Pondering defeat

Today my co-worker C and the lead for the project, E, and I went for a coffee meeting. It’s the first interaction I’d had with E all week – he was hiding out. I asked for the meeting and he did accept, so that’s something.

I hadn’t expected a run down of what went down, but that’s what we got. I’d just wanted to know if he wanted anything else done in the three weeks we’re still there. It turns out that basically no, he doesn’t. So, OK.

E is garrulous, and he talked a lot. About how he’d met with K, only mid week last it seems, and been frustrated that nothing we did was OK with him. Then E apparently told K to ‘cut them loose’ if he didn’t like our work. He said it just seemed that nothing we could do would satisfy K, and he didn’t want to go around in circles any more.

He talked a lot, and I’ve forgotten most of it. C also had lots to say – about the silliness of the changes K was asking for, about disparaging things K had said. I didn’t get much chance to talk, as those two were saying so much. I mostly felt sad, rather than angry at the time, and C was angry so had a lot to say. I asked some questions, and I remember the answers to those.

I wanted to know if bottom line, it was our skills that K wasn’t happy with, and E felt that was mostly it. Though E was happy with what was produced, as it was clear and easy to follow, as per his requirements, for K, those very qualities made the document suspect as lacking in depth.

Then I wondered if the big boss CN was involved, if it was a budget issue, and apparently not, as far as E knew.

Once E had said all he wanted to say, he was eager to leave, so that was that. He likes to talk, he doesn’t like to listen as much.

I just think – what are the chances that K and E hired two incompetent individuals. I can see hiring one who is a mistake maybe – say they were having an off day when they hired me. But to turn around a month later and hire another incompetent person? Really?

Then, what are the chances the project was badly managed? Say, um, 75%? That seems par for the course with projects.

It was a huge problem that I thought E was managing the project, and his requirements were what counted, but then K came into it in the last month, with totally different requirements, which he actually never made clear. What did he want? We’re all scratching our heads, still trying to work out what it might have been.

I think my part of this disaster was that I didn’t stay calm. I think if a situation is dysfunctional, I’m not good enough yet that I can stay sane through it. I should not have been responding as I was. I wonder if I’d felt more comfortable there, if I could have established more trust with both K and E. Instead of being triggered and reactive. Even if they weren’t doing the ‘right’ things, maybe I should have been worried about our relationship instead of having a great product. In the end, it’s what they think that counts, not so much what I think.

I’ve realized I really need to work on being able to talk to people and establish relationships. I need contact during my day – I’m not like the technical people who can do a task all day long and don’t wish to be disturbed. If I get some conversation, I’m a lot happier and can roll with the punches more.

Sometimes I establish little relationships with whoever is near me, but it’s not enough. The people near me are often very introverted, and it’s tough to talk to them. I need to engage more extroverted people, even though they scare me a little. These are much easier to talk with, and they’re more like me in that they want contact also, though usually they already have lots of people to talk to. Still. I want to make it a priority next contract to be more sociable, and to value relationships the most. At the end of the day, it’s my relationship to my client that is going to make or break the contract. If I’m sociable and calm with others, that should carry over into my client/boss interactions also, so I’ll be less likely to mess up and be triggered. I just get anxious and freaked out very fast, when that’s not needed at work. What’s needed is calmness and kindness. Much more than intelligence and great writing.

So while I can see the dysfunction and really bad management, I’m also pretty aware of my own shortcomings here. E didn’t say anything about that, but of course he wouldn’t, that would be too personal. But he sure didn’t feel comfortable talking if C wasn’t there. For the chatting portion of our coffee meeting, he really only interacted with C. So I guess our relationship really went downhill in the last few weeks. I feel bad about that, and it’s water under the bridge.

  1. Just to throw out an idea which might be totally off the mark… Is it possible that E might feel embarrassed or guilty about the way that you were ‘cut loose’ and that is why he was not interacting directly with you so much?

    I think that everything that you can learn from your interactions and take on to improve your experience at your next work place is great and shows immense growth.

    • Ellen said:

      It’s funny, but that thought came to me after I’d published this. It could be. Maybe because I’m ‘a girl’, and so he feels worse about my being cut than he does about C. It’s hard to say really. I know he abhors conflict of any kind, and I was quite in his face for a while there. Not sure if that would be enough for him to now feel uncomfortable with me. Plus C is quite a bit more jokey and outgoing than I am, so a lot of people feel more comfortable with him.

      I hope I’ll be able to translate these thoughts into actual practice in my next contract. At least I’m getting some awareness. Thanks for the encouragement Cat.

  2. Ashana M said:

    It sounds entirely possible your contract was collateral damage in a larger conflict between E and K.

    You might be a more authentic person and so it might be more difficult for E to talk about how you were cut loose in a way that doesn’t make have to feel his own feelings about it.

    Take care.

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, could be. The disconnect between them was definitely a factor in any case. It does feel better to think of it like that.

      As to the authenticity – I was definitely sadder at that point. I know it made him uncomfortable so of course he’d avoid me. Yeah, that does make sense.

      Thanks Ash

  3. e.Nice said:

    My first thought was I wonder if its a girl thing. Some guys really don’t handle woman co-workers very professionally. I really don’t see how if you stayed calm or not would’ve changed the outcome. It does sound like you’ve learned somethings to try out at your next job. It is good to build coworker relationships since generally speaking you spend more time at work then anywhere else…. I’m sorry and it still sucks but I hope your next contract will be better managed.

    • Ellen said:

      This particular workplace is very male dominated, which is unusual for my type of work. Especially the older guys can be difficult sometimes. I do wonder if my behaviour had much to do with what happened. It could have influenced them emotionally, to think I’m not much good….I really don’t know. I fear it is my fault, but probably it was not. Thanks Nice.

  4. ellen, maybe they feel threatened by you, maybe you are better at the job than they want you to be so to make themselves feel more secure they look down on you or refuse to engage with you. Ok so you werent always calm but it sounds like they didnt give you much opportunity to talk form a relationship. Dont blame yourself so much I bet it wasnt anything you did. XX

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