Question of the Week: My non-designer boss thinks I suck!
This question of the week by reader Jane is delayed, in fact much delayed. Apologies as I have been caught up with work! She writes:
I’ve been working at a product design company for almost a year and a half. Meeting new friends, colleagues, clients, manufacturer and people from different walks of life has been so fun and it has certainly kept me going for so long. Notice I did not mention my boss at all, well he does not have a design background.
Recently he seems to be learning more about design, as a result he starts getting all philosophical on me. Saying things like with a great concept, the design will follow. But still he knows nothing about design and worst he is demoralizing, saying that my work is ugly or Ii do not have any design sense. With him constantly criticizing my work, I am slowly losing passion in what I love and feel like quiting this job.
This is a complete opposite of what my lecturers say about me in my current design school. The lecturers mostly love my work. I’m currently taking a one year degree course and I’m still in the midst of my studies.
I don’t know how to confront my boss regarding this issue and he is a typical egoist who always thinks he is right. He takes design lightly and is always negative about the work i do. Even if i do my work well he doesn’t give me credit for it. Sigh.
First off, I like to thank Jane for letting me share her story with all of us. I think it is very relevant as many industrial designers do not have an opportunity to work in studio environments. Many of us will find ourselves one time or another working in marketing and engineering departments or businesses.
There are two ways of looking at this situation. On one hand you could adopt the position that anybody can become a “manager” if you work in a place long enough. This implies that there is very little merit required in getting into a managerial position. Another way you can look at this is designers are often too quick to blame other people for not “getting” what they do.
Jane, I can’t really comment on your design capability or ability, but I will assume you have got what it takes. So if your manager is truly a jackass then there is not much you can do except plan your exit strategy. However do consider this; have you done everything in your role as a designer to communicate the benefits of your design or your design intent in a language your manager can understand?
Sorry for being cliché but it does “take two hands to clap”. The biggest problem for industrial designers working in non-design environments is bridging this “language gap”. Once you can do it, it gets a lot easier. How to do it is worthy of a book that I am planning to write, and my best advice is for you at this time is to subscribe to Design Sojourn!