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January 24, 2012

Despite being only an engineer (and not having any other honorifics after my title like lead or supervisor or chief) I keep getting the short end of the stick and having to train people. You know, it’s never official, like “Hey FrauTech, we’re bringing in this new guy Bobby and we need you train him…” It’s more like “Bobby’s working on the xyz project and will probably have some questions for you.” Then your boss goes AWOL for a couple weeks and sure enough you are hand holding Bobby through every aspect of his new project. (Photo credit creative commons).

Don’t get me wrong, I realize the importance of training. And getting to occasionally teach an intern a thing or two has been a very rewarding part of my job. But Bobby is senior to me. And the sneaky way that I’m asked to train him almost seems like if my boss knew that he straight up asked me he’d be asking me for something above and beyond my normal duties and would have to, you know, actually reward that later. So instead it’s done in an underhanded way.

And I’ll admit, I wasn’t particular fond of Bobby to begin with. People in power just ate him up. Tall, thin, sort of quiet and makes an effort to get along with everyone. But I know the backstory. That he’d agreed to take on a certain project (that many people weren’t interested in) and as a result was given a higher level title that maybe his experience was only borderline for. But now that some of those people who made that agreement with him are gone, and others have apparently forgotten, he’s trying to weasel his way into my group. So fine. No one can blame a guy for trying to get off a project he didn’t like (and no one else did). I knew I needed to try to get over my bias, learn to like this guy.

So I’m trying to get him up to speed on a pretty complex first task my boss had given him that required briefing him on three years of history with this program. I’d tell him things and notice that he wasn’t writing many of those things down. I’d emphasize its importance, repeat it even, and pause to give him a chance to write it down. Nope. So when he sent out his first draft and it had plenty of mistakes I was disappointed. Sure there were a few things he wouldn’t have known. But many others were things I’d told him. Some even that I’d put in writing in an email to him. Not a good first start.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2012 7:15 pm

    But why should he listen to you?! I mean, you’re a woman AND an underling. He’s got real work to do.

    (I know you can’t see this, but I’m rolling my eyes right now. And I’m sorry this is turning out to be such a negative experience for you.)

  2. ferd permalink
    February 5, 2012 9:54 am

    Welcome to the world of office politics being more important than competence. He’s not going to take you seriously, like mareserinitatis says… but he might get you to do the work for him (don’t worry… he’ll take all credit and give you any blame).

    To protect yourself, try to:
    1. Make him come to you for help – don’t proactively go help him. Although you should proactively help people who are junior to you or who give credit where it’s due, this guy is senior so he needs to act as a senior.
    2. Don’t let him take up a lot of your time. And schedule meetings with him that are reasonable to your schedule. Your direct assignments have priority over him.
    3. Document every meeting, etc., you have with him. Include time, date, and a summary of what was covered. Add your observations that he didn’t take notes, etc. You might need this later if fingers start pointing. Keep a copy of all documents (including e-mail) on a thumb drive or other media that you personally own and control.
    4. Send e-mails to your boss about the results of your meetings. Just include basic facts, such as “met with Bobby at 3:30 on 2/3/12 to discuss how and why the team chose to use XYZ architecture for this project.” Don’t be derogatory, but do indicate when and how you tried to help. Again, this is CYA.
    5. If you have time and if you perceive project problems that this guy is supposed to solve but will not, come up with your own solution / plan. You’ll need it when the work eventually gets dumped upon you. However, if this guy demonstrates incompetence in a physical way (such as by submitting poor drafts) then e-mail your boss and propose your solution. Don’t give your boss all of your actual work – give him enough to compare and evaluate, then want to ask you for more. Don’t just converse with your boss about this – you need a physical paper trail (such as e-mail).
    6. If you are on good terms with others who have more seniority than you, it is acceptable to show them Bobby’s poor work and ask them for their opinions. If they have concerns, ask them to talk to your boss about them. If accused of “ratting somebody out” explain that you were getting guidance from more experienced mentors about problems that concern you. You want to develop a reputation for elevating project and company success over petty personnel politics.
    7. When you have a performance review, remind your boss how helpful you are.

    It won’t be easy, but if you have competent management they will sort the wheat from the chaff. If not, you’ll still learn about dealing with people and evaluating the true health of the company.

  3. August 9, 2012 1:15 pm

    I am in engineering in the northeast US and we manufacture stuff. All tasks that require any level of thought and execution are given to engineering. This is done regardless of department. So we see marketing problem.sales support, customer service questions. Everything is dumped on Engineering. We are not engineering top heavy, 2 engineers for a 300 person company, ludicrous. The general attitude by management is “we pay you more so you will be dumped on heavily even though you have save us millions in waste”.
    Real fun around here. What is even more ludicrous is that even though we desperately need a qualified QC inspector, what we have is a “people counter” each morning. Thats right, it’s exactly what is sounds like. A salaried person to make sure everyone is on time, in there seat doing their work at 8:30am or they are marked late and get a black mark. Managers of departments are not trusted to tell the personnel that an employee is sick or will be a few minutes late etc.. Boy I am venting huh. Anyway I see engineers in manufacturing getting the sh$%^@!y end of the stick everywhere I go. I guess we have to love it or leave it. The saddest part is we are making oodles of cash and are no where near going out of business.

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