Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I haven't really popped off about work for a while because right now I'm in a pretty good situation. I'm working remotely as an analyst and tech writer; I check my e-mail in the morning, call to check in with the bosses once a week by phone, attend a phone conference once a week, make sure my deliverables get out quickly, and life is good. I really consider this whole setup to be a gift from my boss.

For the most part the people I work with are OK. The current setup is that we have no sub-contractors on our team, so we're all employees of the large defense contractor that we work for. I guess that sounds strange to people who aren't familiar with gov't contracting, doesn't it?

It does make a difference to have everyone working for the same company though. Sometimes in a misguided effort to build some kind of phony espirit de corps on gov't contracts were everyone is just there for a paycheck, managers from one company or another will attempt to ascertain some kind of small perk for their employees or have closed door meetings to differentiate between employees and subs or employees of other companies.

The real problem comes with dealing with the gov't workers. We're there to provide advice and support to our gov't customer on a variety of topics. We generally act as subject matter experts where our customer agency has gaps in their knowledge of appropriations, technical subjects, and legislative mandates which frequently takes the form of providing analysis and solutions for a whatever problems they're having. What this really means is that we're there to do what the government workers can't do for themselves.

This leads to situations like the one I find myself in this morning. Within the portion of the USDA that my company services, I'm the designated subject matter expert on SharePoint. I don't do any server side stuff, I'm really just there to train users and figure out a way to extract some value out of the product for our customer. I've been dicking around with this off and on for coming up on three years now and they still don't know they want.

The Hobbit is the gov't worker I have to deal with on all of this and he insists on playing this crazy "Mother may I?" game with me. If I call him on the phone to discuss something I want to do (even though I'm the SME, I don't admin rights) after a 15 minute circular conversation, where I could swear he's deliberately being obtuse, he asks me to write it all up in an e-mail. If I dare to skip the introductory phone call with the Hobbit and broach a new topic in a detailed e-mail, he likes to wait a week before responding and when he does respond he asks a series of questions that I answered in my initial e-mail and makes several nonsensical counter proposals. It's positively maddening.

I have a co-worker who has spent a bit more time with the Hobbit than I have and he says that the real problem is the Hobbit doesn't communicate effectively via e-mail. True, he doesn't communicate well via e-mail but he also is trying to communicate bad ideas for the sole purpose of feeling like he made some sort of contribution to what's going on.

Here's what I wish I could make the Hobbit understand: I don't really care. It's your show, I'm not invested in this institution other than wanting to help it function better. My paycheck keeps coming every two weeks and that's all I need out of this deal. I'm content to create and implement a winning strategy with this technology and let the Hobbit take all the credit for it. If only he were smart enough to recognize the situation, shut up, and get out of my way.


Catherine said...

You had me at SME for Sharepoint. MOSS might be the bane of my existence. Our team blog is not pretty. Our wiki pages are sad. It all makes me want not to document, which I usually love.

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