Comment: stop this mission creep and let engineers be engineers

secret engineerWith his employer piling on extra duties,  our anonymous blogger is struggling to find the time to do the job he’s actually employed to do.

The gloss of working at Sleepy Hollow Electronics, dear reader, is starting to wear a bit thin. Its taken its time but the honeymoon period is now well and truly over.

The problem is that I have a full time job in design, I inherited another major chunk of work which owes nothing to my profession, knowledge or experience – and I am now having additional duties piled upon me in order to prevent impending doom for the company.

In my last position I did 8 months straight where I never left work on time

The full on aspect of the design role is of course absolutely fine. I have previously worked extra hours when required; something that I am sure you are all familiar with. In my last position I did 8 months straight where I never left work on time to cover the fact that the tyrannical MD had signed up to a contract that promised to ruin the company if a particularly difficult deadline wasn’t met. To be honest, I could have done without it but I knuckled down and delivered.

A number of years ago, whilst at Dan Dare Aviation, I pulled a few all nighters where must-not-miss targets meant working through until about 3 o’clock in the morning. By that time my wife was in bed and frankly it wasn’t worth the petrol to go home, so I’d plough on for a few more hours and grab a short nap before putting in another day.

Learning something new, and pushing ourselves is something that we should all try to…the problem then lies in the additional duties

Inheriting another major role means I must ration my time and live with not being able to progress streamlining the design department. This is something needed to nullify the effect of poor working practices prevalent over a number of years. However the company has survived so far with this parlous state of affairs so a little longer isn’t going to bring it all crashing down around our ears.

The upside is that I am now picking up new experiences and skill sets that will be transferable into other companies. Of course learning something new, and pushing ourselves is something that we should all try to do anyway. I have never understood the “I’ve never done that sort of stuff, its not my thing so I’m not even going to give it a go” mentality.

The problem then lies in the additional duties. From the above I hope you will realise that, even though I’m already spinning a number of metaphorical plates, it is not the additional work in itself that’s the problem. Especially as we are seeking to remove a risk to the company by pushing this project ahead. As a professional I am fully aware that a number of people’s livelihoods depend on our success. No, the problem comes about because I and few others are having to really push on with this in order to cover other people’s inadequacies.

We have had to commit to long and arduous hours because a sizeable percentage of those involved cannot, or will not, do their share of the work.

You may think that this has resulted in pressure being applied to them and appreciation shown to us. Not a bit of it, as the weeks go by we have more and more pressure exerted on us without the merest acknowledgement of our commitment while they are effectively excused from their responsibilities.

Importantly, professionalism and loyalty keep us beavering away at our task. I wonder though if this is ultimately detrimental? Whether we rate ourselves highly or not we are undeniably of value to the company and if we allow ourselves to be treated as door mats it does nothing but lower our status in the eyes of others. A corrosive process that once underway is difficult to halt.

I’m not sure what the best response is but I am at a stage in my career where I am comfortable in the knowledge that this is an unsustainable state of affairs. Things will have to change.