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Disdain and How to Overcome It

Disdain and How to Overcome It

Disdain and How to Overcome It

Hello all,
I have been working in a lab for a year and half now. I am young and I am less experienced than all of the guys that have been here (20+ years in most cases). To put it in perspective: Last week, I was introduced to a visitor by the manager, who told the visitor "This is (insert my name here), he's new!"

I am young and generally less knowledgeable than the experts around me. However, I look at things differently than most people, and I have sufficient intelligence to use that trait an advantage in some cases. I learn things quickly and I frequently make connections that others do not see. I am one of the only technicians here who is currently capable of working with the new control software and data processing software that we have. I found something that had been overlooked during the evolution of this in-house software. It is an important detail that I have confirmed is not operating properly, and I discovered it through very detailed documentation and luck. I have documented cases of this happening. It is important data that needs to be precise, but I can't get anybody to listen to me. Nobody will give me enough time to communicate this phenomena to them. I have tried in several emails and in-person conversations. The emails are not responded to, and the conversations are ended quickly when they happen in person.

My immediate goal is to have somebody above me at least investigate it. I cannot seem to get that far, and I do not have authorization to make the correction myself.

My long term concern is that I think this situation is indicating some deeper issues. If I were to make the correction, it would be WWIII in my department whether I was right to do so or not. If I don't make the change, we have false data, which is very bad and expensive regardless of how incorrect the data is. We cannot have any inherited errors in the data other than typical measurement error. This could be very expensive, but nobody will investigate. Is this disdain or negligence? What can I do about these deeper issues, like disdain?

Thank you for your time

"Formal education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." ~ Joseph Stalin

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

I see a lot of similarities between ourselves. I also entered the industry younger than usual, and with a lot of gusto to improve processes and show I could pull my weight.

What I had to learn, and there's no easy way to do this (that I found) except experience, was to read the room. Know what the decision makers are looking to hear, what their framework is for making those decisions, and some of their personality. How you present an idea to Bob, who is stressed trying to manage the department's budget in a crunch time will be different from the best way to present to Mary, who is looking to impress and win a big client.

If you come across as wanting to be "the smartest person in the room", you'll get shut down and your comments lose any merit -- unfortunate, but that's just the way it works in most cases. And if it happens too many times, that bridge gets burned permanently. That's when you get into disdain territory.

Being technically correct is one step toward being seen around the office as a key team member. Knowing relationally how and when to communicate the technical aspects of a solution is the next (and often tougher, for engineers) step.

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

Lomarandil, thank you for the feed back.

I do need to learn how to pitch ideas more. The people that I am working with right now are actually a different team than I was working with for the first portion of my time here. They are much more structured and they have more pressure on them. They recently had to reconstruct how we did a certain discipline of testing here. I think that the fundamental aspects of how we're testing and processing is a touchy subject.

They don't want details like this right now, and I think that they especially don't want them being pointed out by a junior "new guy". I can't earn the reputation of being technically correct unless somebody is willing to observe me being correct.

My plan right now is to get my supervisor into my lab and show him what I'm talking about. I might present it as a question rather than a claim, but I'll point out details and allow him to observe what I'm talking about. He is technically competent (quite good, actually) with this exact subject.

"Formal education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." ~ Joseph Stalin

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

Turn in report to your supervisor with bad data, complete with cover page saying "this data is wrong, I know how to fix it, corrected report available on request." Have the second report with corrected data on hand, ready to go if (or hopefully when) someone asks for it.

It's not going to be important until someone asks you to fix it. Maybe you have cried wolf before, maybe not. Whatever the reason, if you are "making more work" you'll be an annoyance. When you are fixing someone else's problem, it will be appreciated.

P.S. you'll be "the new guy" until there is another new guy/gal.

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

1gibson, that is a good idea. I don't know whether or not I am viewed as having cried wolf before. I do know that during my last review, my ability to create ideas was reported to my manager by several influential people within the company. That was before I started working with a different team, which has brought drastic changes to my work environment. Those reports are actually big contributing factors to the decision to put me where I am now. Despite this, I feel inert.

"Formal education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." ~ Joseph Stalin

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

Panther, personality or soft skills or whatever you want to call it can be a major issue in dealing with folks around you.

Especially when you're young and nominally inexperienced etc. you need to tread carefully and may consider over playing your humility.

There's also the old chestnut about making people think it's their idea etc. so as you start to suggest help someone else find the issue. May limit your potential for earning direct credit if that's a concern but not if you play it well. Once they've determined there's an issue, if you're quick with a fix there still may be plenty of credit.

Now I'm done being warm and fuzzy here's some feedback you may or may not want to hear.

Based on your posts in this site my perception is that you tend to lead with your chin and are not exactly lacking in confidence. Maybe you come across similarly to some of your colleagues.

Or maybe I'm just becoming a grumpy old curmudgeon.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

You can't make anyone want something they don't want or care when they don't have to care.

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

Forgive me if I'm reading more between the lines than is actually there, but are you trying to wind yourself up to saying that you think there might be a deliberate coverup going on here?

If so, a useful next question might be "in this context, how much of a problem is that?"


RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

Panther, do you drive a VW?

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

Is there beer and schnitzel in the canteen?

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

Moon161, umm uhhhh… We dindu nuffin!!

KENAT, I know what you mean. You can be more candid than you were in that post. I’m cocky, especially on this forum. The least I can do is admit it. I’ll fix it when I’m not so correct anymore! :p

I also took some of the advice in the thread. It turns out that somebody was listening and finally decided to hear me out on what I was trying to tell them. The person who heard me out decided that I was correct and that the corrective action I presented needed to be taken. He talked to somebody and we quietly fixed the issue. I do not believe there was a deliberate cover up by multiple people. I think it was one guy who felt accountable/embarrassed for missing the detail, and he wanted to suppress the importance of it. Throughout this entire case, I have been very objective in what I presented. I gave my theory and my observations that lead to the theory. I then had objective examples of this happening. I was in command of the facts surrounding the error and I presented them as objectively as possible. There were no interjections in my statements. My sentences were very simple and I used graphic depictions to make it all very clear.

"Formal education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." ~ Joseph Stalin

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

Soft skills can be a difficult chore to some.

Being uber-objective and scientific in presenting things can be a negative in some circles. People don't want to work with a robot all the time. Coldness can turn people off. Unfortunately there's no right or wrong way to communicate - it's about feeling your crowd as others mention.

However, almost universally, cockiness is a huge turnoff. Especially in someone young, new, and likely seen as undeserving of cockiness, whether true or not.

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

JNieman, you're right. I try to suppress it at work. There has been one other new guy who was hired after I was. In real life, he acts as cocky as I seem in this forum. He knows so little that he doesn't realize that there are actually things that he doesn't know. It reminds me of a guy on a boat looking at the waves and thinking he has seen everything that there is to see about the ocean, not even considering that it is hundreds of feet deep and full of nature's most obscure creations.

He is a self-proclaimed genius and once told one of our EEs that he had "way better computer skills than anybody in this team". He often proves this to all of us by making line graphs in excel and using the cool looking styles. The graphs are nonsensical with unrelated items on the X axis and a trend line connecting their Y values.

Analogous experiment time: Go measure the height of 10 different cups in your kitchen that could be used for drinking water. Make a line graph in excel. Put the names of the cups on the X axis (in no particular order, and name them whatever you want). Plot their heights on the Y-axis. Then insert a trend line. Then make the line graph look as flashy as possible. Now email it to all of your coworkers to showcase that you are a genius. Also, demand that they too shall measure the heights of their cups for drinking water and add it to your graph. Bask in the glory and don't be afraid to assume you have better skills than all of your coworkers. Tell a couple of them about your superiority. Walk away immediately when you're done telling them and make sure they can't reply.

That guy has shown me exactly what I believe you are talking about. I'm not going to say that I'm perfect at work, but I deliberately try to have self awareness. I respect my coworkers and try to learn from them as much as I can

"Formal education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." ~ Joseph Stalin

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

Panther140 - it seems that your co-workers have found you on this forum. I'm curious, if you feel yourself talking differently on this forum than in the office how do you think your co-workers will regard your two different persona?

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

You've scored some "telling the emperor about his new clothes points". That's genuinely not a bad thing, but never forget that that's an area where it's really easy to overperform.

View this sort of triumph as the seasoning to the main dish - which is helping the rest of the team collectively solve the problems they know they want to solve and you'll stand more chance of building a reputation as a well-rounded engineer who plays with the team, but can be relied on to watch its back at the same time.


RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

If it bothers you that much, stop trying to change everyone else and get a job somewhere else. Then you can see if its "you" or "them". Its unlikely to always be "them", unless you live in denial.

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

Terratek, You’re on to something. I found an internal position that I’m likely moving into. Its not because of any “me vs. them” scenario. I think it is just a bad fit. This situation is like combining a 600cc sport bike engine with a 12 speed semi truck transmission and then trying to figure out which component is to blame for the setup working like complete dog crap. I work much better with the other team in that role than my current.

"Formal education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." ~ Joseph Stalin

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

Is it a problem that needs to be fixed? If the data has always been less than precise but the business functions with that level of error then you have discovered an issue I call "interesting but not relevant"

If correcting the data is going to lead to improved quality and profitability, then forward the proposed change to your supervisor for his review and action - that would be his role as your supervisor

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

sorry if i sound bad, but they will appreciate your existence once you leave them.

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It


Take a good step back. Just do what you are expected to do.
When you are 100% sure of your finding, backed by facts - then report it low profile and then back off. Means have this recorded, don't aim more than this.

Ignore the attitude of the other guys and expand your own horizons (have a hobby, side activity). So zoom out to a point where all this becomes a tiny point on your landscape. So easy to manage....this the good news.

Less good news is that your description is part of a bigger and more chronic problem. Not all people are equally equipped in terms of the soft skills that allow us to behave quite "naturally" in low profile mode. On the long run it's tougher than we realize to gain the necessary wisdom for changing our mind. It can make your professional career painful as you may be a good guy and that may be enough but you may also become unlucky and come across mad people and then it becomes a different story.

Don't take it personally, just think about it.


RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

trackandbus, I do discover a lot of "interesting but not relevant things". I know what those things are very well. This error that I found has been corrected in the system. Our balls would've been in a vice if it were not found by anybody besides an in-house employee. It was a hard pill to swallow, but everybody involved was able to maintain dignity and improve the process once it was finally unanimous and obviously considered a flaw.

The issue hasn't been talked about since the correction was made, but I noticed a consistent increase in positive treatment that I receive from my coworkers.

After bringing the error to the attention of others, I got the feeling that they thought it was benign. I tracked it and discovered how frequently it happened. I made a brief report of each instance that it happened. I used a lot of pictures and made the magnitude of it so easily understood that I believe a kindergarten class would've been in consensus that it wasn't right.

I didn't use emotional appeals. I didn't use interjections. I presented facts. If the issue was disregarded by the other party, I would try to figure out which logical fallacy they were using. Most commonly, it was an appeal to probability. That is easy to combat with facts on the frequency of it actually happening in a sample pool.

I might be a rookie in this field, but these guys are rookies to having me around. Oh.. and I have some exciting prospects for a position with a team that I have gelled with very well. We'll see where that goes, but I'd love to take the position when it can be officially declared and completed.

"Formal education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." ~ Joseph Stalin

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

Now for the hard part, never mention it again. Make it as painless as possible for others to incorporate your suggestions for improvement, once that is done you move on. Save the "I told you so" for recurring issues that have not been addressed, and even then use them sparingly. Wait until someone says "how could this happen" and have the answer immediately on hand. Blame procedures and systems, don't point fingers at people. The procedures and systems are much easier to fix anyway.

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

Great news! Well handled.

RE: Disdain and How to Overcome It

1gibson, that is good advice. I wont point fingers, use the past as a personal attack, or even gossip about coworkers. I don't care about climbing the ladder or being snobby. My main motivator is not competition or money. I like finding cunning solutions, making new connections, and driving divergent innovation.

"Formal education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." ~ Joseph Stalin

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