Re: Contractor Question

Subject: Re: Contractor Question
From: Monica Petersen <MONICA -dot- PETERSEN -at- EY -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 18 Oct 1995 14:22:09 -0400

TO: INTERNET=ppraeto -at- hubcap -dot- clemson -dot- edu

Hi Pete,

I didn't catch your first inquiry, and I haven't seen any of the replies you
received. I did see your "thanks" note, however, and that has prompted me
to add my two cents.

I've been in a similar situation on contracts. It's difficult when you
think the criticisms are valid. When people involve me in conversations like
this, and avoiding the conversation entirely would create a barrier between
me and the people I need to work with, I usually handle it like this:

1) Discuss the issues, not the decisions or the people making them.

It's better to discuss an issue's pros and cons, its related concerns, and
the possible consequences of the decision options. This shows you to be
thoughtful, tactful, discreet. You become an even safer person to talk to
(which might get you into more such conversations---not necessarily what you
want). But you also become more trusted by everyone: management and peers.
Peer confidence and relationship is important, as you found. Clearly,
having the confidence of the management is also a Good Thing.

2) As a complement to #1: by what you say and how you say it, make it clear
that you will neither belittle anyone yourself, nor accept disparaging
remarks without comment.

Sometimes I have agreed with the criticisms, other times, I didn't know
enough. In both those cases, one of the best phrases is "I just don't know.
I might not have done it that way, but then, I'm not in their shoes." This
gives the other speaker some room to hear you agreeing with his point. It
also clearly keeps you out of the fray, and clearly steps back from the more
extreme comments the speaker might have made. You are hearing and
understanding, but you're also not taking sides in a blatantly partisan way.
Again, you come across as tactful and discreet. You also create a barrier
against being drawn into serious sniping sessions.

If someone says "Those managers don't know squat about this project, don't
you agree?" then I might reply, "Well, I wouldn't go quite that far" if I
agreed. I try to distance myself from the controversy, even while trying
to present a sympathetic ear. That's what a sounding board is for, anyway:
a perspective that is not colored by deep involvement in the problem.

I try hard not to state an opinion about management, one way or another. I
make sure that any comment I make is clearly balanced, _never_ derogatory,
and presented from the outside, because I am from the outside. "I'm not
sure I'd have made the same decision" is much better than "I think that's
the stupidest decision they could have made."

Good luck,

monica -dot- petersen -at- ey -dot- com
From: usinet(TECHWRL)
To: PETERMO; Multiple recipients of list TECHWR-L
Subject: Re: Contractor Question
Date: Thursday, October 12, 1995 10:07PM

Thanks to all who responded...<snip> I believe
that this good relationship made it easier for me to get the information
that I needed, and helped me in the end to produce documents that met the
management's expectations.

(original message)
working for this company a while (I generally came in about once or twice
a week), I became kind of a sounding board for a few of the engineers
problems. I am working through several ideas as to why this whole
scenario occurred, and I would be interested in hearing from and talking
to others who have had similar experiences.


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