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Friday, August 20, 2010

Sketch: The Earnest Dr. M.H.

Dr. M.H. is intense, that I sensed right away in the first meeting he ran. There was a trace of vulnerability and insecurity in his too-eager, too-serious, too-rapid voice. Normally this type of work is rather simple and need no kick-off meeting, he acknowledged, but nevertheless "we're having one anyway."

Men who grow a beard are usually either self-absorbed loners or naturally shy. Dr. H is clearly the latter. He is around 40 with curly brown hair and brown beard. When someone else is talking, he would lean forward and look at the person intently. During the meeting, when I started to make a comment, his gaze packed a bit too much pressure, and I had to shift my eyes to the wall behind him.

It was an interesting contrast: the division boss sitting at one end of the table compared with Dr. H at the other end. The boss is a bald old man with a sagging Sharpei face and a nose blooming with rosacea. His smoke- or alcohol-marinated voice was slow and sarcastic, as if long past giving a damn after decades of stewing in middle management.

Every time after saying, "Let's do this" or "I don't think that will be a problem", Dr. H would quickly shoot a question to the boss, "What do you think Dr. B? Do you agree?" to seek affirmation. Dr. B. would shrug and make a noncommittal noise, raise an eyebrow, and mumble something vague. I wondered whether this drove Dr. H, who clearly needs constant assurance and definitely answers, crazy.

At the end of the meeting, Dr. H spent 10 minutes going over every milestone for the next 6 months while begging every team member to turn in their homework on time. Thankfully the project manager is a motherly middle-aged woman who soothed his anxiety with reassurance that she is on top of everything. He looked like a little boy trying very hard to win adults' trust and approval.

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