Another wierd situation

I work in a medium sized corporate environment (250+ employees). I manage design for clients in kind of a niche industry. I also manage designers that design for product development and product launches/promotions. I also do a lot of the PD work myself and the occasional client project.

We have full product development within our company, so, Design (ID, GD, CC, ED), Marketing, and Engineering (ME). Engineering rules the decision making process, it is like nothing that I have ever seen. Marketing and Design will toil for months on a product plan and then Engineering comes in and picks it apart not by telling us that our proposal isn’t feasible, but THAT IT WON’T SELL! They actually sit in front of us and question why a customer would want what we are proposing…even though we’ve done the market research and concepting for weeks or months, not to mention the fact that I actually work face to face with customers on an almost daily basis. To be fair, engineering is involved in the concept phase, but only as an adviser and to provide pricing to help Marketing with their plan, but they never stick to their role, they always whine during the process about how the customer wants this or why would a customer want that? That’s not their job.

We have two Senior Design Engineers, one is good, thorough, thoughtful, and “gets it”. The other guy…no degree, came up through the organization from production and was buddy buddy with the owner’s nephew. He is passive aggressive, unprofessional, manipulative, and stubborn. Everyone in Marketing and Design have nothing but contempt for this guy. The president of the company is at about wits end with all of the complaints that he has received about him over the years. We’ll spend lots of hours on plans and concepts and he won’t take any action on them if they aren’t his ideas and he’ll go off and talk with his boss (the other problem) and just do whatever he likes. It is so obvious to everyone that he behaves this way because he can get away with it because the owner and his nephew have his back. In reality, this guy is inhibiting progress in a HUGE way. He comes in, works tucked away in one corner of the building, never engages in anything, and “designs” in a vacuum. His title is Senior Design Engineer; he couldn’t go to any other company in the US and get this title, and he knows it. He constantly complains about job security and how he “needs something to do”. A colleague told me that he tried to go work somewhere else and his interview was a running gag in their company. All he does is maintain his relationship with the owner and his nephew and treats everyone else as if they’re complete idiots because they went off and got degrees that he sees as “meaningless”. Constantly brags about his extensive experience…never worked as an engineer anywhere else.

His boss supports him and this behavior and has his back 100%. His boss also suffers from a lack of vision and some kind of self-delusion that it doesn’t matter what market research says, how it will be sold, who will sell it, what tools should be developed to design with it, just: engineers are the masters of the universe and our products should sell themselves (and oh, let marketing be accountable for how well it sells). He also garners favor with the ownership in private and regularly informs them that Marketing and Design are being “difficult”. I wear that like a badge of honor, our industry is going to change rapidly in the next 5-10 years and these guys do not have the vision or the chops to keep us in the game, all they care about is keeping their jobs and being way over-paid.

Short of quitting, has anyone else here dealt with anything like this or been able to influence a culture shift to get people like this put in their place? I’m willing to try change/fix this, is it possible? We have lost lots of young talent in our organization because of the way that these two individuals have treated them.

I’m in a similar situation so I can really relate to what you are going through. At my work, which is much smaller, I am the only one with a degree and the person who did all the design before I got here is one of those rise through the ranks upper middle management types.

He has been here for 15 years or something and works 10+ hours every day and brown noses hard. Whenever I come up with an idea he focuses all his effort on proving me wrong and getting his way. The last product he “designed” failed hard and our company isn’t doing well because of it. I am looking for a new job, but there are no ID jobs in my city and I already moved closer to work which is out of the city. I’m even considering going back to hands on work or trying to start my own business in the next year or two.

All I can suggest is move on. The senior management need to see that this guy is making good people leave and then they might want to get rid of him. Unfortunately, you won’t be there when/if he finally gets the boot. To use a crass metaphor, you’ll be like a soldier dying for the good of your country. I’d like to help my company do well by doing good design research, user studies, prototype building and field testing and DFMEA, but I’m blocked at every stage by this moron.

If anyone knows how to deal with this without quitting I’d really like to know too.

Hey guys,
I’ve experienced the same problem at my jobs. Unfortunately, no one EVER get laid-off from the companies I’ve worked for. I’d suggest just doing you’re best to gain you’re management’s trust and respect. With any luck you can override that person’s judgement.

I know this isn’t the easiest route but if you’re not interested in leaving, atleast you can get their attention. Once you and the management get comfortable with one another you can start dropping ques that that person maybe holding you and the company back.

Just my 2 cents…

The short answer, start looking for another job. We are talking about the owner, nothing you do will change the situation. The best you can hope to do is manage it and compensate for it. Note the things you learned at this job and keep a weary nose for the scent of anything similar in your interviews. You now know what to look out for.

Having been through this myself - I actually itemized the numerous problems in great detail, why they were problems, and the outcomes they would lead to - and presented this to the source of the problems (incidentally the owner) - you won’t really get anywhere. Even when the outcomes you specifically pointed out do in fact occur. The source will get mad, probably know deep down it is all true, half the company will leave voluntarily with or without jobs, but he won’t really learn anything and you’ll continue to do what you do all while both maintaining a distance from one another. Neither good nor bad, but you should GTFO.

It’s a bummer, but I’m leaning towards leaving, which presents some serious obstacles for me personally. This company has so much incredible potential and capability and it is being squandered on a few selfish brats that will ultimately be its demise, such a shame, no doubt many of you would kill to have access to the facilities that I have access to…

As a side note, am I off base here to suggest that engineering should not have the kind of responsibility that these guys in my company want ownership of?

Engineering should not have that responsibility. There really should be business strategists, or at the very least marketing should lead. Don’t waste your time thinking about potential - the problem with that is you can delude yourself into thinking you are getting somewhere when you have a good team in place, but that team will leave more quickly than you want them to for the same reasons you have listed. Then you’re back at square one, starting over on the rapport building process.

I don’t want to stir the pot but I wanted to shine some light on the other side.You are not wrong in your frustration and in no way am I saying that your statements are unjust.

As an engineer, the “it cost too much” or “who would buy this” arguments are usually related to laziness. Its the route that ALOT of engineers go take when they don’t have time or simple don’t want to do something. In more cases than people expect, the expense excuse is viable but should ALWAYS be explained in depth and the team should work towards a better, more cost effective design. Unfortunately this usually neuters the original design a bit.

Being the permanent wet blanket sucks. But its in the chaos that the truly revolutionary stuff gets designed.

I don’t know how things are at your company but is it possible/acceptable to call this person on his bluff? Having worked in Japanese companies, they are ALWAYS way too conservative in new developments. They see it as, if you don’t get fired up when an idea gets shot down you don’t care enough to fight for it. You have to do the work in the dark, behind their backs and present them with the final product and enough support that they can’t turn you down again.

From my stand point, I’d love for the designers I work with to get fired up about something that they really believe in. I think it might be because you guys are trained to keep the ideas coming no matter how many times they get turned down. Sometimes it seems like a design is just something to throw out there for the sake of it.

Sorry for the long message, I think way too much over my morning coffee. This is making me jealous. I wish the designers in my company weren’t so beat down that they could get inspired on new projects.

I was in a similar situation, do you work in a business to business product line? I felt like the nature of the purchase process was so different from consumer products that marketing and design were truly secondary.
Eventually, I was able to make some allies by providing good design that hit cost targets. It’s hard to do, but comes with the territory.

That said, it was a total bitch the entire time I was there and they eventually went under.
So - get out as soon as you can.

My solution to this problem has been to go back and read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

The problem most of us face is that our needs and wants are different to others, so we find it hard to relate and empathise with other people.

I know some people are much harder to get along with than other’s but I’m seeing that as more of a challenge that I can tackle now than an unfixable problem.

Well taken. Empathizing with others is something I feel I have a good grasp on, but in this particular case this guy, not having experience and being in good with the ownership, doesn’t have to play nice so he doesn’t. All he wants is to do what he wants to do and maintain kudos from the top folks and if you don’t help him do that he won’t work with you, whether you’re right or wrong. Basically what I’m saying is that, if he legitimately held his position/title and it was a level playing field I would certainly find a way to work with him.

hertric5 really nailed it on the head, these guys don’t have to prove their work to kill ideas, but it’s a double standard. When I make suggestions or recommendations based on my expertise they don’t take my word for it, I have to do extra work to prove it to THEM. They treat me and marketing like we just walked through the door yesterday.

Recently, to my surprise, more people are hip to to what’s going on with this issue, I wonder what will happen…

This situation is not weird actually, it happens all the time everywhere; believe me there are lots of big headed people like this out there, in every occupation- they are just useless people not contributing to the society. What is pain in the ass is that when they have some sort of authority they will use it to their own advances.

I can see you were pretty frustrated when you wrote this thread. But don’t get too emotional, It is not worth it to leave something that benefits you financially. Your boss picked you out of so many applicants because he believed in you. You are in this company to do your job-which means you are going to design products that WILL SELL, this guy wants your product banned for selfish reasons so you are not going to let him have that. :sunglasses:

I suggest you- Next time when you are in a conference, be prepared, make sure your product is designed impressively; make everyone see your point. Supposedly he is being a bitch to you/your design for no apparent reason, caught that moment when he whines about some random bs, and QUESTION him why he thinks that. Question him intensively and back up with market research facts. You have to show other people that your idea is awesome and should be produced, like deciding a law should be passed.