We need to work with difficult people

I shot the video above when we were delivering the Pearl in Qatar. Then the GFC and the rest is history.

There is something about tower cranes that gets the construction survivor’s pulse raising. I cannot get enough of them. Old diesel Favcos, cranes on rail tracks, self climbers etc. They are all derived from the ancient Greek balance cranes i.e. levers,  fulcrums and a power source to lift. But what really interests me are the people who drive them.

I have known many crane drivers over many years and they are an interesting part of the project team, and that is a big understatement. I worked with one driver who had been at it for nearly thirty tears. He was the highest paid person on site, cantankerous, completely uncompromising, difficult to manage but I would not have replaced him for anyone else. Why? Because he was safe, good at his job, and simply made things happen.

He is an example of a difficult person to work with, but someone you simply need on your project. We have all worked for difficult bosses, had recalcitrant site managers, nit-picking head office accountants. Sometimes we see a list of hurdles in the way of getting the job done. I don’t see it that way at all. I have worked with some absolutely dreadful personalities. I had one senior executive who joked he was sacked from the Gestapo for cruelty. He thought this self observation would endear him to us – it did not.

But what usually lies beneath this hard exterior is a world-weary, battle-scarred individual who may have the personality of a dung beetle but still has something to offer. I was explaining this to an ex colleague who had moved to pastures new and was having “differences” with his boss. I told him to find a t least one redeeming factor about his nemesis. A few weeks later he called me and found one. When in a heated meeting with a very difficult client was scheduled he invited his boss along. before the meeting he explained the situation. At the meeting he saw his boss from another perspective. He saw a fighter, a defender of the business, a hard negotiator, an ally.

You don’t have to like someone to work with them, just recognise their strengths and call upon them at the appropriate moment. People are different, but people deliver projects. However difficult crane drivers live in their cabs for ten hours a day and have no email, bosses drop in unexpectedly and email at all times of the day or night. But they both need a little ego massage now and again.

My mate and his boss get on better now. The crane driver has swapped his cab for a Winebbago and become a grey nomad. After thirty years on his own talking to himself inside his cab I bought him a retirement present for his road trip. A pair of ear defenders for his wife.

by Gerry Keating

http://gkeating.com

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