Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who watches the Watchmen? Part 1 of 2

Rumor has it that we're actually getting reviews this year, and there's a remote chance that we might get a wee li'l raise. We'll see on the latter, and I'm even a little wary of the former. What I'm mostly concerned about is how reviews are performed, as in, are they done across the board? Who reviews the higher-ups at Design Associates? It gives me pause for two big reasons: Howie and Orville.

Howie has always been intense and had really high and exacting standards. In general, this has been a really good thing. Those who work with Howie for at least 6 months tend to get really good at architecture, not just the actual architecture part but also the writing-good-emails and asking-sharp-questions and doing-good-research parts. You know, all the parts you can't really learn in school because you don't have a real project that's getting built. But the past two years appear to have taken their toll on Howie. His behavior and intensity are to a point that no one who works for him--and I mean no one--can tolerate him anymore. Ingrid is exhausted, Interns Kimmy and Tara are anxious-tired, and even a group of architects across the office who are working with him on a replacement hospital project are tired of and furious with him. He has gone from just insisting that people do their job with a high level of accountability, accuracy, and quality to treating architects like two-year interns and interns like children. No one takes it personally, per se: he treats everyone with the same level of grand mal douchebaggery. I've had him treat me like that last year while working on a project with Intern Timmy, and having him push and micromanage me the way he's been doing says two things about him:

One, he doesn't trust anyone to do a good job, even though architecture is all about trusting other people to do a good job. After all, if I've made it through five rounds of layoffs, I presume that I'm doing pretty well at DA. All of us who are still here after five rounds of layoffs ought to be pretty good at what we do. So what's with all the micromanaging? And if he finally buys into DA and becomes a partner, does he really think he's going to have the time to micromanage us the way he does now? The second thing this behavior says about him is that he clearly doesn't trust his own training of his staff. Many of us with whom he's worked closely over the past several months to years know how to do a good job, and we do it. I dare say that we present and recent-past members of Team Howie are the best architects and interns at DA because of his excellent training and mentorship. The fact that he's stepped up his micromanaging tells me that he doesn't trust us to do our jobs, the very jobs he trained us to do.

The reason this sucks is that it's making him impossible to work with. His coworkers and employees are exhausted, furious, anxious, and sometimes even to the point of tears after dealing with him. Sven told me recently that I would be working with Howie on a project, and I pulled Sven aside and explained that I'll be glad to work with Howie as long as Sven understands that I might have to have a li'l heart-to-heart with everybody's favorite Svengali-come-lately. I explained to a first-puzzled-then-surprised Sven about Howie's behavioral changes in the past two years. Sven (God and Renzo Piano love him) actually thanked me for letting him know about this and said that he might be able to help me smooth this out a little bit when Howie and I finally had to work together. We'll see how that plays out. But I am a little fearful that Howie's unbearable behavioral changes might get swept under the rug as profits start to expand in 2011 and as things get busier. Will anyone remember his douchery in even a month or so when we have reviews?

to be continued....


paul mitchell said...

Having been in the construction and architecture racket for nearly 32 years, I think I have gotten a pretty good grasp of the demeanor of your Howie.

Surgeons only THINK they are God, architects KNOW they are.

ms. kitty said...

Wonder what changes have occurred in Howie's personal/professional life to push him into this kind of behavior. I've had a church administrator who was in a lot of physical and emotional pain over an undiagnosed ailment. She was hard to work with until she got diagnosed and treated----since then her real and lovely personality has returned.

amr said...

Well Pixie, in my upside down architecture world, I worked for the best designer in my state before starting amr international.
His partner would also micro manage when a project was in the build status. So much so he would have to make adjustments to a very simple email that I drafted that went out. Now after only 6 weeks with the firm I would take this. But not after 4 years.
Communication is the only way.

Now I learnt how to admin a construction project from this partner, no question, because he taught me, but he still didn't trust me. But I found out he doesn't trust anyone.
So the only way Pixie is to confront him and ask him because he would not be aware of his actions.
Ask him why he does not trust? I and many of my former work colleagues had multiple conversations about the situation with the design guru and the autocratic nature of the office.

Good luck with the review.

By the way. We have all since left. And the office continues to be run the same way.

So get in and engage now before he becomes partner or look for a new gig.

Wilderness Gina said...

It's like trying to drive the car with a professional CDL holder in the passenger seat. AGGGHHHHH.

Schmuck needs to git rite or git left.

faded said...

Howie is afraid. There is something that is making him deathly afraid. His response is to control everything around him to the n'th degree. He thinks if he can control everything in his environment he will be safe. He will put all kinds of effort into this and drive everyone away. The he will only have his fear left. Howie is a profoundly unhappy person.

Mile High Pixie said...

Good observations, all. I think Faded and Rev. Kit have hit upon something jointly--what is going on in Howie's life that has freaked him out so much that he has to control everything to the nth degree? I'll keep everyone posted, and again many many thanks for the insights.