4 responses to “Lessons from my Mother”

  1. paul hopwood

    I’m the same with my boss, some appreciate it, others don’t … Some don’t like it but find an honest view refreshing & dependable.

    An engineers role is too assess & critique designs & faults, be a good engineer (& try to avoid social contact with the boss if he’s not boss type 1 or 3)

  2. GMP

    do you find yourself having to censor what you want to say often? In front of whom and why do you think that is?

    My natural tendency to be frank (Europeans are typically much more blunt/rude than Americans) is generally not well received, and neither are my gloom and self-deprecating humor. But I’ve had a decade to cure myself of these tendencies.

    I am in academia, plus in a part of the country where everyone is nauseatingly polite. I now censor what I say all the time. I would say that most of the stuff that comes out of my mouth is highly censored/sugarcoated, and only the select few whom I trust get to hear the unabridged version of what I actually think. Once they explicitly ask, that is.

  3. gasstationwithoutpumps

    Don’t worry about accidentally pissing off the boss. They are paid more than you and should learn to accept criticisms when they mess up.

    Be polite to the techs and secretaries though—they have a tough job and are not well paid for it.

  4. Jed Sutherland

    I used to have what was called “a bad attitude”. Not only did I hold a jaundiced view of the world, I was very “very negative” (ie pessimistic). I used to counter this with, “Yes, but it’s my attitude”. And it was; I was rude, unpleasant, arrogant, insensitive, obnoxious and blunt. Did this make me a bad person? Heck, no! But it sure made me hard to be around.

    As the years went by and my engineering skills improved, co-workers sort of got used to the behaviour because I got results. I took on unpleasant jobs and made silk purses out of sows ears. So I rose in the ranks in spite of my off-putting behaviour.

    I used to sneer at those people who wouldn’t call a spade by its proper name. However, I learned that you can still accurately describe a spade without offending someone … assuming you use the right language.

    I was never scared of describing people as useless, incompetent or clueless in no uncertain terms. I’ve learned that I need to moderate my language. Now, when addressing higher-ups someone may “not have the right skills or mindset for this project”. Or “you might find him quite challenging”.

    The message is the same, the words are different. Calling someone an incompetent ass is a slap in the head to whoever you’re speaking to. I always enjoy surprising folks, but many of them don’t want situations to be couched in such bald terms. Is it mealy-mouthed bureaucrat-speak? Of course! But the point is that others will admire your restraint and assume you’re a classy professional.

    The problem is that engineers by nature feel that the unvarnished truth saves time, accurately describes the situation and facilitates moving to a solution. We’re also light on social skills and frequently so insensitive that we don’t recognize that we’ve insulted someone.

    Something I’ve learned (especially when I became responsible for the work of others) is that technology probably is 10% (OK, maybe 20%) of the job; the remainder is people. Getting them mobilized, on track, cooperative and motivated. Ya don’t do that by treating them badly.

    Finally, gasstationwithoutpumps, you are wrong when you say bosses should get used to being criticized. These people feel that they attained their current position because they were uniquely qualified and are therefore on a higher plane than the rest of us. They don’t react well to having this bubble burst.

    And those same bosses are the ones who decide on your raise, whether you get promoted and maybe whether you don’t get laid off.

    You don’t need to obviously suck up to people. That’s humiliating and sometimes very obvious. Treat them with respect and courtesy. This may not get you very far (in the short term), but at least you won’t offend anyone.