Winning the approval of the irrelevant

Today I went through four hours of solid questioning without a break. And it took place in the presence of my boss.

You might think that I got into trouble or something. But the truth is more mundane. Some adult who happens to be a licensed engineer woke up to the fact that I was getting a project approved by all the relevant parties without anyone having a basic understanding of what I was doing. So he took it upon himself to find out all the details that nobody else could be bothered to learn.

My boss was listening in because he was one of the people who did not have a basic understanding of what I was doing.

Now I have the highest regard for my boss. He is one of the best bosses that I have ever had. Certainly the best boss that I have ever worked under for any length of time. He has good moral principles, a sincere desire to help those that work under him, and a lot of technical knowledge. But his ability to interact with people is undeveloped.

As a consequence, my boss does not really know how to deal with awkward social situations. And for him, this project has been one long awkward social situation.

He was never really keen on the project and he has always had this nagging fear that I was being too cocky for my own good. But he did not want to flat out say no because he values initiative and my services in general. So at first he tried to derail it by setting criteria that he did not think I could meet. When that did not work he would lob trick questions in my direction that he did not think I had considered. But that, only to meet with the typical know it all Ape Man response.

I felt bad for him, so I offered a number of times to explain what I was doing in painstaking detail. I wanted to ease his fears. I felt that the biggest cause of his concern was that he did not understand what I was trying to do. But his response was always “I don’t have the time.”

Truth be told, I can’t hold that against my boss. Most people cannot stand listing to me talk on any one subject for more than five minutes. So my boss is in good company. But his lack of tolerance kind of inhibits his understanding of my evil plans even though I am always eager to explain them to anyone who will listen.

But the engineer who came down was different. Nobody else in my professional life has interrogated me with half the skill that he did. And while I talked, he diagrammed out what I was saying and took notes. By the time he was done, he had a pretty good idea of what I was trying to do and why.

Even better, my boss had a pretty good understanding as well. All the things he was worrying about were brought out in the open and dealt with.

By the end of the four hours, the engineer had said that he was going to try increase the amount of money that was set aside for the project (because I was worried that the contingency was too low) and my boss was actually sounding supportive of the project instead of negative.

A success all round.

Except for the fact that none of it mattered.

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