Stand Up for Job Satisfaction

9 Oct, 2013 By: Robert Green

If CAD management frustrations have pushed you to the breaking point, you can face the problem head-on — but understand the risks first.

In the previous edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I addressed the trend of CAD managers questioning their career choice and having second thoughts about dealing with increasing expectations and decreasing resources. For more perspectives on this decline in job satisfaction, I posed the question, "Are you frustrated with your CAD management career?" on my CAD Managers Unite! Facebook group. Here are some of the responses I received:

Yep! Over that last 3 years, with the rise of the mighty IT departments, a decline in customization requirements, frustration with the lack of understanding or forethought from upper management, and a steady but not booming economy, I've changed my career to focus on technical project management, training, and integrated design. I'm not even certain I can call myself a CADD manager anymore?! — J.B.

Frustrated with being charged with setting and supporting the standards but lacking the backing to enforce them. — T.S.

A few years back I was frustrated, disheartened, and disappointed with my CAD career. Having studied long and hard and then applied what was learnt to everyday work. Felt let down by the lack of support and understanding from senior management in the companies I worked for. Much better now since starting my own outsourcing company. We have correct software/hardware/training and CAD standards that enable us to do our jobs properly. — M.P.

I also got frustrated with decision makers not realizing how important CAD managers are. I started my own outsourcing company as well. I have real satisfaction now in providing great service to my clients, who appreciate it. — J.P.B.

I also have been frustrated by my CAD management career, to the point to where I have gone back to school for a career change. The continued lack of support from management and the end users is too much. Users and management are not staying with the times, and expect you to do wonders with very little time and support and resources. To further the problems, when they decide they want to upgrade and create standards, they usually do not have a clue what they are actually asking for, or even what the software is capable of doing. — C.A.

Having read through the comments, there's little to add as everyone seems to have a similar experience — charged with standardizing and streamlining drawing production but given little time to prepare or configure, and little or no buy-in from the end users. Frustrating!! — M.A.


The thing I find most interesting — and sad at the same time — is how little the complaints of CAD managers have changed over the years. It seems that no matter what we do, we never get the respect and authority that we really deserve.

What Are Your Options?

Reading between the lines in all these comments leads me to believe that if your job satisfaction has gotten to the point where you no longer enjoy the job, the issue must be confronted. There are several remedies available to you:

Change your assignment. As J.B. said, you can make your career more focused on the use of CAD instead of managing CAD. This option may require you to find a new workplace.

Go into business for yourself. Several people who commented have started their own businesses to alleviate the problem. I took this step 22 years ago, and I can tell you the satisfaction of running your own business is awesome — but the pressures are not for everyone.

Confront the issue head-on. By taking your concerns directly to management you can, hopefully, work your way through the issues to make things better. Although it may seem like the easiest approach, this option comes with a number of pitfalls that you must be wary of; read on for the details.

The Downside of Confronting the Issue

If lack of authority from senior management is the core problem, then what are the strategies we can use to confront it? That's an important question — and one that has no easy answer.

If you have reached the end of your patience with lacking the authority you need to do your job, there are a few ways you can force the issue — but be aware that doing so can cause more problems. The negative ramifications may include:

Being labeled a whiner. When you complain about how senior management treats you, there is always the risk of being thought of as a complainer.

Earning a reputation as a control freak. Many times when CAD managers protest that users are not following standards, the collective opinion is that the CAD manager simply wants to control CAD users. Rightly or wrongly, users and project managers alike can fall into this line of thinking if they hear CAD managers complain about standards lapses over and over.

Appearing out of touch with users. When CAD managers fixate on standards adherence, they can seem unsupportive of users who are under increasing pressure to produce — and that doesn't make users or management happy.

Looking like you're on your way out. Even when you voice their frustrations because you want the company to benefit from CAD management efficiencies, many in senior management may perceive you as being ready to quit.


Addressing the Risks

Now let's break the possible negative ramifications down and look at some ways to manage the risk of each. I'll put a positive spin on each topic of conversation so you can have a constructive talk with management as you bring up your frustrations.

Being labeled a whiner. The key here is to focus your complaint on how much the company is suffering, rather than how much you dislike the way you're being treated.

Do say: "When I'm not empowered to enforce standards we continue to experience errors, rework, and lost profits. We could be saving a ton of money if we could just get people working in unison!"

Don't say: "These people are idiots who can't follow instructions!"

Obviously I've dramatized this a bit, but notice how I made standards about savings rather than a power struggle?

Earning a reputation as a control freak. When users and project managers hear CAD managers complain they think, "What are they complaining about — they aren't the ones getting yelled at by the client!" The key here is to relate to users in a way that shows you understand the pressures they are under, and that you're trying to speed up production for them.

Do say: "Lack of standardization hurts our ability to produce consistently high-quality work and costs us time whenever we have to fix a nonstandard CAD file. Let me show you how to get your work done faster and make fewer errors."

Don't say: "You are driving me nuts. Can't you just follow the standard?"

I've found that yelling at people simply doesn't work. You have to appeal to their desire to get things done faster and with less effort. To the extent that standards help you deliver that message, you can get users to self-standardize because they see the benefit in doing so.

Appearing out of touch with users. When CAD users have project managers and supervisors telling them, "I don't care how you do it, just get it done," they are bound to take liberties with standards. Copying old files, not bringing documentation up to standards, etc., are often symptoms of users working under duress.

Do say: "I understand the desire to 'just get it done,' but shouldn't we 'just get it done right' rather than making mistakes?"

Don't say: "These $&(#* project managers are making my life miserable!"

This case is the most frustrating for me, and one I struggle with. I use a logical appeal that doing things right is always better — and more efficient — than doing them wrong. If this approach fails, then I simply point out the costs of fixing the avoidable mistakes. It may take a few iterations, but eventually right wins over wrong.

Looking like you're on your way out. If your management perceives your frustration as a coded message that you're ready to quit, you can counter with the following line of conversation.

Do say: "I'm not trying to quit, I'm trying to make things work better. I think everyone on the management team should encourage all team members to do things better. I just need some authority to get things done."

Don't say: "If you don't make these changes, I will quit!"

The goal here is to repeat a message of improvement and the need to get some sort of authority to get things done. So long as the message is delivered rationally and with a business focus, it will be received well. Yelling, making threats, and placing the blame on others will only undermine your case.

Summing Up

As I've seen more and more CAD managers suffer from career frustration, I've become convinced that direct communication with management and confronting the issues head-on is the best approach. This method of resolving problems carries some risk, however, and I counsel you to fully consider those risks before taking the leap.

However, if you've reached the point where your frustration is boiling over, you owe it to yourself to manage your career so you can be happier. By keeping a cool head and stressing the desire to do things right and save the company money, you can improve your situation. Whatever method you choose to take, I wish you the best for a challenging and fulfilling career with CAD. Until next time.


About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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