Monday, May 18, 2009

Growing pains (but without Kirk Cameron)

After the recent dust-up regarding the best utilization of my skills, Derek and I had a little discussion/debriefing at workday's end, after both Howie and Bosley had left.  Derek had been out of the office and missed the to-do, so I filled him in.  Derek had a good laugh about it, and then (as usual) he had a great insight.  "I think Howie's--and our--biggest challenge in the next couple  of years as our professional lives and skills emerge will be retraining him out of asking us to do intern work for him."

As usual, my head exploded.  Derek is a quiet fellow, but man he's sharp.  And he had an excellent point.  Derek, Ingrid, Elliot (before he was laid off) and I all started as interns with Howie, and as we all got and get licensed and acheive more in our careers, we're at the point where we really shouldn't be Howie's errand boys and girls.  Design Associates charges its clients upwards of $100 per hour for our work--should we really be billing a client that much for us to make a phone call or two and printing out some drawings?

Derek also realized that he hasn't actually worked for Howie for any real length of time in almost two years.  Wheatlands ended in summer of 2007, and except for a brief stint on a master plan for a rural community near Wheatlands, I haven't really worked for him since then.  However, Howie continues to jump up, turn to us, and command us to print this, find and email that, call the other, and so on for him as if we didn't have anything else pressing or billable to do.  Sometimes, we indeed didn't have that much going on, but as with Bosley last week, I had stuff to do that was more pressing than Howie's small potatoes.  It's as if Howie has forgotten that we aren't his property--the lack of work in the office has broken the old way of working where an employee is only on this or that team and is loaned out conditionally.

Derek was also right in that we newish youngish architects will have to grow backbones and learn to feel comfortable with telling Howie 'no.'  And as I experienced, we'll have to be articulate and steadfast with our 'no' when we're sure that 'no' is indeed the answer that does the most good.  I'm thankful that Bosley showed up when he did to help me articulate why I couldn't do Howie's small tasks (I had master planning to do and couldn't afford to be continually interrupted), but I know I won't always be so lucky.

Meanwhile, Gregg's team managed to call my contact at the state health department and get a timely, cordial, and helpful response back.  "The gal you sent me to?" said the architect who eventually made the call.  "She was really nice!  And she knows her stuff.  We were probably on the phone for fifteen minutes just going through the 'what-ifs' that I need to ask my client and what the raminficatons of each 'what-if' was."  

I almost asked her to tell Howie about her experience.  "See?" I wanted to tell him.  "It's not that I'm special and get calls back from government folks; I'm just clear and polite and not an asshole."  Even Intern Kimmy noticed Howie's occasional outbursts.  "He throws tantrums," she observed on Friday.  "It's like he pokes and pokes and pokes, and when he doesn't get his way he gets really agitated."  Duly noted, I thought to myself.  Now to figure out how to combat that kind of behavior.  At some point, Howie and I will be more equal than we are now, and he will forget, and I shall have to politely but firmly remind him.


Wilderness Gina said...

Want me to talk to him? Tell him to wear a cup.

Miss Kitty said...

At least he knows where he stands now. :-) And maybe your life will be a little easier.