Monday, February 14, 2011

5 People Who Make My Life Hard

One of the elements in the Flower exercise in Dick Bolles' immortal What Color is Your Parachute? is describing what kind of environment you want to work in or work best in. I'm pretty sure he means things like "working on a team" or "autonomous position in reporting hierarchy" or "a post where I can boss people around", rather than things like "not working with another Trekkie." But I guess the parameters of your definition are up to you. With that in mind, here's a brief reflection on the kind of people I don't like to work with, due to the bald spot they have create on the sides of my head from where I constantly am pulling my hair out.
  1. The Violent Agreer: This guy agrees with you. Completely. It's as if you share a mind, a heart, a soul... but from the way he's yelling and dragging the meeting out, you would think that you were the bitterest of enemies because you punched his elderly mother. This hour and a half meeting has become like Shoah - long and tragic. You all were on the same page after 20 minutes; but this guy is so in love with his oratory skills and the very sound of his own voice that he cannot help but belabor every single nuance of his acquiescence with your position. And when someone, quite naturally, asks if he is disagreeing with the point, he then must launch into a new monologue to affirm his agreement with the thing. This guys wastes my time, stresses me out by making me feel unnecessarily defensive, and gives me a headache.
  2. The CY Ass Master: I named this gal after a character I met when I was on a school trip in Florence. We had a tour guide, who was also leading another school group, which included a young lad who referred to himself as "The Ass Master." I am completely sure that he gave himself this nickname, since I can only assume that it's meant to imply either that he's in good physical form or that he has a way with the ladies; neither of these assumptions would be drawn by the casual observer. Anyways, for those of you not down with the business jargon, CYA stands for Cover Your Ass. Used in a sentence: "I know you don't agree with this strategy, so be sure to CYA by documenting your concerns." This particular character has only one objective in mind - and trust me, it's not being productive or working together as a team. She only cares about making sure that nothing can be traced back to or blamed on her. This makes any decision making or progress almost impossible, since she is invariably in a position of power and thus an integral cog in the decision making machine. Many of the annoyed emails I receive inquiring about delays can be traced back to this lass.
  3. Oscar the Grouch: You've been consistently nice to him; you've gone out of your way to thank him for the work he's done; you've been sure to include him in important email chains. He is still a jerk to you every time you see him. He must have made a conscious decision at some point to be rude and unkind at all times, because no one has this kind of bad mood so consistently. He leaves me torn between my desire to people please to make sure that everyone likes me and my itch to whip out my copy of Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior and read him the riot act. (for those interested, this is a life changing book: http://www.amazon.com/Manners-Excruciatingly-Correct-Behavior-Freshly/dp/0393058743/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1297704347&sr=8-1
  4. The Blind Sheep: It is truly a miracle that this girl was ever able to graduate from a college that did not allow group tests, because she seems to be literally incapable of making a move without some form of guidance, affirmation, or instruction. Activities that you would have assumed were common sense seem to require 30 minutes of step-by-step direction over IM. You get an email alert anytime she thinks about going to the bathroom. You might as well go with her to lunch because she'll only call you 5 times asking for your opinion on egg versus chicken salad if you don't. Maybe it's because I'm always polite and respond to their inquiries, but these ladies sniff me out the second they arrive on the project and don't leave me alone until they have systematically drained me of all my sanity.
  5. The Weedwacker: Oh, this guy. This guy is maybe the worse. Okay, so there are a lot of things that happen in a given day on the type of projects that I'm on. Meetings, working sessions, passive aggressive emails that CC the entire executive team of the client- all the moving pieces require that a certain amount trust be vested in every one of your teammates, because no one person can have their eye on the entirety of the project. But don't try to tell that to this guy. He's got to have his hands in every cookie jar around. Have a hard discussion with a vendor? He'll be there, calling the vendor behind your back and undermining your position. Need to talk to a client to determine a better meeting time for next week? He'll take on the role of middleman between you and the client to make sure that you never have the opportunity to accidentally call her fat or something in person. Running low on printer ink? He will send you step by step instructions on who to buy the new batch from, where to pick it up, and which sales person you should give the commission to. In other words, he's all up in your grill - or "in the weeds," in consultantese. The whole reason I'm there is to be in the weeds for him so he can focus on the big picture - that's supposed to be why they pay him the big bucks and not me. If not, I need a salary hike. Because I just don't get paid enough to have this guy mouth-breathing over my shoulder for 12 hours a day. And if you add a promotion on the horizon for this guy - crank up the volume to 11 and add in a healthy dose of CY Ass Master-itis into the mix. Result? Frankie banging her head on the table over and over again.
  6. And a bonus to reflect the times... The Predetermined Time Waster: So here's the thing - it's fine to not want to choose a certain option. No skin off my nose, because I'm just here to help. But don't act like you're going to go down one path, force me to spend literally months working on it, when you have no intention of actually going through with it. You didn't like it from the beginning. No amount of tedious rework and repetitious requirements gathering on my part will change that. So just strap on a pair and say you want to go a different direction from the beginning. Having the exact same conversation with someone 7 times just makes me feel like I'm taking crazy pills- it's the passive aggressive way of saying no without having to actually come out and take a stance. Don't waste hundreds of man hours on something you've already decided you're not going to like. You will save yourself some cash money and me from wanting to curl up under my desk and cry. 
Life is short. But it feels so much longer with these characters hanging around.

Out of curiosity, are these specific characters to the office environment, or do they have mutant relatives in other lines of work? I'm thinking a CY Ass Master in a field like firefighting or medicine could have particularly disastrous results. 

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