Monday, July 16, 2012

How to deal with Intimidation for the Aircraft Mechanic

Identify Intimidators

Intimidators like to intimidate young mechanics who are not so sure of themselves or their skills. They threaten, doubt your judgement, and leave you feeling great dissatisfaction about your job and profession. They demand that you put your license and occupation at risk, even break federal law -- and don't even have the respect to offer you a big monetary bribe for becoming a criminal. Instead they appeal to your friendship or threaten your job. They think you can be had "on-the-cheap". Intimidation is an effective management technique. Get used to it, it comes with the territory.

Intimidation is different than honest questioning or a debate concerning the proper course of action. Intimidation always has the aura of disrespect and power attached to it. A feeling that you are the "servant" and they are your master. Honest questions and debate contain mutual respect -- intimidation always lacks respect. Management intimidation creates an emotionally violent workplace.

At a business meeting I was being told what I was going to do, and not do. I held up my hand like a good school boy and asked a question: "Are you telling me or are we negotiating". The suite replied that he was telling me. With that I said "well I don't work for you" and got up and walked out of the meeting. Are you ready (financially, and physiologically) to walk out of the meeting? If not, you need to develop a plan that allows you to not only walk but to feel good about it.

Common and Famous Intimidation Statements
  • "Take off your engineering hat and put on your management hat" Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
  • "It won't make a difference."
  • "Just do it!" The demand when they're loosing.
  • "It'll be OK."
  • "I'm in a hurry."
  • "Looks OK to me."
  • "It flew in --It'll fly out." It didn't crash yet so it must be OK.
  • "We need the airplane by...", or "It's scheduled to fly..."or "How long will it take?"
It's important to understand that you have three bosses:
  1. Your manager / customer
  2. The safety of the flying public.
  3. Government Regulations ("FAA")
Sometimes you cannot satisfy all of them. Your going to have to come to terms with yourself on whom you are going to satisfy. I'll give you a hint on which decision to make. Jobs are temporary, your career (FAA) is less temporary and your conscious (safety of flying public) goes with you for the rest of your life. Using this standard the ranking is:
  1. The safety of the flying public
  2. The FAA
  3. Your manager /customer
One does not have to "prove" that something is not safe. Safety is the end result of a process. Just make sure you have properly applied the process (have your facts straight) and are not being stubborn.

Dealing with Professionals Lawyers, Doctors, and other know-it-all professional types, including "race car mechanics."
Some may believe that their knowledge as a professional is much more important than your knowledge as a mechanic. In their eyes, your's is an inferior profession and therefore your skills and judgment are inferior. I know better. Just do it! Professional egos wrapped in ignorance with a demand by intimidation cannot be reasoned with. Be very careful of these types.

Develop Your Hedge
A hedge is having an alternative course of action. A different profession, maybe a hobby or part-time work. Income from your hobby or work gives you options. One customer, when the air charter business dropped, want from a full-time pilot and part-time martial arts instructor to a full-time martial arts instructor and a part-time pilot.

A hedge can be contacts and reputation within your industry that allows you to switch jobs. Attend IA clinics and manufacturer seminars to get noticed and recognized. Multiple source of incomes allows you to prosper in times of economic uncertainty. Money in the bank (savings) is a hedge to tie you over until things improve.

Develop your Power
A reputation for being the "expert" counters intimidation; at least the soft intimidation. It helps a little bit.

Know when to turn down work
The best prevention is to size up your customer before you begin work. Most jobs that I was involved in that "want south" had warning signs that I ignored right from the start. Cultivate good customers and eliminate those who's standards aren't in agreement with yours. I've been told several times by customers "that I had to do the work". I still carry a $10.00 bill in my wallet. It has Lincoln's face on it as a reminder that Lincoln freed the slaves and I don't work for nothing.

Develop Group Power
You are being intimidated because you lack power or are perceived as lacking power. Many aircraft mechanics work in a power vacuum and invoke FAA requirements as their sole source of power, having found that appealing to "safety" seldom works; "is it required" is the customer response. The workmanship standards and ethics of the organization can help in providing the back-up power and support to resist intimidation. It pays to work for an organization who's ethos match yours.

Will mechanic intimidation be reduced?
Yes, by taking the steps above. The NTSB and FAA can help by recognizing that "failed to follow prescribed procedures" is the result of an action and not the reason for an action; it's the same as saying the accident was the result of an accident. Why weren't prescribed procedures followed? Was the pilot or mechanic subject to intimidation?

The NTSB and FAA have recognized the fatigue may be the root cause and have taken action. In my experience, I have suffered intimidation may more times than fatigue. Fatigue is something that I have some control over -- intimidation is often beyond my control.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:00 AM

    I could read these all day. Thanks for posting, John.