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12/01/08
MISTAKES? I’VE MADE A FEW…THOUSAND – Pt.4
Filed under: GENERAL
Posted by: Jon @ 6:41 am

THE CASE OF THE MISSING MISANTHROPE

Project:   Better not get into specifics with this one

What Happened:  We were hired by a higher-up in an inner-city agency to work with several of their underlings in one of their departments and write a grant with them.  I was very proud of the job I had done on an innovative program design.  This was despite the lack of help and effort from the staff I was supposed to be working with. For example, the underlings (who were going to be in charge of the program if it was funded) dragged their heels in getting critical information, were reluctant to ask for signatures from partners, weren’t reading drafts of sections to ensure I was on track and had done nothing with the budget — all this with the clock ticking.

And then one day I found out why.  One of these underlings, the most stubborn, did not know I was working through lunch in the office area while she was making phone calls.  On the phone to a confidante — another underling in another department of the city — she said something to the effect of: “The grant is great and all that — but it also means a whole lotta extra work for me.  And I don’t want none of that.  I hope we don’t get it.”

So, that’s why working on this one was like pulling teeth.  This underling was doing everything possible so we would NOT win the grant. Sounds ludicrous I know. But it’s true.  But in her mind she was in a great position, a full-timer with a part-timer’s responsibilities.  Oh, she did enthusiastically help us in one area.  When it came to the line item in the budget about her annual salary, she made sure to put in a 16% raise for herself . . . in each of the three years of the grant (giving herself a nearly 50% raise in three years)!!!  Of course she asked us not to mention this to her boss.

MISTAKES

  1. I never told the city higher up what I had heard — and I could have without naming names.  I DID tell her about the salary increase, which she quickly nixed.  My judgment at the time was:  (1) that I shouldn’t jump in the middle of office politics, (2) the way I heard the information was by accident; eavesdropping and, (3) I didn’t want to make any trouble from the person I would have to be wrking wth as the deadline neared.  Had the underling told me directly it would have been a different matter — but I overheard her tell it to another party.
  2. I decided I would show that underling who could care less by writing the best grant possible, winning it, and forcing her to do the work that taxpayers were paying her to do.  

RESULTS
WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY With the above, one could argue that I had done what I was paid to do — win the grant.  Also, one might argue that yes I’m paid to be honest — but only if I’m asked a question.  I’m paid to mind my own business and do my work.  Period.
I’m not sure what was right in this situation.  This goes back to me seeing myself as part of a writing team — not just a grant writer working in isolation.  And one of the roles of a teammate is to address another teammate if they are doing something to hinder the performance of the team.

Whatever your opinion - mine is concrete.  I shouldn’t have withheld that information.  Damn.

More about this in my new book RIGHT BEFORE YOU WRITE: THE GROUNDBREAKING PROCESS USED TO WIN MORE THAN $385 MILLION IN COMPETITIVE GRANT AWARDS.  Available at www.SandyPointInk.com or Amazon.com.