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Would you tolerate, try to fix, or just leave?...

By trembath ·
Hello all. This may be a bit of a rant, but I would like to hear some other opinions. I started out as contractor on my current job. When I started they needed a database years ago, but were just getting around to it since the work had become overwhelming. I work for a large school district. With NCLB their reporting needs exploded overnight. A woman in the assessment department had been aggregating the tests prior to my arrival. She has no degree in IT...Only a 3 day Access course. She started out with the district as a teachers aide 20 years ago. She had created an unmaintainable approach where she had a differnet DB for each and every assessment that came into the office. There were literally hundreds of .mdbs on the network, and everytime a new test came in, she started a new DB and aggregated the report by hand... printed out the report and faxed it to 150 schools. They needed way more reporting than she was able to handle and the number of tests just kept growing.

As a consultant I suggested and got a SQL server inhouse. I created them a central DB, that to date has identified 11 differnet test types that come into the dept. Each test type aggregates differently and produces approximately 6 reports each. We now deliver the reports to the schools online using Cold Fusion, and I aggregate the tests by popping off modules and stored procedures to prepopulate reporting tables (very complex reports... too much number crunching to do on the fly online) Somewhere in the middle of all of this I took a regular job in the department. I saw a great project to build, and so far I had nailed all of their requirements despite very short deadlines. The system is still a work in progress but we have come a long way. However, a new student information system comes online in the fall, and I am faced with migrating our assessment system to work with the new DB. It's a project, but nothing that I haven't tackled before.

Anyway, about 6 months ago, the director decided that she wasn't around the office enough, and put the woman who used to do the aggregation in charge of the office in her absense. This woman had been in the department the longest and knows the business well. Unfortunately, somehow, this decision put her in charge of my IT project which she is totally unqualified to do in my opinion.

She has stuck to her guns however, and made my life miserable in the meantime. She has clamped the vise grip down on me so hard that I can no longer do my work, and hitting the dealine for the migration is impossible at this point. Basically everything remains the same except for the new systems unique ID's which we will use instead of our own internall ID's that we've been using for 1 year, plus a few other enhancements. When I should be flying to hit the Fall deadline, all I have done is document to her what I will do, how I'm going to do it, when I'm going to do it... even though she doesn't understand what I'm doing at all. I must document even routine functions. The reporting tables will each have approx. three new unique ID fields from the new system, and we will drop their old replacements. It is not enough to tell her that I will work on this migration, I must now document my append queries to accomplish the task and tell her exactly what I'm doing. I've created appropriate "Roles" for the new assessment DB, but describing each roles function is not enough. I must spell out the exact permissions to each and every table for the roles to her,... just to have her turn around and ask me if she has full access. I have documented routine database functions in 2,3 sometimes 4 different ways, since she never seems to understands it no matter how I put it together. The woman can't join three tables together to get out what she wants if her life depended on it, but she insists on having input into the table design. (Can you say flat file design?) I think she wants way too much detail concerning my work, considering that she had never heard of SQL Server or a normalized DB design before I walked through the door. I find myself scheduled into meetings to re-collect requirements over and over again that I have already collected. I was told just yesterday that I am not allowed to talk to anyone in the department or ask any questions. If I need ANYTHING it is to go through her. She barely comprehends my work, yet wants full control over it. I have to document for her every added field and every added table in this migration project. She questions my motives for creating data driven structures to drive the front-end. She has access to SQL server and can pull up the schema at anytime, but since she doesn't understand the schema, I need to write every change I make down in a Word document to be handed in to her, even though she will never personally use any of the tables. When she gives me requirements, and I say that I have a good solution that will work. Does she let me go back and implement it? No. I must document my approach in 3-4 different ways and once she (sort-of) understands what I'm doing, she may let me move forward. (But she usually only lets me move forward because the dealine for the project is looming.) Then I must scramble to implement in a week what I have documented for 3 weeks. She shows her ignorance of my work when she asks questions like... "Where is the pull table?" (uuummmm in SQL Server you stupid &*($)#) She is so used to having tables spread all over the network, she still has trouble comprehending that everything is central on one box now... And this woman is managing me!!

Needless to say, my work has ground to a halt, but the deadlines have not gone away. I have been reminding everyone that if I don't move faster, we will never meet the deadline for implementation of the new system, but I continue to waste hours documenting my own activity and work day for her. Sometimes I've been given only 3 days to pull something off when I've told her it would take two weeks... She thinks one week is plenty of time to complete a new aggregation routine, despite what I say. I'm going crazy!

I have gone to the top boss and tried to confront her about this stuff. After all I have a degree in the field and 11 years experience behind me. In my prior job I was assistant project manager for a team of 13 and a number of projects. I have done a good job for them and brought them out of the DB dark ages,...AND THIS IS THE THANKS I GET.

Has anyone had a similar experience with a boss like this? I love the project but I'm ready to quit over one person. The job is close to my house and there are many other good points (benefits), but I find this treatment intolerable. I find it degrading, beneath my abilities, an insult, and possible death to my career if I can't change things. I might understand this treatment if I had repeated failures, but up until she took over, I had nailed every report and requirement given to me in a timely manner.

What to do... What to do? thoughts? Suggestions? Stories? More rants... discussions... anything... after all I'm not allowed to talk to anyone here and I'm craving some interaction while I document more stuff for Mondays endless requirement meetings that never... blah blah

(sorry so long)

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Give the choice in writting

by jdclyde In reply to Would you tolerate, try t ...

Explain with no emotion at all how you are unable to complete your project.

Go into WHAT is keeping you from completing the tasks, and what you are doing INSTEAD of your job.

I would say that this person is resentful of you. You took the job that made her "important" because she was the "go to" person that everyone counted on. She is now trying to do two things. One, learn everything about the system in a hope to take it back and two, deep six you for not performing.

Do not accuse her of this!

Just state that to do the job you need x, y, and z to happen or you will have to put in your notice.

(unless your really not ready to leave)

This is if you want to keep the job. It will either get you back in the drivers seat or end your misery. Life is too short to hate your job.

Best of luck!

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store your documentation

by Absolutely In reply to Would you tolerate, try t ...

on the server!

The !@#$%^&* will have to learn her job properly then, right? It will be some extra work for you, but not as much extra as you are being given now, to keep a reasonable amount of documentation stored in a database.

Make sure that you keep it all arranged so that she can't find her way to the documentation she requests, but so that she SHOULD be able to access it, and find all the information she needs to answer her own questions, if she's going to "approve" or "deny" your strategies for implementation. If done properly, it will be very difficult to restrain yourself from laughing, but will definitely put her in her place. That's what I'd do.

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Welcome to Office Politics!

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Would you tolerate, try t ...

Or as I like to call it Bureaucratic BS. :)

What you have to remember with these types is the fact that they do not need to be busy they only need to look busy and if she can run you ragged while attempting to learn something from you well in her mind so much the better. I've worked in too many places that are exactly like this where the work isn't the first consideration but the paperwork is the most important thing possible.

Remember that while she is driving you nuts with her questions she most likely is complaining to her superiors that you are unhelpful to her because you keep providing information that she finds incomprehensible so you really are not doing your job properly. No matter what she is now in control of the system and any new integrations and if they do not get done well who cares it in the overall scheme of things is unimportant to the Bureaucrats who will first make you the Scape Goat and then go on to insist that the expectations are unreasonable to implement anyway.

If you want to work with the bureaucracy you had better get used to this "Bashing Your Head Against a Brick Wall Mentality!" Really it only feels good when you eventually stop or if you are into pain and suffering you'll enjoy the challenge of dragging this woman into the somewhat modern age.

After all as she has run the system after a 3 day course in Excel {was it} that makes her the Resident Expert no matter just how little it is that she actually knows and because she ran the system for so long and sort of made it work she is the one who everyone turns to when they want something, you however are the Johnny Come Lately who is rocking the boat and changing things it doesn't matter that they work better you are still changing things which is more often than not apposed at every step possible in every Bureaucratic situation the fact that you got away with it for so long only means that the person In Charge Didn't understand what it was that you where doing either and wasn't interested so she left you alone. This one has some idea of what is required but has no idea of how to implement it and she is attempting to learn as it makes her job important which it wasn't previously so you just have to accept it as part of your job educating the powers that be what it is you are about to implement and how you are going to implement it and at the same time stay within the LAW. It's painful but just a fact of life in places like this unfortunately.

But if you really want to screw with their minds suggest using Linux and MySQL instead of MSSQL and tell them that it is free and there are no License fees payable for the program and OS these people always think that they are brilliant when they think that they have saved 2 cents on something. even if it isn't the right tool for the job.

The best solution to this problem is to make her use SQL in her daily work and get used to it, after all your explanations are not getting through to her so you'll have to learn to communicate in simpler terms, remember what you think as simple she will be grasping to understand and if you keep using the industry Jargon it will only make things worse at one training course that I attended they asked a simple question "What is a LED?" the answer that they required was a light without a filament and not a Light Emitting Diode so you'll have to "Dumb It Down" to her level of understanding so at least she can begin to learn. The fact that you have now been instructed not to talk to anyone else in the office is only pointing to her insecurity or maybe something of what you have said has got back to her and upset her as she has either mistook your words to mean something other than intended or if your above is anything to go by she is quite rightly pissed off with you as you have basically called her an incompetent fool who should not be there.

The fact that she is the longest serving member of staff means that she has gone as high as she ever will and is most likely feed up with seeing people like you walk in and then be promoted above her without needing to serve the time to learn the way that things work. If you want to continue working in places like this you'll have to learn to work within the system and teach people as you go along. After all IT is only a means to an end not the end itself.

Col ]:)

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Run like the wind

by wordworker In reply to Would you tolerate, try t ...

Get your resume polished up and make a plan to be in the new job by Aug. 1. Forget any feelings of loyalty to the school system or to the project. Let it go and get as far away as possible, else it will only get worse, and it will make you feel crazy.

Normally I'm a die-hard optimist and would say hang in there, but you've painted a very clear picture, one I've seen before. You sound like the type of person who can't resist fighting the good fight, but this sounds like a battle you can never, ever win. I vote to find a new job ASAP.

>Just state that to do the job you need x, y, and z to happen or you will have to put in your notice.<
I agree completely with jd on this one - shocker! - but do have a plan in case they call your bluff, either cash on hand to live on, home equity LOC, or a lawn-mowing job to tide you over while you get the next IT job. But more importantly, I think it's worth it to issue the ultimatum. I left a job at a law firm because a nontechnical person was put in to manage me and life as I knew it became unbearable. I didn't name the loser manager as my reason for leaving because she was - yikes! married to a partner! A different partner later told me if I had just said something at the time, 'they' would have fixed that problem.

So take your shot at getting autonomy back, and if it works, you da man! If not, pack your bags and don't fall for the old trick: "Well we'll let you work out your two weeks notice but you'll have to spend it documenting everything you know about the system."

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And don't forget

by jdclyde In reply to Run like the wind

Get everything they agree on in WRITTING or it doesn't mean anything if you make a bid to keep your job.

But yes, this may be your walking papers. Don't make an ultimatum if you aren't going to go through with it.

And stick to your guns or it will be just more of the same.

Make sure you have a plan B incase they decide to stay with her than to have a working system.

I would also stop ALL unnecisary wasting of time with over explaining to her at the same time. Do your job the best you can and watch your step. Your job is NOT teaching her SQL, it is to get the database up and going. If she wants to learn something recommend a good training place she can be sent off to.

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But...

by FirstPeter In reply to Run like the wind

Don't run with scissors.

Be very careful with this, though. As stated before if you're not ready to walk don't play the ultimatum game.

Also, even if you ARE ready to walk I'd say make sure you've exhausted other options first. Keep in mind that love or hate this person can impact your career downstream. Unless you're comfortably certain that she's "jealous" of you and intentionally keeping you from your job maliciously (as opposed to just incompetent or "learning to manage as she goes") I would hesitate to throw what you have away - it's apparent you enjoyed what you did prior to this.

I've seen a lot of "new" managers that, quite honestly, had no business being in management at that stage of their life. That's not to say they didn't turn out fine, just that they should have been given the practice before they were tossed into management. That's probably not much consolation to you (it would appear you get to be the test subject for her management ability), but the good news is that it can pass.

If you outline, in writing, what needs to be done and show her AND her boss perhaps you can get somewhere. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT simply dismiss her suggestions/recommendations as worthless. Find a nice way to let her know that, for example, you believe documentation is good but that given the timelines all would be better served to finish the project with some documentation (the stuff you'd do normally) and then see what needs to be added later. If you can let her save face here you may just make everyone happy. Or maybe not - but it's probably worth a try.

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Walk

by BFilmFan In reply to Would you tolerate, try t ...

Get another position and leave.

Leave a written notice stating that this manager has created intolerable work conditions and a hostile work environment (this statement will notify them that if they decide to give you a bad reference, you might just have an attorney send them a lil 'Welcome to court!' letter.)

No one can succeed in a position when a person in control decides to designate you as a problem child.

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I love your last sentence

by ITgirli In reply to Walk
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A few questions...and a solution

by ITgirli In reply to Would you tolerate, try t ...

You made the statement that you went to the top boss, but what did they say? Is there absolutely no one else you can go to?

Take all the documents you have made and given to this moron, in all there different revisions. Document and print any emails this person has sent you regarding your job. Also any other form of paperwork that has been exchanged. Get all of this together and go back to the top boss. Explain to them that you are really trying to meet this deadline, but you do not believe that this woman is capable of handling this type of information. Use documents as a reference. Explain that you enjoy working for them would like to continue to do so; however, you cannot under these current circumstances.Add that you no way intend to diminish this person's worthfulness to the school system, that she is a dedicated worker, but lacks the training and experience needed to fully understand and utilize this type of technology. Maintain that you would like to continue with your current employment, but if this is not resolved, you would not be able to complete the project and would still find the responsibility on yourself. As you would not want the quality of your work to be less than satisfactory, you will be forced to resign unless a compromise can be reached. Good Luck! (personally, I would tell them to fix there own mess and leave)

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Personally

by jdclyde In reply to A few questions...and a s ...

I think YOU would tell them in no uncertain terms where they could stick it! ;\ (and in no way am I saying this is a bad thing!)

He on the other hand said he ENJOYS it there, so he should at least give it that shot.

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