A contractor gets hired to finish the basement in an old house. After a couple of months of work, the contractor’s team runs into some electrical problems they can’t quite sort out. Circuit breakers are constantly tripping. A short almost starts a fire in the kitchen. For the time being, they’ve been working around the problem by running extension cords up and down the hallways. They explain to you that they’d like you to join the team for the explicit purpose of helping them set things in order. You explain to them that you’re looking for a job where things get done the right way without cutting corners. They’re impressed with your expertise and your approach, so they hire you.
You start by asking to take a look at the wiring diagram. “Well, it’s all pretty self-explanatory,” says the handyman who installed the breaker box, outlets, and light fixtures, along with the plumbing, drywall, and carpet. He notices your furrowed brow and quickly tries to put your mind at ease. “Don’t worry,” he says, “feel free to change out whatever you think needs changing.” As you’re talking to him to get an understanding of how the basement is wired up, your eyes start to glaze over. He constantly jumps mid-sentence to talk about issues he had while discussing some other seemingly unrelated problem. The handyman gets the sense that you’re starting to get a little concerned (he’s not wrong), but you don’t want to sour the mood by giving off a bad impression. You cut the conversation short and decide to take a closer look at the breaker box yourself, hoping that you can get a better picture of what’s what by following the existing wiring.
You’re shocked (no pun intended) by your discovery:
After a couple of hours of tracing, documenting, labeling, and generally trying to make sense of the utter chaos you find yourself wading through, you give the contractor a call. You explain to him that the electrical system is in a pretty bad way, and it’s going to take some serious effort to bring it up to spec. “But we have deadlines,” he responds, pointing out the very real and obvious issue with pulling the whole electrical system out of the walls and rewiring the entire house, which you’d very much like to do.
The next couple of weeks are a constant struggle between you and the contractor as you try to explain why the breakers are tripping and the outlets are shorting to the best of your ability, and what you think needs to be done to fulfil the original goal set out when they hired you of setting things straight without cutting corners. The contractor instructs you, meanwhile, to keep installing extension cords. After one particularly tense meeting, the contractor says, “seems to me like you just want to work on the things you think need to be done, and not the things I think need to be done.” You get the sense that you have been identified as an apostate, a rebel swimming against the stream. Choose your battles, you think to yourself. Don’t make things worse. With a wince, you run another extension cord down the stairwell.
Eventually, the property owner approaches you and tells you that he’s not pleased with what he’s hearing. He gives you the opportunity to explain that the existing electrical work wasn’t built with the capacity to handle additional load from a finished basement, and that you’ll have to redo a lot of that work. He says that you’re being antagonistic, and that you haven’t been working on the house long enough to know what you’re talking about. Somehow, he expects you to stay on the job, but you know where this is going.
You submit your resignation a few days later.