Monday, June 3, 2013

respecting the driller

I had a lively (heated?) discussion with a bunch of other geologists a while back about getting what you need from a drilling program. Do you go over expectations and oddball job-related details at the beginning (my preference)? Assume that you're all on the same page and then correct as you go? How many suggestions do you make before you run the risk of telling drillers how to do their own job? How picky are you about the driller's methods?

One of the geologists got upset by the tone of the discussion. She thought the rest of the (mostly older) geologists presumed an adversarial relationship and were treating these hypothetical drillers as if they were an obstacle to actually doing the work. Why couldn't we work together to get the job done?

I've done fieldwork in a bunch of different places, and have worked with probably 50 drillers from companies ranging from national operations to one-man shops, and it is a rare driller indeed who is not hierarchically-minded. That is, they're most comfortable with someone who takes the lead immediately but knows when to defer to the driller's expertise.

My natural inclination is to be agreeable, to not make waves and to work cooperatively - to explain my thought process and what I'm looking to achieve, rather than giving orders. This rarely goes well, especially if I'm working on a short-term job and we don't know each other. Usually, the driller just want to hear the marching orders and get the job done.

My response to the younger geologist was this: you and the driller are not friends. You're there to get what you need, and often what you need gets in the way of the driller's preferences. There are ways to be respectful/kind/helpful, such as going out on iced/hot drink runs or staying out with the drillers if it's miserable out. But you can't rely on the driller's good nature or your relationship to do what you need. You need to watch them. And if it's a question of safety or if they're doing something to compromise the data, it's your job to correct them.

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