Focusing on the 'human side of engineering’ pays big dividends

I’ve seen it time and again. So have you. Two employees – call them Paul and John – are engaged in a heated argument. Eventually their hostility is abated, but with no resolution reached. Tightlipped, they go their separate ways. John shakes his head and stalks off. Paul makes no effort to hide his anger.


I’ve seen it time and again. So have you.

Two employees %%MDASSML%% call them Paul and John %%MDASSML%% are engaged in a heated argument. Eventually their hostility is abated, but with no resolution reached. Tightlipped, they go their separate ways. John shakes his head and stalks off. Paul makes no effort to hide his anger.

Who really won the argument?

The correct answer is no one.

Invariably, when workers argue, their tempers aroused, whatever their level, neither antagonist wins. Consider the realities: time is killed needlessly: the arguers’ time and that of anyone who stopped work to observe. The work flow is interrupted. And most significantly, a relationship has been damaged. In this case a wall of enmity has been set up between Paul and John.

Realistically, winning in the workplace depends more on developing friendly and harmonious relationships than any other factor.

More years ago than I care to recall, on assignment for a PR firm, my task was to interview U.S. Col. Willard Rockwell for an article to appear in a North American Rockwell publication. A question up front was, “Colonel, in your opinion, what is the single most important key to success in the workplace?”

Without a breath of hesitation he replied, “Getting everyone in your operation wholeheartedly on your side.”

Unfortunately, all too rarely, do we see this occur in the workplace.

Call it human nature or rank stupidity, people tend to stumble into situations that generate unharmonious feelings with their peers. They may be influenced, at times unconsciously, by such things as race, religion, sex, age or political affiliation.

What kind of sense does this make?

No kind that’s identifiable. Take the Paul and John example. One of these days Paul may need John to support an idea or proposal, or the other way around. Their damaged relationship would make them less likely to cooperate. Disagreeable disagreement is a lose-lose proposition.

Nonetheless, petty disputes erupt daily in plants and offices nationwide between line workers, office employees, supervisors and managers.

In the 1960s, sensitive to the disruption disharmony triggers, then PLANT ENGINEERING editor Rick Dunn invited me to write a column for the magazine on the subject of labor relations.

So was spawned The Human Side of Engineering, a column I wrote as a contributing editor for more than four decades. I felt ideally qualified for the job. For one thing, with years of supervisory experience in plants and offices, there was hardly a type of hassle or disagreement I haven’t run into. For another, I knew a couple of good labor lawyers I could call at will. For a third, one of my closest friends was AAA Arbitrator Leonard J. Smith, a co-founder of the Society of Human Relations Managers (SCHRM) one of the nation’s leading experts on labor and human relations. Len also was as close as my telephone for help and guidance when complex cases erupted. My work for “Plant Engineering” and the support of its talented staff over the years was one of the most rewarding and gratifying experiences of my long business and writing career. It also reinforced in my mind the career growth people receive when they focus on developing harmonious relationships with coworkers.

I also learned in my career that the more you know, the more skills you possess, aside and apart from the friendly relationships you develop, the more progress, growth and fun you’ll enjoy. Diversification is a surefire way to win in the workplace.

In my senior years, having written nonfiction for decades, my consuming interest turned to fiction %%MDASSML%% novels and short stories.

My latest book, Vow of Vengence (by Ray Dreyfack and Harold Mellin MD), is a medical suspense novel that, like the blockbuster film, Sicko, deals with America’s flawed health care system in general, and corrupt health maintenance organizations in particular.

Vow of Vengeance may be ordered from, direct from the publisher,, Barnes and Noble and selected local bookstores, or purchased directly from Ray Dreyfack at (954) 979-1536.

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