There are times when I really
hate passionately dislike some of the contractors I work with. Luckily it doesn’t happen too often – I can only think of a handful of those moments over the past 25 years, but when I step back and widen my view, those moments tend to happen with the same contractor (i.e. if I have 20 bad moments, 2 contractors are responsible for 15 of those moments), or at least the same type of contractor. Since I like to consider myself a fairly positive person, I try to view these moments as learning exercises and add them to my experience bank so I can keep them from happening repeatedly, but it doesn’t mean that I find it any less irritating.
A long time ago, I was completely, and unnecessarily, adversarial in how I approached job site issues. “I am right” was my shield, and “You are stupid” was my sword … and I won a lot of fights. I should really call these “arguments” because I haven’t actually punched anyone in my life, and words are far more damaging long-term. That and if one of these contractors punched me, that would also probably do some long term damage. Although I wonder what would happen to the one person who actually did something that finally made me throw a punch? It’s possible that they could get the disproportionate response of 40+ years of bottled up ass-whip poured on them.
At any rate, I don’t view myself as a combative person anymore. I don’t go looking for fights while on the job site and for the most part, I rarely have them. If working on the sorts of projects I’ve had the good fortune to work on has taught me anything, it’s that people know when something isn’t what it’s supposed to be and they don’t need me to stomp onto the job site shaking drawings in their face telling them that they’re idiots.
On the rare occasion, there are times when I miss my old ways – as a release, at least yelling can be somewhat cathartic. Now when one of these aforementioned contractors does something I think is boneheaded, I spend an unreasonable amount of time trying to ease them gently to where they need to be, which can be impossibly frustrating because we all know that they know what they did is wrong and they know that they need to fix it but won’t unless someone makes them do it.
Years ago, and while I was with my last firm, an article was published in ‘Columns’ (our Dallas AIA quarterly published magazine) that painted me in a particular light. The image above is a screen grab and I’ve highlighted the portion where I was mentioned … which I have conveniently enlarged for you just below. To set the context, this was an article about how architects and homeowners work together, and I showed up when the subject of construction management” came up.
I had no idea that I was going to be mentioned in this article. At first, I wasn’t particularly happy about the way I thought it made me come across. I don’t like to holler at people – I think it’s counter-productive and doesn’t really lend itself to creating the team environment that I try to foster on every project. Now, several years later, I kind of like the quote … maybe because it makes me think that I am capable of moving outside of my comfort zone to get something accomplished. That and it makes me sound like a bad ass.
Except I still don’t like to yell – I feel like I’ve evolved beyond that sort of behavior … which leads me back to the beginning of this post. Some contractors suck and it would appear that yelling and making a big stink is the only way to move things forward. Why is this? I know that everybody wants to cover their butt and that there’s money at stake, but this is a moral issue for me. If I know I did something wrong, I’ll own up to it and we’ll go from there. I have a hard time believing that someone would behave differently, even though I have 25 years of experience as evidence to the contrary.
I am convinced that there are just some contractors out there that only respond when I throw a fit … but I won’t work with those sorts of contractors more than once. The contractor in the article above? I wouldn’t work with that guy again because he loved to play the “what can I get away with?” game. I can still vividly recall processing a pay application where he slipped in a charge for “additional stucco work.” I called him and asked for an explanation since I was not aware of any additional stucco work having been completed. He told me that there were little “micro-cracks” that showed up in the finish and he knew that I wouldn’t accept the stucco that way, so he added an additional top coat finish to cover them up. I rejected that charge because he doesn’t get to spend the owner’s money without some sort of conversation beforehand. At that moment, he started yelling at me like I had just chopped off his leg, telling me that he’d been doing this a long time and he could have told me this was going to happen because there weren’t enough stucco reveals on these elevations! My obvious response was that if he knew that there weren’t enough stucco joints called for, why didn’t he say something earlier? Was he not paying attention, or did he intentionally not tell us? Either way, he wasn’t doing his job.
I never did release the funds for that charge, and as a result, I’m sure that contractor doesn’t want to work with me anymore either. A simple conversation could have alleviated this entire issue but I think this guy just liked the sport of trying to get away with things.
Even though I am going to turn 50 in a few years, I still envision myself as I was in my 20’s and most of my good friends would tell you that I have an immature sense of humor. These are traits that I actually like about myself but more and more often, I find myself having moments that could only be described as “cranky” … a word typically reserved for babies and old people.
And I’m not a baby.
If you couldn’t tell, this is a “Life” post today.
My wife is currently traveling for work and it’s during these times that I realize just how little I do to make things work in my family. Apparently, I am good at building fires, killing bugs that deserve it and being the fun Dad who doesn’t have to check my daughter’s homework. With my wife traveling, I am responsible for everything – hard on most days but particularly so since we recently added a baby to the family.
That’s right, we decided that one dog, two cats, and a fish tank just weren’t enough work so we went out and picked up an Australian Shepherd puppy. Someone had a litter of 8 puppies, and realized that 8 is more than enough, so we were able to take one off their hands. My daughter has named this puppy “Leni” and at 8 weeks old, she is a lot of work. According to the people who work in my office, she is going to become our office dog. If you are interested in watching how I create what will undoubtedly be the most amazing architectural office dog, feel free to follow along on Instagram (Leni Borson) because as much grief as I’ve given people about posting pictures of their cats, I couldn’t start bombarding people with pictures of my new dog unless it was their decision.
I came home after work and Leni, who, in her defense is still in the process of becoming housebroken, decided that she didn’t want to go potty outside because it was raining, and these spots on the wood floor would suit her just fine. Not one, not two, but three baths later, she is finally down for the evening and I can start on the laundry.
Can you figure out for yourself what has me thinking about picking fights? Contractors, or puppies?
Pick the fight worth fighting and jettison the rest as soon as you can.