Saturday, August 01, 2009

No Win

"Dr. LastName," he began as he walked through my open door and dropped into a chair near my desk.

"Dr. YourLastName," I offered in return, waiting to hear what he wanted.

"Where are we with Project?" he asked and I opened my mouth to answer, closing it again when he continued. "The responses I'm getting is that it's a critical need so we need to be moving on that."

I nodded, making sure it was my turn to talk before offering that a small team was looking at it.

"Why small?" he asked, frowning at me.

"Because three isn't very many?" I shrugged, frowning back at him. He continued to look unhappy and I sighed. "Everyone is stretched right now. We're trying to allocate person-hours so that we make progress, but it's difficult. Plus," I added as an afterthought, "Adam thinks Other is more important than Project."

"I strongly disagree!" he retorted and I nodded, promising that I'd relay the message. I had a moment after he left so I drafted and sent a quick note to Adam and relevant members of the team that there was increased chatter around the significance of Project. I then started on some documentation, punching the speakerphone button on my phone and dialing a colleague to talk through some questions he had.

"Can you hold on?" I asked a moment later. "That's the third time my mobile has rang in as many minutes." I thanked him for waiting, depressed the hold button and flipped open my phone to stop its angry buzzing.

"I'm in the middle of another call," I offered to the man who'd called all three times. He leads the team in charge of Project. "I'll call you back in 10."

I wrapped up one call and rang Project Leader posthaste. "What's up?" I asked him cheerfully, face falling as he started to rant about how priorities kept changing and people were questioning his priorities and who was I to say he wasn't working hard enough?!

Barely biting back a harsh order that he calm the hell down, I asked him when I said he wasn't working hard enough.

"You implied it!" he shouted.

"I Did Not," I replied, pausing between the words and letting my irritation show. "I'm looking at the email I sent and all it says - and all it implies - is that we heard feedback that Project is important."

"It is!"

"And the question," I continued after a heavy sigh that I hoped communicated my displeasure with him, "is if we can accelerate progress on Project by taking resources from Other."

"No!" he shouted again and I glared at the phone. I don't enjoy people yelling at me. "They're all important!"

"Let's say this," I finally said after reading an email from Adam that had just arrived. He told me Project was decidedly Not Important and I clearly didn't know what I was talking about if I thought it was. Deciding I was past annoyed and committed to being Angry, I directed my outraged attention to my problem on the phone and took a breath. "The next time I hear something relevant to Project and its priority, I won't tell you. Because I don't have time to be scolded because your feelings were hurt because you think I implied something."

"I want to know!" he exclaimed as I typed an email that told Adam we needed to talk. Call then, he replied and I scowled at the computer screen, feeling quite betrayed by my office supplies and the people they allowed to communicate with me. I'm arguing with Project Leader, I typed bitterly. I'll argue with you in a minute.

"I'm sorry I offended you. It was not my intention." Well, not my initial intention, I amended silently. "It's clear that we need oversight for the overall work and given Adam's recent email, there isn't agreement on how to move forward. I'll suggest a larger meeting, but I have to go now."

Then I dialed another number, furious that this whole episode was taking an hour that I didn't have to soothe male egos. Adam proceeded to explain why he was right and everyone else was wrong and I tried to explain that everyone else had valid points that needed to be addressed if we were going to go with Adam's proposal.

"Look," I finally said after we argued for 5 minutes or so. "I'm done. You said I didn't know what I was talking about? Fine. If you know so much, you do it. But I'll tell you this. I don't know your story so I can't communicate it to the team. Nobody else knows your story and when you say 'no' without explanation, it just irritates them! Then I hear complaints and get yelled at on the phone for defending your ideas that I don't even understand! So I'm Done."

"That's fair," he said, voice becoming soothing as he realized I was past the point of falling in line and doing as I was told. "Direct all emails to me."

"I will," I said haughtily. "You people no longer deserve my attention."

"16%," my first visitor popped in to tell me later. I was in the middle of another - more productive task - and was reaching a stopping point so I could go to a meeting. "That's a statistic that reveals Project's importance."

"That's nice," I smiled insincerely and moved past him as he lingered in my doorway.

And so ends an example of how my job is sometimes quite sucky and I'm sometimes quite bad at it.

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