When I made it clear she would be working in a 'man's world' (which wouldn't be easy), she didn't hesitate with her answer: "I can handle anything you toss my way."
Roy, on the other hand, made her first three weeks as uncomfortable as he could, which translated to considerable discomfort for me as well. Roy was an imposing biker-type at six feet, two inches and 265 pounds, tough and knowledgeable enough to manage forty construction workers. Rachel, on the other hand, stood five-feet, four inches at maybe a hundred pounds dripping wet. I had to mediate between them several times.
Roy withheld documentation, schedules, and material requests from Rachel. If she needed something, he made her ask for it. I was well aware of what was happening. The tension between the two was palpable, and I knew a confrontation was imminent. She would need to stand up to him soon-I knew her time with us would be over if she did not.
Once, on her second week on the job, Rachel and I were inspecting the jobsite. I could see Roy was up to something again. He was rallying the troops, visiting each group of workers and making a few comments at which they all would dutifully direct meaningful glances at her. I began to think today might be Rachel's last on the job. She walked beside me, asking questions, taking notes, appearing not to have noticed.
We completed our inspection and called every...
Rachel answered each one to everyone's satisfaction, including mine.
I could see Roy was uneasy, but Rachel had proven her competence, so I thought that would be the end of it. That was not to be.
The meeting was about to end. "Where are my fire dampers" Roy piped in. "If they're not here, I'll be sending half the crew home tomorrow." The fire dampers were a priority item, without which the job would come to a halt. The person who knew this best was Roy.
It was a cheap shot. He had made several requests for their delivery before Rachel had become project manager. The fire dampers had been the responsibility of Rachel's predecessor. Rachel would have needed to order the fire dampers ten days earlier to get the fire dampers to the site the next day. Roy had deliberately withheld the lack of the fire dampers to himself, with the intention of attacking Rachel.
I had underestimated Roy's determination. He allowed his personal prejudice to put the job and the company at risk. The faces in the room were a mixture of blank stares and stunned disbelief. The men knew how serious the situation was. There would be emergency meetings, phone calls, and some hefty fines for delaying the job.
I was furious. As I stood to protest, Rachel placed her hand on my arm, shot me a glance, and strode to the front. There was a look of defiance on her face. In a very measured tone she indicated, "The dampers are in my truck." All of us were dumbfounded. How had she pulled this off
She spent the next ten minutes reading Roy the riot act. She had compiled a list of every mistake he had made in the last year. Roy himself had provided access to them. She concluded by letting Roy know who was in charge. "If you can put your petty differences aside, be