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I've noticed an odd phenomenon regarding promotions.

People who work for me--and for whom I submit glowing recommendations--tend to be performing poorly when I hear about them 2 or 3 years later.

I didn't understand how people who did things so spectacularly well and who were so proactive under my leadership became angry, resentful and obstructionist when turned loose on their own.

So I called them. And it turns out I have been leading subordinates down the garden path to failure. I work with subordinates in a democratic, collegial fashion, inviting (even demanding) their ideas and insights and active cooperation or analyses, even when they differ from my own. They flourish, and I buffer them from upper management.

When they promote, they promote into a culture of control and mushroom farming. They are disillusioned and disappointed. Even when they knew what it was like, they saw my example and thought they could stand tall under the Evil Eye. Not easy, I tell them, and I have paid the price.

I also tell them that they can kiss up and promote further or do what's right and honorable and pay a stiff price, as I have. They say, it's not fair. And I say, you're right, it's not fair, and I don't know if I would have the courage do it again, knowing what I know now. Maybe I should have been ruthless and cutthroat and controlling--but that just isn't my way.

My democratic, humane style is often perceived as weakness by upper management, but people who work with me know better. My people work hard, work smart and get lots of positive reinforcement along with a decent work environment. I just wish they didn't get pounded into the ground when they leave me and go out into the big wide world on their own as supervisors. I try to warn them, but after seeing my style of management, they can't conceive of any other that's better. I try to prepare them for what's worse, but I don't succeed.

I feel like a failure. I know I haven't made a difference in our corporate culture, and after I'm gone, there will be nary a ripple from my passing this way.

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