We’ve all been there. After enough time in this or any industry, you will encounter one. The Blowhard. The person who knows it all, and not only wants to tell you, but they will also insult you along the way.

In the case of my most recent experience, our “blowhard” was an owner’s rep. But with over 27 years of experience in this industry, I’ve seen this type of person appear as an owner, a general contractor, a trade contractor, an architect, and, yes, a fellow engineer.

Of course, as I write this, I will not mention names, projects, or companies. But I recently encountered one, and I thought I would write about it. Why? A multitude of reasons. Let’s get into those.

A little background about the project and person of interest. Our project was recently put out to bid. And surprisingly, it came in over budget. It happens. What we do about it is what’s important. This was a very large, complex project. We’ve been in various design phases for several years. The design team’s client, who is the end user, has design standards that must be met. These design standards define equipment sizing and selection, material selection and building operational criteria.

In this case, our person of interest is responsible for getting the project back on budget. We’re talking millions of dollars here, so this is no small task. I feel for that. Unfortunately for our Blowhard, the individual has only been on the project for several weeks and had a daunting task ahead. Was the Blowhard’s approach due to pressure, insecurity or just “who they are?” Let’s discuss the approach I experienced and how I think it could have been handled differently.

Anyone in our industry will at some point hear the term “Value Engineering.” As an engineer, I will wholeheartedly contend that nine times out of 10, there is no value in Value Engineering for the end user. The design team was given a very long laundry list of “value engineering” considerations — ranging from alternate materials to alternate design criteria. And with these considerations, came the statement — It’s clear the engineer does not understand how buildings are built in our market.

It’s totally fair to bring considerations for cost savings to the table. After all, it’s the owner’s money that gets the building built, not the design teams. But is leading off with an insult a good approach? Several implications came from that in my experience.

The design team was immediately put on the defensive. We now have an owner who might doubt the experience and credibility of the design team they hired. Naturally, we begin with providing background on why our design is as it is — and not as our Blowhard thinks it should be. This resulted in a considerable amount of wasted time instead of jumping into a situation where pros and cons could be evaluated, and the owner can make an educated decision on how to proceed.

A second example is when our Blowhard stated “I’m tired of being told ‘No’” to the considerations. In this case, let’s explore what the responsibilities of each party are in the design and construction process. My company was the “Engineer of Record” — meaning we have sealed and signed the documents. They have our name on them. Any professional engineers out there will know what our duties are. But what wasn’t considered in that statement was — it’s not our money.

What I’ve realized is anyone who behaves this way typically does not like a calm, factual based approach. The old words, “Kill them with kindness,” are very applicable. Or at the very least, “Kill them with facts and documentation,” since we’re engineers.

As a design team, we do not have the final say in what goes in the building. We can say what will not go on our design documents, but the owner can do what they want. This whining expressed an uneducated understanding of the process at hand and was made to belittle our experience and decisions. Decisions that were made and defined through years of coordination, code and adherence to client standards.

At this point, I think you can understand what I’m getting at. This behavior is unprofessional, can very likely be workplace harassment, and, ultimately, makes the project delivery process more difficult and more costly for the owner.

With more experience in this industry, this personality type has become easier to deal with for me. What I’ve realized is anyone who behaves this way typically does not like a calm, factual based approach. The old words, “Kill them with kindness,” are very applicable. Or at the very least, “Kill them with facts and documentation,” since we’re engineers.

There are lessons to be learned from all angles in situations like this. First — don’t be that person. Second — know that there is more than one way to achieve a result, so listen and learn. Third — when you decide on a design direction, ensure it’s a sound one. Have a technical basis for it and have documentation to support it. In the long run, this will win out over the Blowhard, and any client worth working for again will realize that.