Re: If I Could See Me Now

1

STOP FRIGGIN' LISTENING TO ME. I don't know what I'm talking about.

This just fuels the suspicion that the bosses are simply unnecessary, even though it is the workers who always get downsized.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 8:50 AM
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Please explain to me the thing where bosses listen to the very people in the office that a blind drunk man with no knowledge of the business could see should not be allowed to opine on used chewing gum, never mind the projects for 2009.

I'd love to believe there was a reason for that.


Posted by: winna | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 8:58 AM
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I'd love to believe there was a reason for that.

There is no safe effective way to ignore the CEO's nephew.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:05 AM
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Becks has become a boss? And she no longer sends out christmas cards? Worrisome, very worrisome.


Posted by: Cryptec nid | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:08 AM
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Okay, this is self contradictory. First, he's saying there's some value to his judgment that whatever it is really is awful once he sees it, and then he's saying "STOP LISTENING TO ME."

If he means "STOP LISTENING TO ME", then his solution is to stop talking. If he's the boss, he can't put the onus of deciding which of his orders to obey on his subordinates, and if he's giving orders that shouldn't be followed, he's screwing up.

If the problem is just that he can't judge the project until it's started, he can say that upfront. I do that with paralegals all the time: "Do this, figure out how to organize it. Get some of it done then show it to me, and I'll tell you if you did it right, or if not, how to change it." It seems obnoxious, but I don't have the time to figure out the organizational structure without getting knee deep in the problem myself, and it's a lot easier to redirect a messed up first attempt than it is to give instructions from the ground up. But if you're doing a good job managing, you let the subordinate off the hook up front, and make it explicit that their first crack at whatever the task is isn't expected to survive your reaction to it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:09 AM
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This sounds familiar. Although we'll be sending out Christmas cards.


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:12 AM
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Being ignorant and delegating blame are valuable skills in today's economy.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:13 AM
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If he's saying, "sounds great!" to vague ideas and then changing his mind later, let's see, maybe he should pay more attention and ask more questions the first time around? A boss who makes public that s/he should not be taken seriously in any decision-making process is begging to have co-workers that at worst loathe them and undermine them at every turn and at best cut them out of the chain of communications at every possible turn.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:13 AM
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Also, I really like the phrase 'every turn.' Turn, turn, turn! There, I've said it.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:14 AM
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||
No more masturbating to Betty Page.

Damnit.

|>


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:15 AM
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I am somewhat sympathetic to this problem, as it sounds like a lot of the conversations I've had with students about final research projects recently. Student comes to me asking if she can write about homoeroticism in the work of a 16th-century poet and in a totally unrelated 19th-century novel, and I (very tired after being on my feet for 15 hours) say, Tim-Gunn-like, "Make it work." When she comes to me weeks later saying she can't find any evidence that there's any relationship at all between these two authors, I'm all, "Well, there isn't one. They're in completely different aesthetic and social contexts. This paper is sort of impossible to write." Meanwhile, I'm wondering what the hell I was thinking when I said, "Yeah, OK, do that."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:16 AM
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Now that I've clicked through, his post doesn't sound so bad -- he's recognizing that he fucked up. Nothing wrong with fucking up, so long as you try not to do it too much, and you don't shift the blame when it happens.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:17 AM
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Part of the problem is that when you hire or inherit people, you want them to not feel micromanaged. So, you extend trust based on a general outline of a proposed project, only to discover part-way through that the work being done isn't up to snuff or has gone off in some wild-ass direction that doesn't align with the overall goals for the department. Or they've scoped it incorrectly.

I make no claims to having been a particularly good boss, but it's not as easy as you think it will be. Hell, it took me 6 months just to feel comfortable giving an order.


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:19 AM
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11: Yeah, that one's hard. The message you want to send is "Do it if you can make it work, but I honestly can't see how it's going to." But the second half of the sentence is pretty subtle, and hard to calibrate how firmly you should communicate it unless you've thought through the problem pretty thoroughly, which you're not going to do if someone throws the request at you in passing at the end of a long day. That one sounds like mostly the student's problem.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:21 AM
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11: Since its not actually going to a journal or anything, perhaps you could have the student just write up the negative results. "These writers have nothing to do with each other. Here's why. The failure to find a relationship here shows the importance of aesthetic & historical context." A good student could learn a lot from that.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:25 AM
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14: This problem comes into sharp relief in some particular areas (some parts of tech being a good example). In the case of much managing work, the manager could at least in theory do the work themselves (e.g. your paralegal example) so probably has a good gut feel for where it should be going. In some areas though, the manager mostly lacks the skill set their team has, and has to rely on indirect measures. If those measures are out of whack, they're screwed.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:27 AM
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15: I think it's really a product of survey bias. We cover 350 years of British literature, touching on a few major issues like twice, so it feels to them that--hey, we talked about the blurry line between masculine homosocial and homoerotic discourses with two writers, so they must be related! It's not a bad idea, if you're writing a thousand-page book on the history of the thing, it might work, but resources and time are awfully limited.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:32 AM
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Becks has become a boss? And she no longer sends out christmas cards?

Spirit, tell me if SomeCallMeTim will live?


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:32 AM
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? s/b .


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:34 AM
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What has happened to SCMT anyway? It feels like a while since he's commented.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:40 AM
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Becks fired him?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:41 AM
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I rather like 15, but that might be because I'm a scientist and we have a thing for null result experiments. Not sure how you'd carry it over into literature without opening the floodgates for lazy students to churn out papers on how Winnie the Pooh bears no relationship at all to The Joy of Cooking.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:42 AM
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"I've found myself doing the same things that used to annoy me when my managers did them"

Maybe you should stop doing them? Or at least explain why you are doing them, so they won't annoy others? Self knowledge should be the first step towards self-improvement, after all.


Posted by: matt (not the famous one) | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:42 AM
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I'm sure there is a section on honey in the joy of cooking.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:44 AM
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23: Kinda. If they annoyed you when your bosses did them, they're either bad things to do, in which case you might work on quitting them, or they're sensible but your subordinates can't see why, in which case there's probably some useful work to be done either on transparency or at least on making sure that your subordinates don't feel blamed for obeying your orders.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:45 AM
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25: And now is the right time to address it, while you can still remember they were annoying things.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:46 AM
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The thing I do now that used to bug me from bosses is talk about tasks at the fully broken down for utter morons level. I used to seethe that my boss thought I was an idiot. Now I understand that he wasn't talking that way because he thought I was stupid but because he developed the habit around many, many of my predecessors who were.

So I try to make the point that I don't actually think my charges are that stupid, but wow that last guy was. And so this is how we tie our shoes here.


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:47 AM
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Or even, "I know talking at this level of simplicity makes it sound like I think you're an idiot, but honestly, it's the fastest way to make sure we're on the same page on the fundamental stuff."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:50 AM
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22: You don't have to make it a recommended topic, or even mention it again in other classes.

Also the task of confirming a negatively worded statement would be plenty of work for most students.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:51 AM
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30

UNION! UNION! UNION!


Posted by: OPINIONATED BECKS' UNDERLINGS | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:54 AM
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From teaching, I've learned that people who are doing a new task for the first time often forget that the same basic dumbass principles hold. If my students are writing about poetry, they suddenly start misspelling like crazy, writing non-sentences, miscapitalizing, etc. But if I lecture, before they write the paper, about how people's names should be capitalized, and that "2" is not an appropriate replacement for the word "to," they get offended. It's a weird position to be in. If I don't say all that ahead of time, then I end up lecturing mournfully after grading, basically saying I don't know where they got their first-grade education, but it might be time to review that grammar-school stuff. And that's offensive, too.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:56 AM
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If my students are writing about poetry, they suddenly start misspelling like crazy, writing non-sentences, miscapitalizing, etc. But if I lecture, before they write the paper, about how people's names should be capitalized, and that "2" is not an appropriate replacement for the word "to," they get offended.

You might be dealing with two different populations of students. Some people in your class have these skills and others don't. You get self conscious lecturing about punctuation because all your good students who know this are in the front row looking at you. The students who don't know these things, on the other hand, might not even be in class.

When I talk about the mechanics of writing, I emphasize that I am using real live student sentences, just so everyone knows that I have a good reason to be nattering on about such things.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:01 AM
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But if I lecture, before they write the paper, about how people's names should be capitalized, and that "2" is not an appropriate replacement for the word "to," they get offended.

Just be even more straight with them, exactly like you were with us. "You guys, here's a heads up: I have no idea why, but when students start writing about poetry, all their basic grammar rules go out the window and I see errors like X, Y, and Z. You know these rules. These are super basic, and then you'll be all embarrassed when I have to tell you not to use the numeral 2 for the word 'to'. Don't do this."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:02 AM
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re: 15

That's not how literature study works. I'm not sure how to make sense of 'negative results' in that context since the negative result in question is just 'I was bloody stupid'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:04 AM
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re: 34
I mean, I get that the paper you are suggesting could be interesting, but only if there was something specifically about them that lent the idea that they might be comparable some prima facie plausibility.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:05 AM
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Every written assignment in my one literature class consisted of "view one of these works (A, B, C, D, E, F) through the lens of one of these other words (G, H, I, J, K, L)".


Posted by: Cryptec Nid | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:07 AM
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If it is a paper for a class--for the purpose of student learning--then the student's own sense of the plausibility should be enough.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:08 AM
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31: This is going to sound totally obnoxious, but exactly that dynamic is a commonplace in the dog-training literature I was reading back when I was actually trying to train the dog -- that an animal picking up a new behavior will often forget absolutely everything else. The solution offered there is to do one thing at a time: work on the new stuff, and ignore the pathetic performance on the old stuff, and then go back and do a quick refresh on the old stuff.

I don't know how to do that in your shoes without making a lot more grading work, though -- if the extra grading wasn't an issue, I'd say it'd make sense to grade papers on hard topics for substance only, ignoring all the third-grade grammar and formatting mistakes, and then bounce them all back to be cleaned up and regraded. But that's an insane amount of extra work for you.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:08 AM
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33: That's what I've taken to doing in my poetry and composition classes. This semester, I forgot to do it before I got my first Brit Lit papers and shit, they were awful. Awful, awful, awful. I cried while grading them. The problem with that class is that it's one of the most demanding classes in the English major, and all of those students have taken several prerequisites in poetry and literary study. The rest of the students are Accounting majors who needed a mid-level class in the humanities to fill the core ed requirements, and mine happened to fit their schedule. It is really hard to teach a class in which half the students are so prepared and intelligent that the other half are too intimidated to explain what they don't know.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:08 AM
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40

Just be even more straight with them, exactly like you were with us. "You guys, here's a heads up: I have no idea why, but when students start writing about poetry, all their basic grammar rules go out the window and I see errors like X, Y, and Z. You know these rules. These are super basic, and then you'll be all embarrassed when I have to tell you not to use the numeral 2 for the word 'to'. Don't do this."

I endorse this approach.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:10 AM
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41

Heh. Increasingly I read these stories and wonder if I am really cut out for a teaching.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:11 AM
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41: "a teaching" sounds like "a beating" or "a whuppin'".

Oh, if you keep acting all disrespectful, you'll get a teaching, that's for sure.


Posted by: Cryptec nid | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:13 AM
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re: 37

I think it depends on the class, and the level of the class. In certain contexts that's fine, but in others, meh ...



Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:14 AM
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Grading my first set of mid-terms I ran into the problem Becks identifies. I remembered giving the student a green light on a paper analyzing Julie Mehretu in terms of the recent theory we're reading in class, thinking at the time, Hm, I don't see how that works, I'll be interested to read that paper. I was less interested in assigning it a grade.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:14 AM
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I'd say it'd make sense to grade papers on hard topics for substance only, ignoring all the third-grade grammar and formatting mistakes, and then bounce them all back to be cleaned up and regraded. But that's an insane amount of extra work for you.

This is, in fact, what I do. And yes, it's an insane amount of extra work.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:15 AM
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re: 42

I think I meant to type 'a certain type of teaching' and then changed my mind.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:15 AM
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Huh. I wonder if you could combine Heebie's 33 and my 38, by initially marking the papers as submitted on time, giving the students Heebie's speech so they know they're expecting to see insanely elementary mistakes, and then pairing them off for each student to proof someone else's paper. Proofreader gives the paper back to the writer, the writer incorporates the proofed corrections and any corrections they spot on their own, and turns in a clean copy with the draft at the next class.

This is probably unworkably baroque -- you can tell I don't do this for a living.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:16 AM
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48

In the future, students will be self-educating, and teachers will only have to do periodic check-ups.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:16 AM
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The thing I do now that used to bug me from bosses is talk about tasks at the fully broken down for utter morons level.

For years, I had the precise opposite pet peeve with my boss. What I do, I do well. My boss therefore assumes that I am capable of doing anything and everything imaginable in legal practice just as effortlessly and gets exceedingly exasperated if I ask for any guidance at all.

"It's just a status hearing, Di."
"I understand that. I've never attended a status hearing before, though."
"They are not complicated, you'll be fine."
"I'm sure that's true, but I don't do this sort of stuff. Maybe you could just tell me what exactly happens at a status hearing?'
[Exasperated sigh.] "Can we discuss this tomorrow?"

Inevitably he'll then be "out" tomorrow. Such are the exchanges that induce great anxiety.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:16 AM
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49: I hear you, sister.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:18 AM
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51

If only women in the legal profession weren't burdened by the stereotype of being quick studies who are competent at everything they do!


Posted by: Cryptec nid | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:19 AM
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re: 49

I've had related problems. I can be a bit lethargic and procrastinatory at work [my not-academic-work]. I'm no-one's perfect employee [I'm not terrible, I just tend to leave too many things to the last minute[. But, I'm also really good at getting insane amounts done in a really short amount of time.

This has bitten me on the arse a few times [because people have learned that they can hand stupidly overdue and complicated stuff over to me at the last minute and that it will, probably, get done].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:20 AM
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48: Many many administrators believe more or less exactly that.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:21 AM
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I'm also really good at getting insane amounts done in a really short amount of time.

From past discussions, this is, iirc, quite common among unfoggederians.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:21 AM
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51: While it is nice sometimes to have people think you can walk on water, it is terribly inconvenient when you are, in fact, drowning.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:21 AM
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51: Heh. No, I think the issue here, if Di and I are talking about the same thing, is that the boss often doesn't have a good idea of what's likely to happen. He's done it often enough that he's pretty sure he'd be able to handle anything that would come up, but actually giving a coherent account of what those sorts of things are would be a lot of work, and he'd probably miss a whole bunch of stuff that just didn't happen to occur to him. This is an embarrassing position for him to be in, and he doesn't want to admit it, so he dodges.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:23 AM
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Back to the original post, this is a topic that worries me from time to time.

I am aware that my technical skills are solid but not deep and that makes me think that at some point I would be well served to take on some management responsibility. I am also aware that there are a bunch of specific skills required to be an effective manager and that I have a few of them, but am notably lacking in others.

At the moment I'm at a good fit in my current job, so I'm not thinking about it too much, but it is a worry.

It helps that my brother has turned out to be an excellent manager so I am hoping that he can be a source of advice.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:25 AM
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I've rarely had a "boss", per se, but I had sort of the opposite problem with an undergrad research advisor. We would talk about how to go about doing the next step in a project, and he would specify some very precise set of things to do. "But wouldn't it be better if we did X?", I would ask. "No, I don't think that's the right way to go about this," he would reply. A week later I would go to him with precisely what he had asked for. "I don't think is a good way of approaching the problem," he would say. "Go do X."

Once I was venting about this to an older student working with the same professor, who replied "You haven't figure it out yet? Ignore him and do what you think is right, and he'll be happy."


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:25 AM
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56: Wow. It's as if you've worked for my boss!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:30 AM
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Further to 56 -- My boss actually also does very little himself of the stuff I do very little of, so he truly doesn't have alot of direct experience. But he knows he routinely delegates such tasks to associates who might fairly be characterized as morons if attempting the type of work I usually do and so his attitude tends to be, "Geez, if that idiot can handle this stuff, I have no idea why you are getting so panicked." (Which likely ties in to his misogynistic tendencies to view women as emotionally overreactive, but that's a different pet peeve.)


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 10:38 AM
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A while back a relative of mine was moved from a management position back to his old technical position. At a family gathering he spent a good five minutes explaining that this did *not* happen because he works better with machines than people.

Then he spent another five minutes relating a story about how he used his superior knowledge of the machines to make his co-workers look stupid.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 11:01 AM
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I am well aware that I work better with machines than with people (or, at least, that I can sustain concentration longer and with less effort when working with machines).

I just expect that, over the next 20 years, machines will change more than people will.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 11:04 AM
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"It's just a status hearing, Di."
"I understand that. I've never attended a status hearing before, though."
"They are not complicated, you'll be fine."
"I'm sure that's true, but I don't do this sort of stuff. Maybe you could just tell me what exactly happens at a status hearing?'
[Exasperated sigh.] "Can we discuss this tomorrow?"

I had this done to me ALL the time my first year of practice.

"Go to _____ Federal District court to continue this case."

A case name is then written down on a slip of paper. "Where is the file?"

"Dont worry about the file. And Any date after February is fine"

I arrive at the Federal Court to find the opposing lawyer screaming about how the judge promised to dismiss the case if Mr. Head Lawyer hadnt done x, y, and z.

Me: "I am a first year associate. PLEASE dont dismiss this on my watch!!!!!"


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 11:07 AM
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"Geez, if that idiot can handle this stuff, I have no idea why you are getting so panicked." (Which likely ties in to his misogynistic tendencies to view women as emotionally overreactive, but that's a different pet peeve.)

Wait, Di. You are talking about getting paper jams out of the copier, arent you?? It really isnt that hard.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 11:08 AM
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Y'all are making me ever so grateful for my boss, who is excellent.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 11:14 AM
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63: Oh, now that's actually a slightly different scenario -- though, coincidentally enough, the exact scenario that led me to flee my very brief stint in divorce law. Big Shot Lawyer fucks something up. Big Shot Lawyer knows judge is going to be terribly unhappy. Big Shot Lawyer sends Little Shit Lawyer to the slaughter:

Call on cell phone: "Hey Di, the pretrial conference in such-and-such case was continued. Since you are already heading to the courthouse, could you swing by and make sure Judge So-and-so's clerk strikes it from the call."

I arrive at Judge So-and-so's chambers only to discover that nothing has been continued. Opposing counsel, fortunately, is one of the nicest damned divorce lawyers in the county. I explain that I was asked to just make sure the case was stricken and that there is absolutely no way I can do any sort of pretrial on this case. He understands, says "But I'm going to ask the judge to put language in the order reserving the option to sanction your boss for not showing up." I understand. He points down the hallway, "By the way, that lady over there is your client." Fortunately, she was also very understanding and baked me cookies the next time she came in.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 11:17 AM
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You are talking about getting paper jams out of the copier, arent you??

I am actually very good at this and often am irresistibly drawn to volunteer my services when I hear someone swearing at the copy machine.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 11:19 AM
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"Do this, figure out how to organize it. Get some of it done then show it to me, and I'll tell you if you did it right, or if not, how to change it." It seems obnoxious

Rather than being obnoxious, this is a model for directing underlings who were hired for their ideas and judgment, assuming you're really not throwing them off a cliff. I was a paralegal on the receiving end of assignments like these; they made utter sense to me.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 11:23 AM
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Part of the problem is that when you hire or inherit people, you want them to not feel micromanaged. So, you extend trust based on a general outline of a proposed project, only to discover part-way through that the work being done isn't up to snuff or has gone off in some wild-ass direction that doesn't align with the overall goals for the department.

This is exactly my problem when I have to give assignments. (Not often, usually only with interns & such.) Then I feel guilty about making them do the work over, because it's really my fault for not giving them better instructions. Or they're following the instructions just fine and I realize partway into it that there's a better way to do it which I didn't spot at the outset. Again, I feel guilty for making them do it over.

Were I ever to become an actual boss, I'd probably have to up my therapy to 2x a week.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 11:27 AM
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Is this the parental equivalent of "Go ask your mother"? The boss is only half paying attention while giving the green light to the initiation of the project.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 11:29 AM
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I'd say it'd make sense to grade papers on hard topics for substance only, ignoring all the third-grade grammar and formatting mistakes, and then bounce them all back to be cleaned up and regraded.

AWB may be a kinder instructor than I, but this would drive me up the wall.

As to the rest, this seems like the business equivalent of turning into one's mother.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 11:37 AM
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Or they're following the instructions just fine and I realize partway into it that there's a better way to do it which I didn't spot at the outset. Again, I feel guilty for making them do it over.

That's exactly the point where I feel obnoxious -- "Go redo this work because I didn't know how I wanted you to do it until I saw the results. Sorry about that, kid." I figure if I own it, it's not so bad, though.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 11:38 AM
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I figure if I own it, it's not so bad, though.

More importantly, if you let them know ahead of time not to go all nuts on it*. Underlings (esp. fresh ones) can get over-enthusiastic about things and spend hours and hours on something (more than would be called for even if they were getting it exactly right), which is where the crushing news that they were all wrong gets so painful. If they go into the assignment understanding that it is, essentially, a first draft (if not a problem statement or outline), then they'll restrain themselves.

At least, you hope so.

* As has been mentioned


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 11:46 AM
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But he knows he routinely delegates such tasks to associates who might fairly be characterized as morons if attempting the type of work I usually do and so his attitude tends to be, "Geez, if that idiot can handle this stuff, I have no idea why you are getting so panicked."

One of the best bits of advice I ever got, when asking for guidance on how to draft a particular sort of thing I hadn't done before, was "the English language ought to work." And one of the best professional experiences was working a small office with a couple of partners who didn't know any more than I did and just having to figure stuff out and do it. Personalities differ and all that, but it really is pretty liberating to internalize the idea that you're capable of muddling through most things.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 11:53 AM
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Underlings (esp. fresh ones) can get over-enthusiastic about things and spend hours and hours on something (more than would be called for even if they were getting it exactly right), which is where the crushing news that they were all wrong gets so painful.

How true. I can still remember when a research question would give birth to a meticulously crafted, carefully cite-checked, nigh-scholarly memo. Now, it's more like a quick email: "Did research. UR screwed."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 11:56 AM
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This has bitten me on the arse a few times [because people have learned that they can hand stupidly overdue and complicated stuff over to me at the last minute and that it will, probably, get done].

You are describing 90% of the times that I come home from work fuming at my boss. That I do my own work quickly and well has turned into a general belief that I can do everyone else's, too.

I mildly offended one boss and deeply offended another when, in an interview, I stated that my five year goal was "not to be in management." I know my weaknesses and am honest about them. I've done plenty with people skills and have been in plenty of emotional, people-centric, political roles in the past and done just fine but I find it exhausting and I refuse to put myself through it for money. Rah is a manager and I am continually in awe of his skills with people. Me, I want to be left alone with the nice machines.

That said, my current position does involve a degree of "mentoring," and I try to give examples rather than instruction. "The VPN you're building is just like one that already exists on Other Customer X's firewall so let's look there and you're going to be duplicating that configuration," that sort of thing. It drives me batshit, though, because it feels like hand-holding and I hate babying people.

My solution to managers whose reactions to work received in the manner requested or approved are in opposition to those initial requests has been to ask for things in email. "Send me that in email so I won't forget," I say, and then I have a paper trail.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 12:00 PM
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15: Yeah, seems to me that's the "contrast" part of "compare and contrast" assignments. Can't compare? OK, break out the contrast.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 12:01 PM
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you're capable of muddling through most things.

True fact. This new job has meant a lot of time going to court, which I hardly ever did before, and never alone (that is, if I was in court, I was carrying a partner's briefcase, not speaking myself). Internalizing the knowledge that yes, unexpected things will happen (including things I should have expected if I'd had more courtroom experience), but playing it by ear will generally work.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 12:02 PM
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65: Your boss's husband reads this blog, right?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 12:06 PM
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78: Huh. That slow-motion-stroke I've been having is still going on. Pretend that last sentence ended.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 12:24 PM
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"Did research. UR screwed."

This makes me wish I still worked for somebody else, so I could send this email.

If I sent it to a client, I suspect I'd have even more trouble getting payed.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 12:45 PM
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Now, it's more like a quick email: "Did research. UR screwed."

How I would love to send an email like that to some of my academic colleagues.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 1:46 PM
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To: drkohl@deutschdept.ocd.edu
Subject: did research

Message:
ürscrewed


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 2:43 PM
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├╝rscrewed

It always comes back to fucking the shit out of bears.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 2:51 PM
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This post's headline makes Cher sing "If I Could Turn Back Time" in my head.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 2:53 PM
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Your boss's husband reads this blog, right?

No, I meant the director of my specific department, who I sure hope doesn't read this blog. The other is my boss in an abstract sense, in that she's at the top of the company, but I don't interact with her on a work level enough to know whether she's good at her job or not, to be honest. The business side of the industry is mysterious (and yet uninteresting) to me. She's great fun at parties, though.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 2:56 PM
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85: The "Return to Sender" thread makes "Return to Sender" play in my head.

['Address unknown']


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 3:10 PM
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86: Thanks for the clarification. I thought I was cleverly exposing your attempt to indirectly suck up to your boss.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 3:15 PM
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87: the Mojave 3 song?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 3:17 PM
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Sure thing, ben.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 3:42 PM
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She's great fun at parties, though.

Ultimately, no matter how it works in the beginning, crewing every guy on the work force is an ineffective management technique.

That's what you wanted me to say, right?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 3:49 PM
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She takes them rowing?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 3:50 PM
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Fuck.

That too, though.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 3:52 PM
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92: If you did eights, it wouldn't really be ineffective, assuming pretty normal group size.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 3:55 PM
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It's the delta-bossness that gets me. For example: "Can you write up all those notes you took from the conference into the report?" "Ok."

A week later:
"I've got some changes to that, can you copy and paste all the text over".

2 days later:
"YOU DIDN' T COPY AND PASTE!!!" No, I read through and identified the changes. Turns out there's a typo. MUST copy everything because there might be so many more (diff don't think so).

4 weeks later: "By the way, have you any thoughts on the total redesign of HUGECO's strategy, organisation, and IT architecture?"


Posted by: Xela | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 5:34 PM
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If managers aren't qualified to make decisions, then what the fuck are they getting paid for? I have somewhat of a staffers mentality -- I tend to pass a lot of information up the line, clear pros and cons to two or three options, and rely on the boss to pick which option fits best with the organization. Sometimes I get "give me the bottom line here", and I'm like, I don't know the bottom line, if we want X to happen we should do this, if we want Y to happen we should do this other thing, you're the expert on what the organization wants to happen, right?

I've had to move away from this habit a bit and learn to just make the bottom-line decisions myself, but I sometimes feel annoyance when my boss won't engage with the decision and contribute to figuring out what to do, because I like a cooperative process for that. (In fairness, my current boss is great and in a tough political situation herself where she doesn't fully understand what her superiors want).


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 8:50 PM
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96 makes complete sense to me, though it's odd to frame it as a "staffer's mentality" -- isn't it actually an organizational (group, team, cooperative, whatever) approach, which is exactly what's desired?

I can't imagine working in a situation in which I'm simply told what to do, then told later to re-do it in another way, without any input expected from me along the way as to whether the original approach was making sense. For the handful of years I worked in an office environment, either supervisor or supervisee could call for a meeting at any time to discuss progress and potentially shift gears.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-12-08 9:32 PM
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just to tie things together, a quote from the mojave 3 song "return to sender": "you look pretty screwed/send a letter."


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 12-13-08 12:36 AM
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