I’ve tried not to write this – I really have. I’ve thought about it many times but always backed away. Why? I’ve been scared of the consequences.
But this morning I was tipped over.
You see, over the years I’ve been insulted at work by some seriously good practitioners of the art of the insult.
I’ve collected them as I would any true gem that comes my way. I’m not talking about garden variety insults, I’m talking about the rare ones that stick in my mind.
I’ve laughed about them – but never with the purveyor of the insult. (If you’re reading this on my link you are not one of the purveyors.)
Here are some from my collection.
- From a 26 year old frustrated at not getting their own way – “you’re too old to appreciate my genius”
- From a middle aged person commenting on how I thought the office was too hot at 26C – “I’m thin so I don’t feel the heat”
- From a young person on their first project- “you can only show me how to do it yesterday”
- From someone who couldn’t figure out how a project had been turned around – “you only succeeded because people like working with you”
- From a senior executive – “you’re lucky, you arrived just before everything started to go well”
And then there was yesterday. You’re wondering what on earth could have been said. Well, here it is – the one insult that changed my policy and made me go public.
Someone said to me – “project management is just a job, being an engineer is a vocation”.
I sat bolt upright, stared with wonder, speechlessness and bewilderment. I stuttered and stammered. I could feel my neck reddening. In the end, I got out something like “I don’t accept that at all. The art of delivering projects takes dedication to the craft, dedication to staying current, thousands of hours of practice, commitment to swimming against the tide of limiting beliefs and their encoding into courses and accreditation. It takes a willingness to speak truth to power, to take the hits and not the accolades. To give your mind over to the challenges, intricacies and politics so you can stay ahead and clear the path for the project. You can find commodity project people everywhere, the ones who fill in the forms, keep plans up to date and provide defensibility for failure. There are a lot of ‘average’ engineers as well. But like any field, there are the good, the bad and the average.
You can’t pay too much for an excellent engineer and you can’t pay too much for an excellent project manager. However, if you choose an excellent engineer and an average project manager, the result will be other than as you hoped. If you choose an average engineer and an excellent project manager you’re much more likely to get the hoped for result.”
So that’s the insult that tipped me over. Insulting the career I’ve forged, my commitment to the craft and the many people like me who are dedicated to getting the result and the best out of each person with whom they work? Those who can almost work miracles when projects are in trouble. Those who love ambiguity and thrive in impossible situations.
Do they cost more? Absolutely not. Average costs a lot more in the long run.
I’ll keep collecting insults, I figure if people stop insulting me I have really lost relevance.
Please share any gems you’ve got.