A not so nice story when leading an engineering team

I want to share a story about my experience leading a team in a company with a culture that was different from my own leadership style. The camaraderie between employees was great, but it seemed to me that it was a way for them to protect themselves from the toxic leadership style they were experiencing.

At that time, I was leading a team of seven people who were struggling with project progress due to being dependent on another team's delivery. To avoid compromising the project's progress, we worked together to identify areas in the planning that could make smaller progress and free up future time to dedicate to work that was currently blocked.

I tend to adjust my leadership style based on the team I'm leading. Since my team was engaged and committed to the project's vision, I rewarded them whenever they asked for some time off to take care of personal business. This could be anything from taking children to school or going to the municipality, and I even compensated them with Friday drinks after lunch. I felt that they deserved it and that rewarding them would only strengthen our relationship and mutual respect.

However, during a leadership meeting, I was asked why my team was always out of the office and giving the impression that they were not delivering. I took this as an opportunity to explain that the reality was the opposite - my team was outperforming our best expectations and planning. I opened our task management tool and showed data to support my claims.

The CTO congratulated the team and thanked us for our efforts and support on that complicated project. But unfortunately and for my surprise, not everyone in the C-Level team shared this perspective. I was asked to stop rewarding my team, as it gave the impression to the rest of the company that they were lazy and not working. One member even went so far as to suggest that we should stop allowing the team to take care of personal and urgent matters.

When I tried to explain my reasoning behind this strategy, I was personally attacked and accused of being a communist/socialist for throwing the company's money out the window. I was even told that employees couldn't leave before 6pm, even if the company paid them a salary. I looked around the room, hoping that someone from the executive team would speak up against these unfair accusations, but no one did - not even the CTO who had praised us just a few minutes before.

I reluctantly accepted the instructions to stop rewarding my team and allowing them time to take care of personal matters. However, I knew deep down that this went against my personal values and beliefs. The next day, I called my team for a meeting to explain the company's rules. At the end of the meeting, I told them that I was handing in my resignation letter to the management of the company because I was against the cultural vision of the organization, leaving alone the personal attack I received in the meeting the day before.

In the end, what I learned from this experience was that not everyone is willing to give back and reward people for their dedication and hard work, so they can receive the same dedication and hard work when they need it the most. It's important to be aware of these values when choosing a workplace and a leadership style that aligns with your own, and that values and respects your personal life and well-being.