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Ask Slashdot: How Do You To Tell Your Client That His "Expert" Is an Idiot? 384

Esther Schindler writes "It's a danger for any consultant, and for most inter-departmental internal project staff: To get the work done, you need to work with someone else who supplies expertise you lack. But when the 'expert' turns out to be the wrong person how do you tell the client (or boss) that you just can't work with that individual?"
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Ask Slashdot: How Do You To Tell Your Client That His "Expert" Is an Idiot?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:18PM (#46234009)

    Tell the truth?

    • by crafty.munchkin ( 1220528 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:23PM (#46234063)
      Be as diplomatic as possible, but completely factual and provide as much evidence as possible. You never know what relationship the 'expert' has to the client/boss.
      • You Don't (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TrollstonButterbeans ( 2914995 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:19PM (#46234505)
        Structure contracts, fees, tangible goals so if the "expert" slows you down, you get paid more.

        The idea of avoiding idiots is lunacy, you make due with the cards dealt. If they have an "idiot" as an "expert", this speaks a lot about them and they probably need your help quite a bit.

        If they didn't need your help, they wouldn't have hired you!
        • Re:You Don't (Score:5, Interesting)

          by hermitdev ( 2792385 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:42PM (#46234669)
          At my last job, we brought in consultants to implement a "workflow" solution for tracking trading agreements. The system was to leverage our internal systems for reference data that would be tracked in a third party document storage platform. The primary user of the system was our internal legal team. The consultants refused to design or implement the system with real-time connectivity because of an uptime requirement. They claimed a "5 9s requirement". They insisted on dumping, en mass, data from our primary store into their system. I knew straight off it was a joke, because they were pulling the data from a core trading system that was required to be available for all but 2 hours over the weekend (even then, we only had 15 minute outages maybe once every 6 months for deployments). And, having recently retired a process that synched data between two systems (migration from a legacy to new system), in real time, I had all sorts of horror stories and cautionary tales to share. It all fell on deaf ears. I took concerns to my management and said I would not implement their solution and outlined why. Their response was to pull me from the project and put in a yes-man that would do whatever he was told.
          • by hessian ( 467078 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @10:58PM (#46235125) Homepage Journal

            I took concerns to my management and said I would not implement their solution and outlined why. Their response was to pull me from the project and put in a yes-man that would do whatever he was told.

            Your other option was to play nice like the dummies are advocating, and have a failed project as a black stain on your resume.

            You did the right thing. So did they. Good people are incompatible with idiots.

          • Re:You Don't (Score:5, Insightful)

            by scottbomb ( 1290580 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @12:03AM (#46235467) Journal

            Maybe you should have presented YOUR solution. Telling the boss "no I won't do it" will get you nowhere. Telling him "Look at my better way of doing it" will get their attention. The best lesson I've learned in business is to never take a problem to my boss unless I bring with me a solution to solve it. If you can't solve the problem, find someone who can, or else the boss will. Business needs are not going to change.

            • Re:You Don't (Score:5, Insightful)

              by carlos92 ( 682924 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @12:21AM (#46235523)

              A lot of times there is NO solution:
              - problem is badly described,
              - idiot expert promises quick, simple solution and explaining why it won't work takes an excessive amount of time or knowledge that the client doesn't have,
              - idiot expert knows client from college,
              - idiot expert lives next door and you work offshore from South America,
              - client company is populated by alpha males who like quick decisions and never back down,
              - a combination of the above (I have first hand knowledge about this situation).

              Sometimes the best option is to watch the explosion from far away enough that you're not killed and near enough to be the first responder.

              • Re:You Don't (Score:4, Informative)

                by scottbomb ( 1290580 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @02:27AM (#46235927) Journal

                So you go back to step 1: the problem is badly described. The Systems Development Lifecycle dictates that you, as the new help solve the problem. Start at wherever there is trouble. In the scenario you describe, it looks like we need to go back to step one fix the root problem: it is badly described. We cannot build any system to high user satisfaction that is badly described. One can only start over and build from scratch. If that's not possible, we will have to break the problem down into manageable parts and dig deeper for root causes and solutions.

                • So you go back to step 1: the problem is badly described.

                  The guy who described it doesn't think it's badly described. See the 5th point above.

            • by pspahn ( 1175617 )

              Totes adorbs!

              FYI, some of the best and brightest to ever walk this Earth were sacked for expressing this very sentiment.

              If you find yourself in this situation, don't be a hero to anyone but yourself. If you have a better way, keep it to yourself, find investors and become an employer.

              The problem with "solutions" is that they undermine the abilities of others. If this is deemed necessary in your current position, then you're simply better off saying "thank you for your time" and walking away NDA free.

        • With some idiots no amount of money can pay for the amount of grief you will get.

      • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @10:29PM (#46234967) Homepage Journal

        > Be as diplomatic as possible, but completely
        > factual and provide as much evidence as possible.

        Yup. The best way to win an argument is to start out by being right. Being polite saves your ass in case it turns out you're not.

      • It's slightly bizarre but sometimes people cannot see that they're being inconsistent.

        I wish I'd written it down because it was a perfect example of this - I was approached to make a change to some functionality.

        I said - but if we do A then B happens.

        To which they said "but we can do C" (which did solve B)

        I said - but if we do C then D happens

        To which they said "but we can do E" (which did solve D)

        I said - but if we do E then F happens

        To which they said "but we can do G (which did solve F) except that G was

    • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:26PM (#46234087)

      Know the important facts before you start:

      Is the idiot related to anybody? Does he play golf with the CEO? Does he have dirt on somebody?

      You can bet the 'idiot' has something.

      • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:06PM (#46234407)

        Nice to test the political waters but there are lot of just clueless sociopathic idiots that get fat consulting contracts, then spew nonesense until your ears bleed.

        Some idiots are lucky. It's like the old adage that nothing is foolproof because fools are so ingenious.

        OTOH, Cousin Ernie may have gotten the gig for reasons that don't meet the test of credulity, either. Never leave to conspiracy that which can be explained by sloth.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Hah, its funny you say that, because I ran into a similar situation working for a somewhat niche but well-known and respected website with many established customers. What happened was that we were bought out by an obscure advertising shit-peddler, and immediately came the MBAs telling us about web 2.0 and how the things on our site were rendered too small. One of the sonofabitches actually said, " When people see small things on your screen, they think small. Think BIG! 16-point text and 500-pixel padding

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
        Often, he knows just a little bit more about the subject than the person hiring him and that's enough to convince them that he knows a lot more. From there, he's in a position of authority and so people believe whatever nonsense he spouts, because they don't know enough to contradict him. I've seen this in quite a few small businesses whose core competence is not computer related - they hire someone to 'do their IT' at a rate that is close to what they pay secretaries, they get the only kind of person wil
    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:32PM (#46234143)

      You're facing a problem here:

      Your boss hired this person, most likely for a lot of money. He has to justify that expense. Admitting now that he fell for a snakeoil peddler is not something that will further his career.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @10:08PM (#46234855)

        You're facing a problem here:

        Your boss hired this person, most likely for a lot of money. He has to justify that expense. Admitting now that he fell for a snakeoil peddler is not something that will further his career.

        Right, and for that reason asking your boss to choose between yourself and golden boy (aka, 'the expert') is a loosing proposition. If you feel you absolutely can't work with the new guy under any circumstances find a new job and then quit your current one. Be polite about it and don't tell them it's because of the expert if you can at all avoid it, just give them some blurb about 'personal reasons' or that you feel 'your career is stalling but that you have grown as a professional at this company... blah blah blah....' management loves that sort of verbal diarrhoea. Leave your boss to fall on his face with the new guy or succeed (it is after all possible that you are wrong). One thing is for sure, nobody will derive any advantage from an acrimonious dissolution of your employment relationship, least of all you. Another poster here suggested being blunt about your gripe. I have to disagree since I have always thought that making an angry speech where you go into details about how you feel other employees or management are a bunch of morons when you quit your job is a bloody stupid idea since I am generally not in favour of burning bridges. Of course other people's experiences with bridge burning may be more positive than mine.

    • You can't tell the truth, that's the problem. Sometimes, people get installed in roles and are called experts because they're liked by upper management or even VPs - you risk triggering an irrational response by the people who put the expert there. It's totally messed up and beyond me. If there's any silver lining, it's that evetually faux-experts are routed out, but the damage they cause can go on for years (contributing to shoddy output and high turnover).
  • Its Easy (Score:4, Funny)

    by Lord Apathy ( 584315 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:18PM (#46234015)

    If its your last day on the job. Just say, "You're an idiot and so is that moron you hired."

    Just remember though, burning bridges isn't always a good thing.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      If its your last day on the job. Just say, "You're an idiot and so is that moron you hired."

      Just remember though, burning bridges isn't always a good thing.

      And the last day should be the first day you find out that the client takes the advice of an idiot (so many consultant jokes... must resist).

      Seriously, if a client wont listen then dump the client. They'll cost more money than they bring in over the long run, they'll definitely cost way too much in headaches.

      • If you bill for time and materials, the headaches turn in to more cash.

        • Re:Its Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:50PM (#46234289)

          If you bill for time and materials, the headaches turn in to more cash.

          Not really, you spend all your time working on a project that's doomed to failure because the client wont listen. When it does fall through you cop the blame and the idiot client tells everyone at the golf club how useless you are. This is what I mean by "in the long term", what you're proposing is short term gain with no consideration of long term effects.

          If you don't understand how important reputation is as a consultant, you've never been a consultant.

      • Terrible advice. There is always money in confusion as long as you write the contract properly, which should always be the case.
        • Re:Its Easy (Score:5, Informative)

          by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:47PM (#46234263)

          Terrible advice. There is always money in confusion as long as you write the contract properly, which should always be the case.

          Because contract have never been torn up in court.

          I used to know a consultant like this. Would write incredibly one sided contracts, still 100% legal but very one sided, which only idiots would sign. It worked for a while but when one project fell through this idiot client hired a non-idiot lawyer and he lost more than he earned in his career. House, investments, car, even furniture. The guy went from driving a Porsche 911 (not cheap in Oz) to a old Huyandai Getz in a matter of days and hand to declare bankruptcy just to keep the Getz.

          Writing unfair contracts is an easy way to get sued. Even fair contracts can land you in a lot of shit.

          • Sounds like the non-idiot consultant was decidedly an idiot. Should have incorporated to shield his personal assets.
          • As long as it's a legal contract it can be as 'unfair' as you can get them to sign.

            'Fair' is not a legal term and issues related to fairness should be handled in contract negotiation.

            That said 'legal contract' is not a simple subject. Consult a competent shyster.

            • Fair may not be a legal term, but unconscionable is.
              • All related to 'legal contract'. Like I said: consult a competent shyster.

                • Re:Its Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:33PM (#46234597) Homepage

                  Actual judges will side against you if you are the one writting the contract. So if you think you can commit fraud by writing a sh*tty contract then you are due for a rude awakening.

                  • WTF? Where did I say fraud?

                    All I said is 'fair' is not a legal term. Make sure you have a 'legal contract', consult a shyster.

                    Judges will weigh any ambiguity against the person that wrote the contract. They won't throw out a legal contract because one party thinks it's 'unfair' in hindsight.

          • I'm not saying to write unfair contracts, just one that says "contractor will work with the client to implement X in exchange for Y$ per hour". Then, when they hire a consultant that gives them a 5000 page report detailing why they'll get 1000% better performance if they prefix all their classes with the client companies name, don't argue with them; just do it. If you were a carpenter and the homeowners changed their minds from White #001042051 to White #001042052, you wouldn't argue back that the differenc
    • Re:Its Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:27PM (#46234105)

      The only bridges worth burning are the ones you wouldn't cross anyhow. Never burn a bridge you have crossed, even if it was a mistake. You have time invested.

      Burn bridges before you cross them, not after.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I don't normally burn bridges after I've crossed them.
        But when I do, it's to stop Beta from following me.

      • he only bridges worth burning are the ones you wouldn't cross anyhow. Never burn a bridge you have crossed, even if it was a mistake. You have time invested.

        Excellent advice HornyWumpus. Some times all you have invested in it is time and time can be more valuable than any kind of monetary game you get out of it. Even if the person that is taking your place is a moron it its probably best just to keep your mouth shut and exit.

    • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @03:31AM (#46236125) Journal

      It is like using references, I have learned that if a company asks for them, they are idiots. Nobody EVER calls them and if they do they are basically saying "I have no clue from interviewing how good this guy is, so I got to ask someone else". Stellar performance right there!

      The solution is relatively simple, see job interviews as a two way process. They are interviewing you BUT you are ALSO interviewing them. And gosh darnit, you can reject THEM as an employer!?! Shocking ain't it.

      When I read a site like clients from hell, (not linking because it has an annoying nag script) I can't help but feel that a lot of the time all the problems could have been avoided if the complainer had just said at the interview "you are an idiot, I am not going to work for you".

      If you spend sometime in your field you should know the warning flags. If a client/employer for instance is looking for a lead developer, the existing code base is a pile of steaming shit such as you have only seen in every single job before where the existing lead had to finally admit he needed an extra hand (translation: needed to be taken outside and shot for the good of humanity). If they are looking for a replacement team for the software project, the existing code doesn't (exist that is, what is there is maybe some scripts that on some days, does something but nobody knows what). If they are considering a rewrite, the servers are on fire and the the sys admin has slaughtered the entire office and is sniping from the rooftop.

      You get to regonize the signs after a while. Does the boss spent the entire interview bitching about what gone wrong before? Translation: He is to busy still raging and hasn't yet learned from the mistake which was HIS, for hiring the wrong people.

      There is no handover period because the previous guy already left? Translation: Make a sentence with rats, ships, sinking. Question: Do you want to come on board? Consideration: At least the ship is rat free.

      If the ship is on fire and they are haggling over budget with the fire-fighters, translation: they spend all their money on flammable lifeboats and have nothing left for you. Another form of this is if they talk about how much money already has been sunk into the project and/or whining about recovering investment. Fact of life: money sunk into a project that has failed is lost, deal with it. A projects worth is NOT measured by how much money has been lost on it.

      And hey, you can ignore all of this and think YOU are going to be the perfect employee who can deal with idiots... and I will point to you and say "this guy is going to be on a rooftop someday, sniping at the police while chewing on someone's leg". Either that... or... you are one of them... got an MBA?

  • by alphatel ( 1450715 ) * on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:20PM (#46234023)
    Many years back a CEO of a subdivision of a company wanted to know why his email service was disrupted. I told them that it was because their idiot webmaster took control of their DNS and did not copy the MX record. The webmaster defended himself claiming that a document was not in place explaining how to handle the client's DNS. This went back and forth a bit between the three of us, and ended with me calling the two of them incompetent and irresponsible. I never spoke to the webmaster or the client CEO for better or worse.

    A few years later, the CEO of the parent company called wanting to know why his network was suffering intermittent downtime and demanded it be fixed immediately. I explained that his outage was caused by antiquated equipment that could not do debugging, and there was a proposal already on his desk for replacement gear. He was in a huff, but he knew I didn't mince words or advice, and that quote was signed in minutes.

    While you can't always directly point to a net gain after a net loss, your experience and attitude will help define how other perceive you. You can go in quite politely, or you can be very blunt. I have been both depending on the situation.

    Either way, if you can't call out losers, you'll wind up being one.
    • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:27PM (#46234097)

      Either way, if you can't call out losers, you'll wind up being one.

      I like it. That line should be elevated to "ancient chinese proverb" status.

    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:59PM (#46234365) Journal
      Once when I was working as a contractor for an overseas company, the manager brought me in to listen to all the complaints of another developer, saying how bad my code is.

      The other developer started out by saying, "Why do you use function pointers in C? Why not call the functions directly?"
      At that point I looked confused and said, "That's how you do polymorphism in C, right?"
      Then the manager laughed, and the other developer got frustrated and said, "but it's weird!!"
      That pretty much ended the situation, although the other developer didn't talk to me for a while.

      Point of the story is, when someone questions your competence, relax and use big words like polymorphism. I guess.
      • I almost always ask people what polymorphism is in technical interviews for OO developers and you'd be shocked how few get it right.

      • by Ihlosi ( 895663 )
        "That's how you do polymorphism in C, right?"

        You could also have a switch/case approach and call the functions directly.

        The thing is, there are some architectures (*cough*8051*cough*) out there where you could, technically, use function pointers, but due to architectural quirks, unless you really, really know what you're doint, you're likely to end up with a horrible buggy mess.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:22PM (#46234051)

    Most experts are idiots at what they claim, but an expert at earning trust regardless of their knowledge. So be careful of these people, as they are quite aware of their lack of expertise and their fragility. Gain trust of the client first before taking on people your client trusts.

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:22PM (#46234053) Homepage Journal

    Oddly enough, I never had to work with anyone who was completely incompetent. Some didn't know squat about the technical side of things, but their business knowledge was impeccable, and that was what they brought to the table.

    Maybe the problem isn't whether they're an expert in the field, but whether you know how to communicate with someone outside your field.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, I have worked with a complete idiot. However, he was very good at buttering up the boss. His mode of operation was to get you to do the work with him, and then see the results. If it was successful, he would be in the boss's office claiming the success. However, if it had issue(s), you got blamed for any issues occurring, and somehow, the boss would be blind to what was going on.

      Working with this person started me on learning about office politics, and peoples personalities. In terms of how to ha

      • I worked with the same dude and spent a little time making sure he publicly embarrassed himself claiming something he didn't even understand.

        Turns out the boss just didn't care. The fish rots from the head down.

        If forget the name of the corollary to the peter principle. It basically says that once someone reaches their level of incompetence they know it and surround themselves with even more incompetent people. Whenever you enter a new job, the first thing to do is identify the head idiot and where the

    • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:02PM (#46234385) Journal
      One of the downsides of above-average intelligence is a propensity to discount contributions and/or suggestions from those cerebrally challenged [wiktionary.org].

      The truth is, you can learn something from everyone, and an expert in a specific field with an IQ approaching his body temperature knows some stuff that you do not.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:16PM (#46234481) Homepage

        Absolutely. For example how to not do something, how to injure yourself horribly, or like I saw yesterday.....

        How to destroy a $60,000 Conference room table by not listening to those of us that know better.

        I said several times, you have it marked off wrong you had better stop and re measure. I was told to shut up and they cut the hole, 6 inches off center.

        • by cusco ( 717999 )

          I'd say a $60,000 conference table was a serious sign of incompetence on the part of the executive and facilities staff . . .

          • I can find you 12 foot round table made from a solid slice of black oak, four inches thick. $10K. Hurry, each table is slightly smaller then the previous.

            Made by a good friends brother, who was paid by PG&E to cut down and haul off the tree.

            WTF does a 60K table do? Play with your balls?

            • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

              "WTF does a 60K table do? Play with your balls?"

              Makes filthy disgusting rick people feel better about themselves. When you make $300 million a year $60K for a conference table is toilet paper money.
              I dont think you understand exactly how ungodly rich the 1% really are, they can buy and sell your family with the money they find in their couch cushions.

  • Slashvertisement (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:24PM (#46234069) Homepage

    I don't know, but I'm sure if I read the free eBook that the article is advertising I'd become a management expert literally overnight. !!! DOWNLOAD NOW !!!

  • If I don't want to work on a project with an "expert", as part of my job, but I don't want to work on the project anymore because of something someone else is doing...I'd complain to my supervisor, then if I still wasn't happy, I would quit my job. If I wanted to keep my job (even if it was just to see them fail) I would manage to hobble through by doing the absolute minimum. It's not exactly controversial. How is this interesting enough to be a topic?

  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:27PM (#46234103)
    it's been done before
  • by MerlynEmrys67 ( 583469 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:34PM (#46234151)
    How is this an Ask Slashdot when the article answers the question. Are we supposed to argue that the author(expert) of the article is an incompetent?
  • Have you already billed and been paid? Do you know if the 'expert' has already voiced an opinion to said client about your voracity? Is the client a relative?
  • This happened in two different contracting jobs. In one, first indication of possible trouble was when the contractor in question put all of his certificates of course completion (framed) up in his office. Second indication was when he tried to convince our client that he should manage the rest of the contractors. Eventually, we stayed, he didn't. The bad news was that I had to untwist and make coherent all of his "solutions".

    In another job, similar experience, one of our team of four complained loudly

  • by berchca ( 414155 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:44PM (#46234243) Homepage

    Just read, Dealing with Dummies for Dummies...

  • by The Second Horseman ( 121958 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:48PM (#46234277)

    Figure out what you'd need to get the job done. That might be an additional person, not a replacement person in order to make up for the deficiency. There may even be someone else in the company that could "assist".

    Go to your client and tell him that this is what you'd need to get the job done because you'd assumed a certain skill set.. If the client won't go for it, regretfully let him know that you're not the right person for the job under these circumstances and that his "expert" might be able to suggest someone else. Or maybe you can and then you've solved the problem, even if you're not the solution yourself.

    In any case, walk in with a solid proposal for fixing the problem that doesn't paint the "expert" as a complete idiot - just say that the skill sets don't line up right - and be prepared to lose the client. But if it's really that bad, you might be better off losing it now than getting dragged into a giant fight over breach of contract or cost overruns.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:50PM (#46234293)

    As a consultant it is *my job* to work with the client and their people. Incompetent or not, it is still my job to work with them.

    If you are complaining about this as a consultant, you have no business being a consultant.

    • by hax4bux ( 209237 )

      Mod up. I have been contracting since 1992 and a large part of my job is play nice with all sorts of unattractive people. I often wonder how many of them managed to get hired in the first place, but that really does not matter. They were in place when I got here and most likely they will be here when I leave. Smile and cash the checks, or go get a job where you can happily pick fights w/your coworkers.

  • Let us know... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Prien715 ( 251944 ) <agnosticpopeNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:54PM (#46234323) Journal

    I'm using the slas^H^H^H^H a website's beta and its designers have the same issue.

    Near as I can tell, they don't plan on listening....

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      I hope not, because you and your ilk are wrong.

    • by hduff ( 570443 )

      I'm using the slas^H^H^H^H a website's beta and its designers have the same issue.

      Near as I can tell, they don't plan on listening....

      But they pretended to listen. And the OP should do the same and pretend to respect the consultant, document the shortcomings and make it clear that slas^H^H^H^H the people in charge of the project are wrong.

  • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:55PM (#46234331)

    Come on, be honest. But before you open your mouth, THINK carefully.

    I have a policy of ALWAYS assuming that any problem somebody brings me is MINE to fix. I most likely caused it and it's my responsibility to fix it. Problems are not always my fault in the end, but until I've proven to myself and more importantly to the person who brought the problem to my attention that it's NOT my fault I'm taking personal responsibility to see it gets fixed.

    With that in mind, before you go off and start calling somebody you don't know well an idiot to his face you better be darn sure. And before you go tell anybody else about your suspicions they are an idiot you better be doubly darn sure you can back up the claim with absolute, you'd bet the farm on it, proof. Otherwise, you are going to be shot full of holes because YOU are the idiot.

    Given that you obviously are NOT the subject matter expert (or why would you need one given to you) I would say that what we most likely have is a personality clash between you and the expert. There is a non zero chance this is not true, but unless you are ready to make yourself into the subject matter expert and PROVE it, you really have two choices...

    First choice: You can suck it up, stop complaining and start working with the expert regardless of how you feel about them. You don't have to like them, but you need to respect them and stay professional about any disagreements. This will involve trying to figure out how you can best approach this person and doing things you would consider wasting time by taking their advice. Get their advice in hard copy, just to CYA in the future, but do your best to play in the sandbox with them.

    Second choice: You can go in, guns blazing and shoot the idiot full of holes, preferably in public in front of management. If you are wrong, you will go down in a blaze of glory, fully burning the bridge behind your hasty departure. If you are right, and manage to prove it without stepping on a land mine in the process, nobody will ever want to work with you and the disgraced "expert" is still likely to be there, possibly on your team, which puts you back to your first choice where you will eventually have to work with them. When they start like this, such relationships don't go well and your life will be a mess.

    So, I suggest you suck it up and do what it takes to work with the idiot and if you really just cannot make it work, look for another job.

  • and examples.

    Reminds of the time I was talking to an 'Expert Computer Engineer'. I had to explain binary to him.

  • ... and if the client still doesn't see sense, drop the client, let him/her use their expert and pick up the pieces when it all goes to shit.
  • by sunking2 ( 521698 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:12PM (#46234453)
    If you find yourself always having terrible roommates, guess what? You're the terrible roommate.
  • You need to stop worrying about whether your expert is an "idiot" or not. The only question is: are they qualified to provide the input, or do the thing they needed to be brought in for? If yes, then if necessary remind them and the client what the scope limits are on what the expert is needed for, show the concerns proof that the expert was going a bit out of scope, and point out their "signs of incompetence" as specific problems/action points for the expert to address, or point out on how you know

  • Job interview (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @10:31PM (#46234981)
    Years ago I interviewed for this hot up and coming company. Their stock was on fire and after a series of interview with all the top guys they had me in a meeting where they presented a pretty damn good offer. But in that same meeting they finally dished on their "secret weapon" Lotus notes. I just about threw up. They had this PhD CS guy who was their "Expert" I basically said, using Lotus on a project of this nature is like building a car out of sand. In the first few hours you might make something that looks like it is going to be a car but you will never drive it one inch. Their "Expert" made a face like I farted and told me that I knew not of what I spoke; even though I just just finished a project that required digging the guts(business logic and data) out of a lotus notes database and making it actually work in a sane development environment. So they basically said that it didn't look like it was going to work out and I said something like, even without me rethink your choice of Lotus.

    About 2 years later they flamed out in a huge stock and legal disaster. The lawsuits and criminal investigations are still moving along after many many years. A critical part of their disaster was their complete inability to deliver what they promised to their biggest customers/investors. Not that they were unable to deliver exactly what was promised but basically deliver anything.

    Another PhD CS "Expert" I later dealt with was a fan of some stupid browser and insisted that any development be done for that browser and not others.

    But my favorite PhD "Expert" shoot down was one that worked for a company that I worked for, she was an expert in DSP. But after years of working in a dark room somewhere basically everything she knew could be purchased in a chip. In the end she was doing paperwork audits.

    I am not saying that PhD CS people are all useless. I know many who are damn good and doing cool useful things. Just that many people in the business world are blinded by a PhD, they assume that the person has some sort of magical ability to make things happen. A PhD basically indicates that they know a whole lot about some certain thing at a certain time. If your business is that thing and their knowledge is recent then great. The reality is that things move so damn quick in the CS world that anyone who is good is always keeping up to date and doubtfully has any paper to show that.
    • Re:Job interview (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @02:50AM (#46236003)

      A PhD basically indicates that they know a whole lot about some certain thing at a certain time. If your business is that thing and their knowledge is recent then great. The reality is that things move so damn quick in the CS world that anyone who is good is always keeping up to date and doubtfully has any paper to show that.

      That's not the key of a PhD. Of course while getting the grade you learned a lot about a very specific field, the most important part you prove (and have learned) by gaining a PhD is that you can work independently, and that you can set up and execute a research project successfully. The latter is what you should hire a PhD for. The first helps you decide which individual to choose (i.e. the one whose background matches what you intend them to do).

  • Oh Hell (Score:4, Interesting)

    by digitalhermit ( 113459 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @10:55PM (#46235111) Homepage

    This happened to me. The boss man had "taken the initiative" and brought in a new consultant. The guy was an idiot. He opened tickets with the software vendor asking things like how to set the date on a Linux system. He told one of my co-workers that if the root password was lost, he'd need to boot with a rescue disk and do some trickery with /etc/shadow. Tasked with building a cluster, he failed miserably blaming it on poor documentation and other nonsense. I tried many times to tell the boss man that his consultant was an idiot but was told I was being "combative" despite the guy's obvious failings.

    It all worked out though. As this guy's contract was being renewed, we asked him to show what he'd done. All the lies he'd told the boss man evaporated when it was revealed that his cluster was just a cluster fuck, his vaunted "remote management" system was really just a "yum install webmin" (left unconfigured), and he'd informed another co-worker not to reveal where he was sitting.

    Even years after, the boss man still insisted that the contractor "had fooled everyone."

    So no, if the boss is an idiot, you may as well just distance yourself from the idiot. Let him dig his own grave.

    • He told one of my co-workers that if the root password was lost, he'd need to boot with a rescue disk and do some trickery with /etc/shadow

      While it is a strange thing to say, what is incorrect about it? If:
      1. you've lost the root password
      2. sudo is not configured (disappointingly common)
      3. single user mode is configured to require entering the root password

      The fastest way to regain root access is to blank it in /etc/shadow. A boot disk is one way to accomplish this. Others would be mounting the root partition on another server (in virtual environments) or using the backup software to restore a shadow file with a blank or known root password

  • by Marful ( 861873 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @11:25PM (#46235261)
    My best advice for anyone in this situation is to document everything .

    I spent a few years working customer service handling orders for manufacturing company. One particularly customers was a consistent problem. This company believed one of their personnel shat gold bricks, but I realized right off that they were incompetent and used lies & intimidation to cover this up.

    This person would routinely fax their orders at the end of the day (right before they would leave) without confirming that they actually sent me the files necessary to start their order, and that their orders were almost always "rush" orders with very very short turn around times. Another thing this person would do, would be to call me up, tell me they had an order and ask me what the latest day they would need to receive the order by a specific date and time. I would tell them, then they would wait well past this final submittable date, submit their order and then claim that I had promised to turn around the product by that time. Over the years, the turn around time necessary to complete their orders shrunk to impossible expectations and their customer began getting upset as my customer started blaming me personally for the delays.

    The irritating part, is that whenever I some how failed to live up to this person's errors (i.e., I was unable to cover for them), they would call up my boss and complain about me. My boss only believed half their bullshit, but it was still enough to impact my career.

    Unfortunately for them, one of their customers wasn't an idiot, and had remembered me when he came along to our plant for a facility inspection prior to us beginning production of their product. This customer set up a meeting between our companies and asked me point blank when I received the purchase order, when I received the files and when I delivered the product. Thankfully, I had records of the time and date of every purchase order that company had ever sent, along with records of the time and date of receipt of every file to begin production, as well as the delivery date of the product to their warehouse.

    It turned out that the end customer was sending the purchase orders to our problem person up to three weeks before the problem person would send me the PO and files. The problem person would sit on the file for weeks before submitting it to their production and farming out our part to us. The problem person ended up losing their company around $2million in sales yearly when they lost their client.

    We ended up being directly contracted by the end customer to continue manufacturing our part of their product.
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @11:50PM (#46235411) Journal

    You get them both in a meeting, and when the "expert" presents an idea, you point your index finger at your temple and rotate it in a circle around your ear.

    Rolling your eyes and bursting out laughing is also good.

    When the expert starts his powerpoint presentation, sigh loudly, raise one butt cheek and give an audible fart. Look around the room and say "Is he serious?" in a stage whisper.

    There, I think that's a good start.

  • by SuperTechnoNerd ( 964528 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @12:00AM (#46235457)
    This programmer guy I know who works for Verizon, calls himself "The best of the best of the best" . He has no problem telling people he works with, people in other departments, and even clients, that they are morons. When he has a mouthful he never holds back. If he can(and has), he will go out of his way to get people fired for being stupid. He will berate people to tears. He says he just can work with morons, and he lets every one know that. He thinks he's the Dr. House of programmers. I ask him if he can get in trouble or fired, he says how he is the best programer ever known, and verizon would fold if he was fired.

    What is it with programmers? Are they all arrogant?
  • by Digicaf ( 48857 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @12:54AM (#46235645)

    I was a consultant for a while and trained more than a few FNGs. I would always advise them that the choice was theirs, but that the chances of a positive result were slim to none if they took their concerns to the customer. Sure enough, I saw several otherwise excellent consultants get shown the door because of this exact scenario.

    Part of your responsibility as a consultant is to "work magic". If you run into roadblocks, you find ways around them and that includes the occasional professional vegetable. What typically isn't in your domain is giving advice on personnel, unless you were specifically hired to do exactly that. In the end, almost nobody wants to be told that one of their chosen workers is sub-par. It's negative, it's dangerous, and it's usually pointless.

    Just work around them, document everything, and communicate that sort of stuff with your own manager behind closed doors. You should also be sure to have customer "witnesses" in your emails and meetings. Team distribution lists and direct managers are excellent for that.

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"