Never work with…parents


I keep being told by people in the building trade (i.e. those who know what they’re talking about), that the renovation of the house in Devon is a really big project. To start with I was blithely shrugging it off with the words “it’ll be fine, it’s basically modernising a pair of old semis. One month in, and with the quotes, invoices and sign-offs piling up, I’m coming round to their way of thinking. I’m realising managing it is basically a full time job, but one that’s costing me money rather than earning me any, and one that comes with the added challenge of testing stakeholders, namely The Parents.

As The Parents are significantly tied up in this project both emotionally and financially it goes without saying I want to keep them in the loop and involve them in decisions, particularly those involving their side of the house. However what I’m discovering is while I’ve come across some demanding stakeholders in my working life – those who can tell me what they don’t want but can’t articulate what they do want, those who want something, but won’t meet with you to discuss what that something is, those who want it done their way even if their way is completely bonkers, and of course those who sign-off on the concept but at the 11th hours and 59th minute they change their minds – none come close to managing The Parents. And I’ll be the first to admit I’m not handling them particularly well.

“I can’t visualise it” is a common response when I ask for input or sign-off, which then sees me trying to find pictures of something similar to demonstrate my case, or in the case of the stables, getting a family friend to mock-up a rough drawing on a Post-It Note to present alongside the plan. “No” is another response I hear quite regularly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the word ‘no’, but I find it usually works best if used in context, for example: “No that won’t work because we want to do….” or “no, but what about if we did X/Y/Z instead?” But ‘no’ on its own? It’s as helpful as a solar powered torch.

I’ll be the first to admit that I could handle these particular stakeholders a whole lot better, but when it comes to The Parents I just can’t help it. I automatically find my patience running thin, my voice rising several octaves and the teenager in taking over because to me it feels they just don’t get the need to be decisive and make decision swiftly in order to keep this project on track. It drives me mad.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in here to be learnt somewhere but (other than knowing my attitude truly sucks on occasion, and that I should have listened when I was told what a big project it was) I’ve yet to find it.

Pass me the gin, a large one.





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