If you were to look at me, Th’ Gaussling, as a chemist, you might suppose that the biggest obstacle I or other industrielle Ubermenschen faced in our exalted careers related to the transmutation of matter.  Easy conclusion.  To civilians who can barely mix Ovaltine in their 2 % milk, making a metric ton of sensitive, high value-added product to specification from dirt and motor oil would seem daunting.  And to be sure, it is.  But it’s all in a days work. (wink wink, nod nod)

However … (dramatic pause) … chemistry is easy when compared to other issues in the fabulous world of work.  The truly challenging part of work is having to deal with difficult people.  Overexposure to toxic personalities can cause chronic chafing, distress, or worse. 

It is amazing how outrageous some people can be.  A while back we interviewed a swaggering gasbag who proved to be 4 or 5 standard deviations from the mean in his cockiness.  The word that comes to mind is sphincter.  I hadn’t seen this chap in nearly 10 years. But in the first 5 sentences of our brief reunion he had already established his career and organizational superiority. It was only partly in jest.  Then to top it off, he declared after 3 minutes of awkward discussion and glances at the watch that he had no more time to talk. No doubt in his absence there would be utter chaos back at work. 

Afterwards I stood there in awe of the natural phenomenon I had just witnessed.  What do you do with such people? We’re not supposed to shoot them.  This fellow is one of those alpha males who consume all of the air when they walk into a room. If he isn’t able to dominate the situation, he just leaves.  When he walks in, the room lights up due to all of the sunlight shining out of his arse.

When asked about the hardest group of people to manage, this chemical engineer said without hesitation “Ph.D. Chemists”.  He said that he greatly preferred to work with hourly plant people and that Ph.D. chemists tend to pose problems that are more intractable than plant operators. Chemists on salary tend to argue and hourly folk just shrug and do what they are told.  Damned right, bucko!!

If you have ever met a company president, you may notice that they are peculiar sorts who seem to be cut from a certain kind of cloth.  Those who aspire to such elevated status have to rework themselves from mere management soldiers into an executive.  Executives are beings who become organic manifestations of the company.  When the CEO of NewCo visits, later you would say that “NewCo was here”.  And you’d be right.   

It is not enough to be merely competent to be a company executive.  Luck, organizational skill, and a bit of ruthlessness are the stars that have to line up to get to the top.  Ruthlessness by itself usually isn’t enough.

>>>End Rant Subroutine<<<