himself as the CPO and making a lame joke about it “being similar to the Chief Product Officer only much harder.” And partly because he is, in my humble opinion, one of the biggest morons I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter. And I’ve encountered more than my fair share.
And the Chief Moron knew full well that there were a number of constraints that meant bringing our launch forward would be next to impossible without making some trade-offs that nobody of sound mind would think acceptable. Of course, I need to continuously remind myself that at KinetiKode I’m often not dealing with people of sound mind.
The other thing that the Chief Moron knew was that today had been my last working day before the new year and that a couple of days from now, I was jetting off with my family to spend the festive period in a sunnier climate and with a mind free from all the day to day horseshit.
“What do you mean, ‘bring forward the launch’?” I coughed, almost choking on my pint.
“Clive thinks we should aim for the end of January.”
“Did you share the constraints with him?”
I stared at Jim with a look of confusion. Or at least that’s what I thought it was. But I was reliably informed later by Petra - our dev team lead - that holding up a piece of paper with ‘YOU MORON’ written on it would have been a more subtle way of communicating what my face did in that moment.
For a split second, I was at a loss for words. Partly because of the alcohol. Partly because of my frustration. Partly because I was uncomfortably transfixed on something I’d not noticed before - Jim’s left eye was about half a centimetre lower than his right. But mostly because I was realising at that moment that I should have taken more time to keep Clive in the loop on the launch plans.
My internal monologue noted this as a point of professional development.
“I’ll follow up with him over the weekend.” I said, still hopeful that this wasn’t going to disrupt our holiday, yet very much dreading that it absolutely would.
At this point, you may be wondering what valid reason on Earth might exist for an HR exec to be weighing in on anything to do with our self-service product work. I’ve asked myself the same question many times over the past couple of months. And many times, I’ve drawn a blank.
But since Clive arrived, all of our major product initiatives have had an executive sponsor assigned.
I’m not opposed to the idea at all. But Jim? Really? A sack of potatoes would have added more value. At least I could have made chips for the team.
At this point, and feeling somewhat bad for the rest of my team that I abandoned in the company of the Chief Moron, I politely excused myself from the table and made a beeline for the bar.
Launches be damned, I needed another drink.