Stories from the Field: New Client Headache.

*original email August 9, 2010.

Yvonne has a headache. And it’s a headache no amount of Advil can cure.

Three weeks ago, Yvonne was told she’s be working with a new client. Not “new” as in new to the company, but Yvonne had never worked with them. Two and a half weeks ago, the headache started.

This client, The Shilling Oil Company (SOC for short), likes to micro-manage. Add a little paranoia to this micro-managing and you have the cause of Yvonne’s headache.

SOC called a “kick-off” meeting two and a half weeks ago. Yvonne was asked to be present. Okay.

Twenty minutes into the meeting, Yvonne was wondering why she was there. No one addressed her, no one asked her any questions; her supervisor was all-powerful and all-knowing. Scarier still was that they hadn’t the foggiest idea what the archaeologists would be doing. Sure, SOC was hiring them, asking them to meetings, but didn’t know why.

But the cherry on top was when Yvonne was told that before she could contact the government regulators – those people she kept on speed dial — she would have to contact SOC. Suddenly, the meeting was a blur. Yvonne didn’t see anything, didn’t hear anything. Her world was red.

“Yvonne, are you listening to me?” her supervisor, Morris asked when they were down in the marble lobby after the meeting.

“Morris, we just discovered that SOC hasn’t a clue what archaeologists do. How the hell is this going to work?”

“Hey,” Morris adjusted his bifocals and lowered his voice, “they did want to call the government and talk to the regulators themselves. It’s not that bad.”

Imagine this (you can do the whole Wayne’s World flashback thing if you like):

SOC employee standing over Yvonne in the bush while she holds a pile of maps, safety forms, and notes topped with a small clutch of plastic baggies full of artifacts. The SOC employee is on the phone. “Hello, Mr. Government Regulator. My name is Mac and I work for SOC. Yvonne Kor…kj…ch….., um, the archaeologist we hired is with me and I need to know if you can add some more area to her permit.”

SOC employee turns to Yvonne. “He wants to know why.”

Yvonne rubs her eyes with a dirty, leather-gloved hand and sighs. “Because I’ve found a concentration of biface-reduction flakes and cores at the extent of my permitted area. The site currently appears inside the development footprint, and will be impacted. However, if the client wishes to move the development to avoid the site, I need to know how big the site is and to where it extends. I need to dig outside the proposed development footprint.” Mac, the SOC employee, stares at Yvonne. Yvonne stares back, “Did you get all that?”

Yeah.

But, this middle-man scenario was only the start of what has now become a fully-rooted headache.

This week, Yvonne made a mistake.

In filling out the permit application, certain questions needed to be answered by SOC. Yvonne sent out emails to SOC. No replies were given by SOC. However, Yvonne is expected in the field by SOC, promptly on Monday. Time is running out.

So, Yvonne, instead asked the government regulators (you can see where this is going, right?). “Can you please confirm that the area I will be putting in my permit is the area that you requested a permit for?”

The regulators, in their infinite wisdom, contacted SOC to verify what Yvonne had been trying to confirm with SOC all week. Needless to say, SOC found out that Yvonne had contacted the regulators without SOC’s knowledge. Because of this small speck of knowledge, a brief, concise email erupted from the bowels of SOC, asking that SOC be notified of all contact with the regulators. This email was copied to everyone on the project; Yvonne hadn’t realized how big the project was until she saw the list of names. Morris was consequently fielding calls for the rest of the day regarding this faux pas.

Will Yvonne survive SOC’s fieldwork next week? Will Yvonne get fed up with the requisite “safety” stretching she must do BETWEEN each shovel test, to satisfy SOC’s safety protocols? Will Yvonne find non-synthetic replacements for all her field clothes, including a cotton running bra, to satisfy SOC’s safety protocols?

Stay tuned!

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