A Question about Diplomacy

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I work at a TV station as a dialogue/V.O. editor and mixer. I like my job. It's not difficult, it pays OK, and it affords me the time/money to build up my freelance business without having to absolutely kill myself.

There are five other editors. Here's the problem: four of the five are fine. One is very much not.

I really hate to be a dick, but he works excruciatingly slowly, and his work is just barely passable. However, our system is set up such that there is little oversight and very little accountability, i.e. no one at the end of the pipe seems to notice, or know who works on what episode. This is a major frustration in and of itself but shall be saved for another day.

The job itself is a bit of a rollercoaster, super busy for 3 months, then pretty much dead for the next 3. Lately we've been going through a slow-patch, not much work coming in. So, I can understand why he takes his time (I do too). But considering the amount of time he takes to finish even the simplest project his work is just pathetic.

Aside from the obvious, the reason this is so frustrating is that two of my best friends are editors/sound designers too. One works retail, the other babysits DJs at a club down town, destroying his ears (even with earplugs in) for $120 a night. They are at least as good at sound stuff as I am, and certainly have the same amount of enthusiasm. I just hate seeing someone so complacent getting paid to not do a job that others would love to.

I hate to sound so selfish, petty, and proud, maybe he's got shit going on in his life and our mediocre channel isn't the utmost in his mind at the moment...

But he's simply not doing right by the content we produce and the people who produce it. It may not be the best stuff in the world, but there are people out there who really appreciate it, and it's sad to see them disrespected like this. I consider it my duty as an audiocentric person, and to other audiocents, to do the best I can with what I've got, even if the content itself is kind of crap.

Is there a dimplomatic/non-confrontational/non-threatening way to bring this up?

I had at one point thought of going to HR, and I know that's what they're there for, but it seemed a bit callow. It's not even that I simply want him fired, he's not a bad guy and that would be a shitty thing to do. I guess I'm just frustrated, angry, and at a bit of a loss for what to do...

Thoughts?

g.a.harry

Posted 2011-04-06T22:58:24.757

Reputation: 4 260

Answers

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Come at it from this angle:

I would bring it up with your supervisor or whoever has authority in this situation and tell them that the blind and visually impaired have far far far more advanced hearing than the average listener. Their hearing is actually extremely good and from what I understand they can notice faults in audio programs very easily, so this is all the more reason to have competent audio editors on the team.

I would institute a system where you do keep track of who does what, how much gets done, etc. Statistics. Manage it by statistics, and put penalties in for those who aren't producing enough or poor products.

It is a poor position to be in when you have to pull the slack of a co-worker. You are only justified in getting mad at them if they are purposefully not doing their best and not trying at all.

It would be a different story if this guy was trying his best and working hard to learn and get better. If that's the case, I would try to find out what he doesn't understand about editing and help him out to get better. But, from what you wrote it seems like he's not giving his all which should be made known to whoever is above you IMHO.

Utopia

Posted 2011-04-06T22:58:24.757

Reputation: 14 155

@Utopia, That's kind of the problem, I've been fighting tooth and nail to even get our V.O. booth even close to useable. I am not exaggerating when I say that the walls used to be bare. I've been in the room when my manager (a former segment prodocer for a sports channel and very decidedly a picture kind of guy) has said outright that he doesn't really care about the quality of the audio as long as the picture is good. I actually almost punched him. Picture? For blind people? Come on. We're practically a radio station. – g.a.harry – 2011-04-07T00:07:25.000

@g.a.harry Ouch. I didn't know that part of it - wow. Are you in the mean time looking for other work? – Utopia – 2011-04-07T01:04:29.650

@Utopia, Definitely. But as weird as it might sound, I totally don't hate it here. It's like I mentioned in another post... Dealing with crappy recordings has been really good for my ears, especially being able to compare the ones we do with pro V.O. from film and TV and spotting the differences. Plus, learning how not to punch jerk producers is probably a good thing too! – g.a.harry – 2011-04-07T01:12:25.970

@g.a.harry Yeah! Well, just continue to work hard and be honest and do a good job on your products and sooner rather than later you will be noticed and acknowledged for it and those that don't work hard will eventually get what's coming to them. – Utopia – 2011-04-07T01:35:38.750

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Live and let live. Someone told me this early in my life and I'm glad they did. If you're not his boss, then it's not your responsibility, and you shouldn't care. If you are, then, well, you would have already fired him. People do have all sorts of shit going on in their lives and the reasons behind "unsatisfactory" performance could vary from trivial to very convoluted. If you feel ready to take the plunge and sympathise with someone else's circumstances then maybe ask him how's things. Otherwise best you can do is to practice damage control, or just have a chat before you bring this up in public... no? If you really want to go the right way about this, then sit down and build in a workflow that provides for accountability. Only then (I think) can you point finger in any direction. (Hope this doesn't sound harsh.)

georgi

Posted 2011-04-06T22:58:24.757

Reputation: 5 521

@georgi.m, Not harsh at all, I know I can be a bit self-righteous at times. It's hard to balance idealism and realism. – g.a.harry – 2011-04-07T01:32:58.547

idealism is a source of many problems... – georgi – 2011-04-07T01:33:52.073

@georgi.m I could not agree more with you. – Colin Hart – 2011-04-07T16:32:29.740

@georgi.m I concurr too. What I believe everyone appreciates, is problem solving and not just highlighting a problem. More often than not, I reckon people on top do know that there is a problem, but they will disregard it until it disintegrates, or someone offers them a solution. – None – 2011-04-08T07:48:00.883

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here's my opinion:

don't worry about it.

Do what you do and you'll end up where you need to be. Your co worker's work will make him expendable, and he'll end up where he needs to be as well.

your friends will likewise end up in the places that they earn for themselves.

You can't control anything in this world except for your own actions. If those actions can be influential to the situation then that's what they can be, but generally I'd focus on getting as good as I can for myself first. Opportunities for change will inevitably present themselves without you having to push it.

Rene

Posted 2011-04-06T22:58:24.757

Reputation: 10 706

@Rene, @georgi.m, & @utopia, Thanks much. Perspective is the ultimate in calming technology. – g.a.harry – 2011-04-07T04:43:14.300

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Offer a better solution. When it comes to diplomacy I think that "How to Win Friends and Influence People" is a great learning utensil (it's a book).

Chris

Posted 2011-04-06T22:58:24.757

Reputation: 2 594

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I second "How to Win Friends and Influence People" as a great book!!

This quote came to mind as I was writing this.....

"The art of life is to show your hand. There is no diplomacy like candor. You may lose by it now and then, but it will be a loss well gained if you do. Nothing is so boring as having to keep up a deception." - E. V. Lucas

I say that if you like the guy and respect him as a person, you should let him know his work isn't up to par. I personally would never tell a boss that a coworker's performance is lacking unless they were making egregious errors or being unsafe. That's just me though. I have been in a similar situation to you where there were 5 people doing the same job and one of them was not so much incompetent as he was a slacker. I eventually ended up leaving, not because of him but to take a better job.

Your coworker might be plugging along thinking that everything is going great at work since as you said, "there is no oversight". Than one day he might get fired. If you think he is worth it, maybe you can find a way to put it to him gently?! On the other hand, if the guy is a cocky bastard, who you don't think has the ability or ambition to improve, than forget about offering him any help and maybe consider talking to the boss... :(

Maintaining tact while doling out criticism is difficult but can be rewarding. If I were him, I would be thankful for the criticism, especially if I were unaware of my shortcomings. If you constructively criticize his work but also offer him guidance, help, or tutoring, and he turns it down, than at least you will have a clean conscience.

bpert

Posted 2011-04-06T22:58:24.757

Reputation: 803

@bpert - I try to live my life by that book – Colin Hart – 2011-04-07T16:33:03.013

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@g.a. harry, you suffer from that most horrid of all afflictions in a sound editor... passion! :) OK, that was meant as a joke. But I can see from your post that you, much like many of us, have a real passion for your work, even when it's total !@#$ you're working on - you still want it to be the best it can. This is admirable, and indeed will take you far. BUT, take it from someone to whom this lesson falls under the whole "things I've learned after it was too late" department. You cannot MAKE another person be passionate. You can inspire them, you can lead by example, but you cannot MAKE them. Accepting that not everyone is as passionate about their work as you are, is a hard lesson, but one well learned. As you go on, you're passion will take you to new heights, but there will always be those at any level who are not. Accepting that fact will make the journey much more fun, and much quicker to. I know that sounds pretty "new age", but it is true.

Sonsey

Posted 2011-04-06T22:58:24.757

Reputation: 4 315

@Sonsey, Thanks! That's one thing that occurred to me whilst reading all the other guys' posts. As weird as it sounds there are some people to whom sound editing, and sound stuff in general, is just a job. Totally sideways to me. But then again, Accounting or Law or Medicine would very much just be a job for me, so... – g.a.harry – 2011-04-07T16:31:00.670