Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My friend from the east

I've known this fella professionally since 2003. We belong to the same professional organization, both serve on the board for it. It's a group that is small and consistent enough to let you make good friends, who you enjoy seeing once a year. Oh, it's the same conference where I met South Carolina.

So, when this guy expressed an interest in a position vacancy we posted for my department at work, I was thrilled. To get someone with his experience on my team would be....well, part of a dream team for me. We could really get something done! But I was worried we couldn't afford him. After asking my boss if it was all right, I shared the salary information with my pal. No problem. Woo hoo!

That was last November. My friend balked at applying because of the cost he could have, selling his house on the east coast and moving to Colorado. So, the search committee is looking at our pool of applicants. It sucked. We had one good one, and she'd already accepted another job before we could interview her. I called my friend again. He considered it and decided to apply.

Now, I had a small battle with the search committee. My friend didn't have the required Instructional Design-related degree, but he had 14 years experience in the distance learning field and a doctorate in History. He'd actually been a professor in the UK for awhile. And an archeologist. And the keeper of a castle. His resume reads like a high adventure novel.

So, I had to convince the committee to go ahead and interview him, based on experience and not on his degrees. He blew away the phone interview and was invited to campus. He paid to stay an extra day, to visit with a realtor and to see the area - with me as tour guide. That's okay by me! We've lifted a few together before, so it should be fun.

For the campus interview, I give candidates two courses in our course system, for them to evaluate and redesign, as they would if they were in the job. No sweat. Then the search committee Chair did something I didn't like. He sent my friend a link to the course he delivers online, in his own format and on his own site.

"How would you change my course?" he asks. And I grit my teeth. Why would an applicant want to tell the Chair of the hiring committee what's wrong with his course?

So, my friend comes to town. The Chair picks him up from the airport and brings him to campus for a couple of initial interviews. Interviewing here is grueling. It's a whole day, or sometimes a day and a half, of interviews with different administrators and faculty. Then, you do some sort of presentation. Ugh. At least they feed you.

The Chair brought him by my office to say hello. Now, I hadn't seen my friend face-to-face since November of 2007. He peeked into my office and couldn't have been more delighted to see me! He gave me a big hug, and I realized I'd never seen him in a suit before.

"Yeah, I clean up okay, don't I?" he said, in his thick New Jersey accent. He's a big guy and made the suit look impressive.

The Chair seemed surprised by our familiarity, but I can't figure out why. The Chair doesn't tend to like me much because I actually make him work sometimes.

Later that evening, I met two members of the committee (including the Chair) and my friend for dinner at my favorite Indian restaurant. I was curious to see what my friend thought of the place, since he'd spent so much time in the UK and just loved that food.

The proprietor is a boisterous little man, who always dotes on Ranger and I when we're there. He came to take our order and his eyes lit up when he saw me.

"Hello Blogget! My friend! So good to see you! Where is my friend Ranger?"

I explained why our little group was there that night, and he promised to take good care of us. The Chair turned to me when the man left. "Wow, you do like to come here, don't you?" Yep.

The Chair and I got the same dish. My friend got the tikka masala. The other committee member seemed to fawn all over him about being the keeper of a castle. My friend knows how to entertain a group. He regaled us with stories from his travels, doing the accents and voices of the characters he met along the way.

Our food was spectacular, as usual. The Chair had to ask me how to eat you pour the rice onto your plate? Do you keep it separate? What's this sauce? What are you drinking? (It was hot chai.)

We had an excellent time. We talked about the area and got an idea of what my friend might like to see on Saturday. I'd put him in touch with my realtor, so he as scheduled to talk to her, too.

The next day, he appeared bright-eyed and dapper in his suit again. He found each and every interview to be delightful. He completely won over our hard-ass feminazi VP. Usually, my boss takes candidates to lunch, but he was gone so I did that. We went to microbrewery #1 (of the 3 we have here), even though we wouldn't be drinking during work hours. He forgot his reading glasses, so I had to read the menu for him. We actually discussed the job and the work, saving the social bits for the next day.

The afternoon's interviews went well. I sat in on all of them, as they were mock "consultations" with faculty, much like they'd be in the job itself. Fifteen minutes with each one didn't allow for much in-depth discussion of instructional design, but we got the idea. In the end, each one liked him and was impressed with his knowledge.

Then, he started his presentation on redesigning those example courses I sent. But it got derailed. Why? The Chair decided to ask, "Tell me how you'd change my course." My friend couched his response in the idea of making a site user-friendly for students, and he suggested a different structure for the syllabus.

Damnit if we didn't spend twenty effing minutes on the Chair arguing with him. His current structure was obviously cumbersome, and my friend showed him how he could actually have it both ways. But oh was painfully obvious to all present that the Chair didn't want to hear anything could be changed in his course.

Stupid Chair has slammed my friend at every occasion since then.

Before we all left for the weekend, the VP asked the committee if he was aware of the salary range. Yes, I said. Definitely. We'd discussed it months before, and he expressed he had no problem with it.

The next day was a Saturday. I met my friend at his hotel, just before lunch time. We went to microbrewery #2, but this time we could get some beer. I did this on purpose. Like I said, we'd lifted a few together before. This man is a big, bagpipe-playing Celt, and this trip was the first time I'd seen him wear something that didn't have a Guinness logo on it.

After that, we headed out the back way to the neighboring town. It's about ten minutes away and is known for it's festivals throughout the year. Including one about a headless chicken from there, who lived for about a year and a half after losing his head, to be the delight of the freakshow circuit. There's a sculpture of him in this town. So, we went to see it, and I told the story. And he took pictures, to send to a mutual friend back east.

We got some water and a snack and drove to the Colorado National Monument. It was a perfect day to drive that area, and the spectacular scenery just blew him away. He was genuinely excited about it. We talked about the hiking and biking trails. We stopped for pictures a lot. He took one of me at one outlook point. Heck, even the bighorn sheep came out to be photographed by him! They lined up along the road, looking right at us, and held still as though posing. Amazing!

We headed back to town, in time for a leisurely dinner. There's a new Irish pub in town, so we made ourselves comfortable there, ordered a couple of beers and Irish stew. I've never spent one-on-one time with him, but we didnt run out of things to talk about. He loved the pub, and found out from the server that we have a bagpipe group in town who comes to play there. "So, I can play my pipes here?" he said, completely excited by that idea.

Soon, I needed to get home. I dropped him off at his hotel, promising to make it back at check-out time, to help him find some lunch and get to the airport in time. Which is exactly what we did - lunch at microbrewery #3 and off to catch his plane.

Everyone parted ways satisfied that this situation would work out. The Chair was a stumbling block in talking about offering my friend the job. He'd grudgingly say my friend was competent, then slam him the rest of the time. My boss phone interviewed him the next week, since he'd been away during the campus visit. In the end, it was sunshine all around.

Until they extended the job to him. They actually offered a higher salary that I'd originally told him it would be.

And what did he do?

Said his bottom line was $20,000 more.

$20,000?? WTF, dude?!

And ta-da! I look like an idiot.

"I thought you told him the salary range?" my boss asked. And the VP asked. She already sees me as a peon. I soooo didn't need this.

"Yes, I did! And I have the emails to prove it!" And so I did.

I ended up emailing my boss, the VP, and the committee, with an apology for my part of this fiasco. If I'd had ANY idea the salary would be a problem, I would never have encouraged the interviews. For anyone. I'm not into wasting time and resources.

And because he is my friend, it looked to them like we figured out a way to get my buddy here for a little mini-vacation on the college. Great.

My boss said something about that a couple of weeks later, as we're at a luncheon at a conference. So, I got my chance to say my bit in person. I was completely honest with him.

"I feel personally wronged here," I said. "I stuck my neck out to get him interviewed. I sunk personal time and money into showing him the area. I set him up with my realtor, and wasted her time, too. This really stings. He made me look pretty bad."

My boss looked thoughtful at that. "I can see how you'd be upset," he said. Well, at least he heard me. Maybe he didn't think I'd pulled a fast one anymore. I just really didn't need to be distrusted or to look unprofessional at work. Or look like a fool.

So, I still have to work with my friend through that organization. We're chairs of committees who need things from each other. But....I can't tell you how many different ways I'm disappointed.

Back to square one, in finding help for me at work.


Ronjazz said...

You were open. You were above board. You were professional. And you have absolutely no control in someone else's agenda...which is obviously what NJ had in mind.

You stay above it all, you always do.

Blogget Jones said...

Thanks, Ron...that's what I've decided to do. I'll keep things as they always have been with NJ and just keep in mind that I can't trust him 100%. Obviously, he doesn't feel the same about me, though -- he invited me to come for a visit, and to stay with him!