Monday, January 31, 2011

But...But...But What About Doing That Thing Grown-Ups Always Told You To Do?

Tell the Truth. Remember being told that no matter what you did or how much trouble you might be in, that the important thing is that you be honest and tell the truth? That taking responsibility right away for something will be better than lying about it. I remember that too. Which is why, despite having two other posts lined up (one accepting my blogging award from Manymanymoons, I haven't forgot) I had to push those aside because this is really bothering me. I am going to try to figure out how to talk about it without giving too much away.
But it basically has to do with work. And the person that is truly to blame doesn't work at our company any longer. Let's just say an issue came up and it looks like to remedy the problem, it will cost $3,000. I realize that isn't a small sum of money, but in my opinion it isn't worth the price of looking like you are just trying to cover your ass and get out of taking responsibility for something that was clearly your fault.
In my line of work, there are lots of checks and balances on a project. There is text in the specifications that instructs a contractor to refer to the drawings, but that the manufacturer's installation instructions take precedent over anything the designer says. But when a contractor installs something following the manufacturer's instructions and according to how it was drawn by an engineer and there is still an issue. Then there really is no passing the blame off on someone else.
Ugh it is hard to write about this without telling you what is really going on. Let's just say, something was installed somewhere by someone and the manner in which it was installed makes it unusable by the client. It is 40 feet up in the air. The person who did this, again, is no longer with our company. So there is a group of us left holding the bag. In my opinion, the best thing to do would be to go to the owner, say 'look I am sorry this was shown in this manner. The person who drew it this way is no longer with us, but we didn't catch it in our reviews and the contractor didn't catch it either. It is probably something they should have realized and brought to our attention before this time, but we can't really change that. All we can do is try to remedy the situation and move forward'. To me going to a client and saying it like this, right out, at the beginning, has a better chance of getting a response of 'hey everyone makes mistakes, we will take care of the costs and not hold it against you'. Because let's face it, clients have built-in reserves for unexpected problems. They anticipate that things will come up and they have a stash of money on the side to pay for them.
But if you sit there and try to pass the blame onto someone else, to me you are going to lose credibility. You aren't going to look like an honest person.
The issue itself has nothing to do with me really. I am more observing this project as a means of gaining experience in project management. I get that if you are a PM, you don't want to go to your higher-ups and say 'listen so and so screwed up, we're going to need to pay to fix it'. I don't envy that role. I hope to never be in that role...which makes me question whether PM is the right path for me. But I also internalize a lot of things I probably shouldn't. Like I am actually feeling anxiety about this issue. I want to be able to say 'isn't it just better to take responsibility and ask the client for forgiveness than try to dance around and make it look like all we care about is covering our own behind?'. 'Isn't being loyal to a client and honest more valuable to our company image than a measely $3 grand?'
But what do I do? I think all I can do is just to let it go. Let myself off the hook from feeling the anxiety about the situation. Claim ignorance I guess. But all I can think about is 'but what about all those years that grown ups told us the most important thing is honesty?'.  


  1. I'm with you friend... Honest to a fault. And I really think your proposed approach is the best possible way! I would have a hard time doing it any other way actually...

  2. It's always the cover up that gets you never the crime. The old Martha Stewart syndrome as I like to call it. She went to jail for lying about the crime, not the crime itself. I believe you and I work for the same type of firm (only I'm ion the marketing/pr end of things) and I fight this particular fight ALL THE TIME! I think you should speak up...they will most likely do it their way anyway, but at least you can say you tried and your opinion is on the table.

  3. I'm in sales so the assumption is that I'm naturally a liar but I, too, am honest to a fault. I would much rather sit down and say the honest, yet hard, thing than try to figure out a way to make it sound better or different. I'm still super confused as to the situation but good luck!

  4. Oooo - that's super frustrating. Honesty is so important, but it's definitely rough sometimes!