Tuesday, September 9, 2008

authority and weather

Most of the time when I'm out in the field watching a drill rig, I'm collecting soil samples and so am incredibly busy. But there are lag times, such as when we're fairly deep (it takes longer and longer to pull up a split spoon because you have to break more rods to get at it) and when backfilling a well after installation.

I've said before that there's always things to do to keep busy, such as catching up on paperwork. But I prefer to keep my eye on the drill rig. At first, it was because I had no idea if what I was watching was really ok, so I was trying to learn by watching. Later, it was simply to keep an eye on things. If the weather is lousy, it feels wrong for me not to be out there, suffering along with the drillers. Drillers occasionally tell me that I don't have to stand out there with them. This happens especially if it's very cold, which makes drilling super annoying and obviously affects me more than someone weighing 100 pounds more. But I shrug this off because part of the reason they want me to go away is that then they can be sloppy and finish quickly. I'd rather be cold than have a poorly constructed well.

One particularly miserable day, we were doing rock coring in a monsoon. The drillers hadn't put on their raingear in time and by the time they realized their mistake, they were soaked and so didn't bother. I did have raingear (I break out the ugly pants and jacket at the hint of rain for this reason) but the rain was going sideways so hard, the raingear was only sort of helping. I couldn't really take notes even if I wanted to, so I was really just watching and commiserating with them.

Another geologist on the job had driven by and seen this. That evening, he pulled me aside to tell me that by staying out with the drillers, I had lost my authority with them. By seeming to be one of them, they had lost any respect for me. This geologist had at least 10 years more experience than I did and I'm always trying to reinforce my authority, but in this case I didn't give his advice an iota of consideration. Why?

1. I have my reasons why I stay outside, as I mentioned.
2. This particular geologist was actively sabotaging other people and had no redeeming qualities that I could see.
3. I had seen how he worked earlier in the day. His drillers worked away on his supposed instructions in the pouring rain while he sat in the truck with the heat on, reading the newspaper. His drillers hated him. If that's not a recipe for insubordination, I don't know what is.

I am always trying to assert my authority. As a young looking female, I'm walking a fine line between empathy and not being taken seriously. Part of the "being taken seriously" is to demand the same high quality work regardless of weather. But I refuse to become an asshole to play stupid power games.

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