Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tell Me

Consider the following hypothetical encounter:

Jennifer is a newly-hired scientist at a consulting company.  Because she has extensive experience in her field, she is immediately put in charge of a project to assess long-term impacts of the BP oil spill on bird populations within a wildlife refuge.  The work entails interactions with refuge personnel, who are all male and might be best characterized as "good ole boys".  She initially meets with the refuge managers to finalize details of the project and her team's schedule.  Time passes, and the project is going well and staying on schedule. 

Then Jennifer receives a puzzling message from a coworker, Bob.  One of the refuge managers has sent him an email concerning activities that might interfere with Jennifer's fieldwork.  Bob is not part of this project, but has worked with this refuge in the past on other projects.  Instead of just forwarding the message to Jennifer and telling the refuge manager that he's contacted the wrong person, Bob replies for Jennifer saying that he'll make sure her team is informed.  Jennifer feels unsettled, but can't quite put her finger on what's bothering her about this. 

She decides that it was just a simple mistake, and sends a brief email to the refuge manager that she appreciates the heads-up and will modify her sampling schedule accordingly (and does not mention his faux pas).  A couple of weeks later, however, her field technician mentions that Bob has been getting and responding to additional emails from the refuge manager about her project. 

What is going on here?  Should Jennifer be concerned?  Should she take some action?  If so, what should she do? In the next post, I'll analyze this situation and offer some possible responses.

Image Source: modified photo from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs

1 comment:

River Mud said...

Yes. Clearly (for any number of reasons/excuses), the refuge staff are not working with her. And clearly, her coworker Bob is not respecting basic protocol and simply forwarding the emails to her. I wouldn't look for that unfortunate part of the situation to change.

In her position, I'd ask for some help from my (and Bob's) boss to make sure things are "consistent" and "well coordinated." I would not present it as a "someone's taking over my work" scenario, though. Just a "pattern of miscommunication and we need help resolving it."

Just my .02