I need some advice about the working environment

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE I need some advice about the working environment

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    I am a recently hired entry-level landscape designer/planner.  I wanted to get some advice from the land8lounge community.  Here is my dilemma, for the past few months I have been yelled at multiple times for not working fast enough, miscommunication, and being overall unproductive to the company.  I am honestly trying my hardest but things just are not clicking.  A lot of it comes from the combination of being unfamiliar with the type of projects/tasks and my boss.  He is very quick to judge and demands perfection.  My boss has made me stressed, and I feel like I am working in an environment in which I cannot succeed.  If anyone has any words of wisdom or thoughts I would more than appreciate it.

    Brett T. Long

    Hey Thomas. Your boss is probably under considerable pressure to perform as well, and may not deal with his expectations very well or has difficulty communicating/relating to junior personnel. Your were hired as an entry level designer and it should be expected that you will be performing at that level with learning time and mistakes being part of the deal. Should you continue to work with this company, your challenge will be to take your emotions out of any criticism and give yourself permission to learn and enjoy design even if others can’t. Criticism in any form can sap our design spirit for a bit but it is very important to becoming a great landscape architect. We have all made considerable mistakes in our careers. This is tough, but if you can do these things it will take you a long way when you are facing criticism:

    1. Take slow deep breaths.

    2. Focus on what your boss or critic desires regardless of how they are saying or whether you agree.

    3. Make sure you understand what they want and calmly tell them if you don’t understand.

    4. With eye contact and keeping calm (breathing) let them know that you understand and reassure them that you are on their team and going to do everything you can to accommodate.

    Whether it is a grumpy boss or public comments at a design review these techniques have worked for me. Keep at it.  Don’t let one personality, one job or a few mistakes keep you from a great career.


    David Barbarash

    But don’t forget that if the situation becomes abusive, be sure to keep an (off-site) record of situations with dates and descriptions in case you need to file a hostile working environment suit…

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Even if it is not a good situation, opportunities are few these days. Take what you an from the position in order to grow. Try to make lemonade out of lemons, if that is the situation.


    This may be a great place to develop thick skin and a strong work ethic – maybe not for the right reasons, but think how much easier working in less demanding situations will feel if this is your baseline for normal. Think of it as boot camp.


    My first office position found me working for a nit picking engineer who bled red pens all over my work day after day. Tiny little things like text being too close to a line or moving a block of text over a hair to balance out a sheet … Trying so hard to save the worlds supply of red ink became my goal while this guy drove me nuts. That was the best thing for me because it made me become so aware of things that I never noticed. Now I see this guy as someone who I truly appreciate.  My next job was a piece of cake and I was very respected for not making these little errors …. and I wound up cleaning up everyone elses drafting.


    What does not kill you will make you better.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I attended a two our presentation by a business consultant on employee/management relations this evening at a regional landscape association meeting. It was very interesting and covered what both employers and employees need from each other I wish you and your manager were there. It covered what employees need other than pay and benefits to be motivated to perform well. It fell mostly on making an effort to get to know your workers. After that it was about communicating  goals and acknowledging good work. A lot was placed on having employees understand not only what to do but how it fit into the overall job and the goals of the company as well. Communicating what the goals are and how well they are being met. … making the work be something more than a series of tasks.


    I thought of this thread while I was there.


    Great advice already.


    Thomas, I was in the same boat several years ago. I took a job as a landscape designer out of college at an architecture office in China for one of those wannabe starchitects (aka insecure douchebags). The boss was an ass and some of the architects had such huge egos it was hard to work with them. Some days were ok where I felt I did a good job, and some days I made a mistake and all hell broke loose. There was a lot of yelling at me and sometimes it was hard not to take it personally. It was a turbulent time being far away from home and working for a bunch of A-holes. I stuck around for 18 months when I finally had enough of the rollercoaster. I left in a storm halfway through my yearly contract without giving them the proper 2 weeks notice. There’s a saying not to burn bridges, well, after roughing it out for 18 months (I should have left sooner) I chopped then melted this one down to the ground.


    Design is highly subjective and this field does require perfection, otherwise, you produce crappy landscapes or crappy construction that falls apart and kills people. The part that bothers me is the emotion towards inexperienced people that comes with wanting that perfection. I’ve witnessed many interns and entry-levels break down and it’s not a good thing to see (I was one of those too). I honestly think the yelling towards entry-levels is unnecessary and discourages them to be better. The reason why entry-levels make mistakes is simply because they don’t know enough (assuming they care and are passionate about their work). If you can say that you are truly trying your best, then the blame should be on the boss who lacks proper communication and managing skills. My advice to you is secretly find a job somewhere else while you are still working there and just leave once you get an offer (though I do not recommend burning any bridges like I did). There are offices out there where the quality of work is excellent and entry-levels are treated well and are not scolded for making mistakes.


    Perfection is necessary, the temper towards passionate entry-levels not.


    Give it 6 months minimum as long as he/she is not beating you physically. If it gets a little better, give it another 6 months. If you’re not learning or doing the type of work you want to do after a year, find another job or do something else.

    Bill Eubanks, FASLA

    1. In 30 years, I don’t think I have ever yelled at someone for not working fast enough, making a mistake, etc. It just is not conducive to the creative process. Maybe you should wait until the mood is right then initiate a positive, constructive discussion 1 on 1 to see where you can improve and how you can be better motivated.

    2. If you are confident in your skills and if you are putting the project first, you will embrace criticism — even when it is not delivered in a kind way. If you are resistant it is because you have let ego step in and made it about ‘you’ and the not ‘work’.

    3. In this climate, you are lucky to have a job in the field when so many do not, so be patient and keep your head down. Learn what you can and don’t burn any bridges.

    Christopher Patzke

    Thomas I really feel for you.  I have encountered the same experience (from one degree to another) at every firm I have worked in since graduating graduate school 12 years ago.  With that said I commend Brett Long for his perspective and advice.  One thing I would add is to try to be aware when a comment or an unacceptable tone is not “about you”.  It’s a challenging skill to develop and I am not so good at it yet myself.  Sometimes bosses just need to vent frustration.


    There was a group of tourists yesterday on a helicopter tour of the island. It crashed in the mountains and killed all five passengers including the pilot. A tragedy.

    I think you know where this is leading to. Life is short, my friend! And it depends heavily on your current situation. Are you single and no children? If yes to both, time to move on. I don’t care what the job outlook is for LAs. You never allow anyone to simply walk all over you! I’d work at Denny’s as a line cook or selling irrigation equipment before going back to that fiasco.

    I was in a similar position early in my career after college. I took it for 5 months and finally said “Adios amigos”. Didn’t give any notice or anything. Unfortunately for me, there were no other boss or supervisor to turn to for advice. I walked in on a Thursday morning, packed my personal things and walked into the office with a huge smile on my face! I told them: “This is my last day, I’ll do everything I can to finish up the day and thank you for the opportunity.” I have never used the firm in my resume and no mention that I worked there. Unless I was directly questioned, but it has never come up during any of my interviews. As far as I’m concerned, I was attending San Diego Community College during my time. Technically, I was enrolled in 6 credits for 2 night courses in photoshop & illustrator.

    Leaving on short notice did wonders for me. I realized how much trash I can tolerate, knowing my limits and when to walk away. Guess what? Less than a month later, I found a new designer position for a multinational, landscape architecture firm in downtown San Diego!


    I wanted to say thank you to everyone that added to this thread.  Trust me it means a lot to me to hear other opinions.  Again I don’t want to sound like I am being “abused” but I feel myself getting stressed everyday before work, just wondering how will I screw up today.  It is not a great way to start the day.  I have been looking for work at other firms, but as we all know there is not a whole lot of work out there.  Part of me is scared to work at a new firm to just realize I am in the same predicament… an impatient overbearing boss.  But at this point I think it is a chance I am willing to take.  


    Again I am open to all forms of advice.


    I’d need to hear more specifics to give fair advice, but I’ll go ahead and play devil’s advocate. 


    I recently completed an MLA and pretty much all of my classmates had a hard time with critiques and being directed in studio by the professors.  What they called being “yelled” at I didn’t even make note of.  I was also surprised to see so many adults crying after being told they needed to make improvements.  Maybe it’s a generational thing or maybe it’s a class thing, I don’t know.  I’m not trying to be a jerk, but maybe you need the attitude adjustment and not your boss. 


    However, some people are just miserable to their core and they cause a lot of unnecessary strife and dysfunction.  The economy is slow, so bide your time and start preparing now to move on.  Many bosses can motivate people and get work done without demeaning or breaking people down. 


    The other posters have given you some excellent advice on how to deal with criticism and a-hole bosses.  Learn from this experience because you’ll run into this again and again throughout your working life.  One plus is that after having to worked for pricks, you’ll be able to judge them quickly and not waste time working for them. 


    Chupacabra –

    I understand when you say being “yelled” at has different views from different people.  And I can assure you I never broke down during my undergraduate degree because I had to make improvements to one of my projects.  In fact, I would appreciate when a professor would make suggestions.  The situation that I am in now is completely different than being in school.  And like you said perhaps it is me who needs to be more open and have an attitude adjustment.  I cannot disagree with you because I have been trying to cope with the stress and overall work environment.  

    In 10 years I am sure I will look back and laugh at the situation I was in, but right now it seems like torture trying to get through the day.  Thanks for your input and advice, I appreciate it greatly!


    Thomas,  You’ve received a lot of good advice here.  I hope some of it can be applied to your situation.  I’ve been learning to be a good employer for 18 years.  I’m still learning.  Here’s my “two cents”:

    1. When one of my employees doesn’t fit with the culture of my office, I must take the blame.  I hired him/her.

    2. When I am frustrated, and have (I admit) yelled, I need to take a breather.  It’s usually the result of a communication problem.

    3. Any one of my employees has the god-given right to quit and leave the office at any moment. I cannot begrudge them for seeking what they think is a better situation.

    4. Part of my job is to have my employees feel as though they are working in an environment in which they can succeed.



    I totally agree with everything you’re saying, I think a lot of it is your second point.  It is usually a communication problem, due to the fact that I am an entry-level.  I too know the feeling of getting frustrated when someone simply isn’t “getting it.”  I’m sure my boss feels this way towards me.  Thanks for your input and advice!

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