View Full Version : Working with an audience

10-16-2011, 03:18 PM
I am wondering if others are like me in this or am I an oddball in this regard. I don't like to work on a customer's job while he is watching. Some customers are better than others about this and sometimes, I understand, there is an urgency to the job or perhaps the customer needs to be present to provide useful information. But, by and large, I can't seem to function as well when there is an audience.

The condition seems to worsen as I get older. I am getting to the point where I will practically refuse a job if the customer insists on being present.

So --- am I a nut or what?

10-16-2011, 03:35 PM
No. It's almost guaranteed I'll screw something up. Unless I'm teaching somebody I don't like people hanging around when I work.

10-16-2011, 03:46 PM

I don't find that attitude strange at all. What little work I do for others is mostly for friends and most of the time the need for a great deal of precision is not called for. In that case I kind of like it when they stay and watch or help to the extent that they can. i appreciate their interest.

However, when precision is called for, I don't want any distractions so I prefer to work alone. I am relatively new at this hobby, so maybe when I have more time/experience it won't matter so much either way.



10-16-2011, 03:56 PM
Any work i do is for friends ..and i insist that they look on, sometimes ..to see how much effort and time this stuff takes .

they see it ...and "most" are only too willing to return my favours.

works well.

any who don't return the favours ..after asking or hinting a few times..then they aren't my friends any more

all the best.markj

10-16-2011, 04:02 PM
I frequently work with an audience of students, and I don't mind it too much. I feel it gives me a chance to pass along my attitudes about enjoying work and taking pride in what I do.

I want them to see that measuring carefully, cutting right on the line, and taking care of other details makes the job easier in the long run, since you don't have to figure out later how to straighten out a sloppy assembly.

10-16-2011, 04:03 PM
Depends on the person. Some people know how to be a looker-on and be virtually invisible, and others are like fingernails on a blackboard.

Weston Bye
10-16-2011, 04:06 PM
The last two years I demonstrated my electronic threading system at NAMES.

The nature of the demonstration, with me describing everything and dividing my attention, virtually guarantees that I will bugger something. Consequently, I use Delrin for my workpieces - very forgiving, no broken tooling.

10-16-2011, 04:10 PM
I don't want any distractions so I prefer to work alone

I too have gotten quite used to working alone but for me it is more one of ownership. Others of course can do great work but if I am the only one doing the work, I am the only one they (employers) need to come looking for if something is not up to "par".
My personal experience(s) have been that I am a lousy leader, in that the amount of time spent supervising is time I could have spent actively working, my productivity suffers IF I need to spend time "supervising".

I have also found it easier to literally ban others from the immediate area...that stems from some not having a clue what is going on, and, venting here, IF there are sparks flying off the grinder or there is a flame on the end of the torch or my nose is literally inches from a spinning chuck, DO NOT just come up behind and ask me where xyz is...at that split second I don't give a crap! Edit to add: I suspect I, like others, develop a rhythm of the work on an given day and unexpected/unplanned interruptions can be very disconbobulating.
Its not that the work is all the important but I am one that has to concentrate [the safety aspect gives an easy "out" for debateably poor behavior]

10-16-2011, 04:21 PM
I don't even like to tie my shoes with anyone watching. ...afraid I'll tie them together.

Whatever I'm doing, if wife, or girlfriend, stops to watch I simply stop and take a break.

1937 Chief
10-16-2011, 04:49 PM
If someone comes around I stop what I am doing. I can't stand to have anyone watching me what soever. Don't know why I am like that, but that is what I am like. Stan

10-16-2011, 04:49 PM
I don't even like to tie my shoes with anyone watching. ...afraid I'll tie them together.

Whatever I'm doing, if wife, or girlfriend, stops to watch I simply stop and take a break.

I'm with Lynnl on this one as well.
But if my wife and my girlfriend enter the shop...well I'm just glad I've got a back door.:D

10-16-2011, 04:54 PM
I had an audience constantly for 16 years in the museum. You get used to it. But,I must say,it's easier to sew leather or weave a basket than to do marquetry,or make a violin with people watching.

Rich Carlstedt
10-16-2011, 05:12 PM
It's a fear
The fear of making a mistake
The fear of ridicule ( for the mistake)
This is complicated , as most of us pride ourselves on not making mistakes.
Develop a sense of humor about your abilites and maybe that will help.

If we laugh at our errors, it lowers the pschological pressure on us and onlookers generally accept that, without judgement of your skills, as they are having you do it because they can't !
They may laugh with you, but secretly they are glad it wasn't them !


10-16-2011, 05:20 PM
It's a fear
The fear of making a mistake
The fear of ridicule ( for the mistake)I'm sure that's it for some people, but others of us are introverts. We need to be alone to think and focus.

10-16-2011, 05:42 PM
I don't mind unless they won't shut up or get in the way.

The one thing that will earn a wrench across the teeth though is idle whistling,irritates me no end:mad:

10-16-2011, 05:59 PM
There's a simple way around this problem.
When you get the vibe that they want to hang-out or watch you work, just
tell them that you're really busy right now, and booked solid for the next couple of days.
"Leave the part/project with me, and I'll get on it A.S.A.P."
After they shuffle off, you can work in peace.

10-16-2011, 06:13 PM
I have worked with an audience nearly all my life. 23 years at Xerox with people standing watching and drumming their fingers. My favorite are the ones that come in and ask "Can I make just one copy" when I have large assemblies taken apart on a drop cloth on the floor. I say "Sure, go right ahead" with a straight face. It usually then dawns on them how stupid a question it was.

My real favorites are the ones that ask "How does it work?" I then start with "The process is called Xerography and is based on electrostatic attraction of a dry powder to a charged light sensitive surface." If their eyes immediately glaze over I switch to the basic "It's FM (effing magic) explanation. Otherwise I give them the basic tour.

It has never bothered me at all to have an audience as long as they keep their fingers out of the way. I like teaching and spent 5 years teaching adults basic computer programming in night school back in the early 80s. I developed the curriculum which was accepted as a credit course by the college. I also taught teenagers (Sea Cadets) seamanship and weapons handling/marksmanship for about 6 years in the 90s. During the time with Xerox a major part of my job was to teach technologically illiterate people, mostly females, how to operate high technical equipment without making them feel stupid.

I learned a lot from my father who was a science teach in middle school in Berkeley. He was a truly excellent teacher and I would assist him during his summer school classes. In high school I spent 3 years in vocational electronics and in years two and three I was teaching assistant for the previous year.

During the 9 years I ran my computer store I specialized in selling older people their first computer. Along with that was instruction on how to use it for all the basic things they wanted to do.

It was my plan that when I retired I would help out in the high school machine shop. I know the teacher and he was all for it. About the time I closed my business the School District was informed by their insurance company that their policy would not permit anyone other than students and the instructor to so much as touch any of the machine tools.

The truly stupid thing about that was that during the time I had my computer business open I helped about 20 students graduate by allowing them to work in my store to fulfill their work experience training requirement. I even have a certificate of appreciation from the district. Their insurance covers the kids in my shop but I can't help out in their shop.

I have plans to start a course next year in using SketchUp for basic planning of things like garden layout or rearranging furniture. It will be through our Elder College program.

10-16-2011, 06:30 PM
I don't like people looking over my shoulder either. It's a distraction to me and I don't like to have to explain every thing I do, or explain why something didn't work.


10-16-2011, 06:40 PM
When I was 18-19 I worked part time for a nice man at a shop that made/repaired venetian blinds and sold various other window coverings. A lot of what I did was cleaning/reparing venetian blinds.

He had a rule, (I don't remember the numbers any longer but making some up) repair a blind $5, if you want to watch it's $10, if you want to help it's $20. Was kind of a joke, we never told customers but we both felt that way.


10-16-2011, 06:40 PM
I'd prefer to deal with as few distractions as possible. The constant thoughts in my head on all sorts of things is enough audience for me. ;)


10-16-2011, 06:43 PM
Potential distractions and metal working machines don't mix - and I have the scars to prove it. These days if anyone enters the shop the machine(s) are shut down.

10-16-2011, 06:49 PM
IN the metal shop, something is spinning, cutting, abrading, you name it. And all those machines are flesh eating bastages. Someone comes in, the machines go off. Learned it the hard way. Shoot, Tel and I were posting about the same time!!!

10-16-2011, 08:09 PM
I like people to watch. Most of the time they learn something.

Errol Groff
10-16-2011, 08:37 PM
I don't mind being watched on a machine, 24 years of teaching Machine Tool cured me of that. BUT when my wife comes in and wants to watch over my should and supervise my typing while I am on the computer that winds my up tighter than a watch spring. Go away!

10-16-2011, 08:43 PM
Funny that. If my wife comes into the shop I turn off the machines. If I am going to foul up something it is always when she is watching. She avoids coming into the shop and that is fine by me.

10-16-2011, 09:03 PM
Actually, now that I think about, I do kind of like kids around, such as my grandson. And I don't mind explaining things to him, as work proceeds.

Assuming of course, that they're old enough to recognize danger and know when to stay out of the way.

But adults are a distraction to me, even if they just stand there quiet as a bottle of water.

10-16-2011, 09:38 PM
Other than my grandson i allow no one to watch me work.

Him,, it,s a different story i enjoy trying to show him things, how they work and why.

Kids need to learn hands on things these days.

10-16-2011, 09:54 PM
I enjoy having students in my shop while I'm working. Others, I present with a locked door.

I use Delrin for my workpieces - very forgiving, no broken tooling.

You just haven't been trying, lad. I can show you how to accomplish that bit of precision machining. ;) :D


10-16-2011, 09:59 PM
i have both things myself, if i'm certain of what i'm doing i dont mind being watched, that is things i have done before and have been trained to do, even complex tasks like operating a continuous caster from the main control room casting 150 ton ladles of steel every 50 mins, no problem with an audience as there was usually someone else there anyway, normaly being trained or visiting from other companies.[ though i think i would mess up now as i got transferred to the lab, i probably just thought i was doing it right!]
However if im making somthing or repairing somthing i have not met before which is usually the case i start getting nervous, fumbling and sweating etc, forgetting what i was doing, looking for tools that are in front of me and generally doing everything the hard/long way, with no distaction i go from a to z in one go and if someone is watching its more like a-k-c--and then snafu
think its normal behaviour? probably not, but most of my behaviour is odd by most standards! [well thats what wifey reckons lol]
regards to all other paranoid scizoids out there

J Tiers
10-16-2011, 10:23 PM
I used not to mind, but more recently, I find distractions are bad... I break taps, dial in wrong amounts, etc, etc.

I don't mind doing sales demos, if something messes up, I can talk right through it, but machine work, no distractions.....

i got used to doing electronic repairs with folks watching when I worked in a Hifi repair shop while in school, doesn't bother me, I can do it all day. Used to HAVE to.

I don't much like doing electronic calculations with folks watching and waiting, but after years of managers popping in every 4 minutes asking if the problem has been solved yet, etc, etc, I got reasonably used to that.

10-16-2011, 10:24 PM
But adults are a distraction to me, even if they just stand there quiet as a bottle of water.

See, me, the part in bold is nearly the worst of all...cause you KNOW they want to give their 2 cents worth :( ...
also, to me, learning situations are very different, those I am fine with but those are also way different than just sticking one's nose in...

10-16-2011, 10:34 PM
I recall doing a small project for a neighbor , who stood close by and watched me carefully.
After a time, he remarked that his son didn't like people standing over him while he worked, but apparently I didn't mind. I simply said " I agree with your son". My neighbor let my reply sink in for a minute, and then he went home.
In all fairness, this neighbor had it coming. He brought the project to me as a " favor", explaining that he knew I liked to work in my shop ! He should have read the sign on my shop wall; " Free favors- $45 "

10-17-2011, 12:28 AM
If somebody asks me to do some shop thing for them, I'd rather that they watch. I get them to help too- sanding, filing, polishing- but no machine work, except maybe some drilling. It's a good way to give them a sense of what it takes.

If I'm on my own project and somebody comes around, I just stop. After a bs session, I can say 'well I have to get back to it', and it's their cue to leave.

Other than that, I prefer to not have anyone around when I'm in the shop. The only exception is if I'm working on a joint project with someone. Then I take the role of instructor, and I become the guy peering over someone elses shoulder. Actually, there's only one person who might work in the shop with me from time to time. I know she's competent, so there's no issue. If there's a machine involved, I still poke my nose in and check that the setup and procedure is right.

A.K. Boomer
10-17-2011, 07:48 AM
If someone is around when im machining it will slow down the process - I haven't been doing it all my life so it's not like it's hardwired into me - still - it can be fun to explain things along the way and such, but the mistake factor goes up and I try to be aware of that...

If it's in my little automotive shop then I welcome the audience as long as they stay out of the way cuz im buzzing around like crazy and it's a tiny place,
If they are inquisitive then I explain the analytical/diagnostic process in laymans terms and try my best not to lose them but one way or another It inevitably ends up on the technical side of things,

I have to admit it's the one place im most comfortable with an audience - that and on my mt. bike, and in fact im somewhat of a ham...

I don't have a huge customer base as I choose them as much as they choose me but many make quite a drive to have me do something and I try to accommodate the on the spot job, if it's something I can immediately take care of and send them on their way I do --- what I have found out is that when I go through the process with them on many things and they see how I work and how I track things down through solid deductive reasoning skills and the questions that I ask them and how I set things up so they know what to look for in the future and on and on then it only cements the re-peat work when something else goes awry,
It not only does that -- it usually ends up with a pretty good size tip that they give me which I graciously accept.

The bottom line is when your dealing with people who are trusting you with something they depend on but don't know a whole lot about is two things - first off they want to know that your not a hack and their also not getting hosed -- secondly many are trying to find out info to better their situation --- not to do the work themselves - but avoid having some of the work done in the first place due to negligence, and that does not bother me a bit --- I want to replace and repair things due to them wearing out not out of ignorance.
I want the best for them and they know it, if they get to watch me in action then it removes all doubt...

uncle pete
10-17-2011, 08:44 AM
In my shop and especialy if it's a job I'm new to that requires accuracy I tell the wife unit not to bother me unless it's real important for X hours. Even the dog gets banned out of the shop. In my real job I run heavy earth moving equipment. There's always somebody around and watching. On construction sites there's ALWAYS lots of people watching, Even taking pictures or filming at times. You get used to it after awhile. It can be a dangerous distraction though. I was running a hoe at the University in Calgary Alberta, There were a lot of very nice distractions walking around.:)


Lew Hartswick
10-17-2011, 10:02 AM
All I "object to" is the watcher blathering away at me if I'm trying to
any mental arithmetic. I have a one track mind and can't do ANY
multitasking. I can't even watch a football game and listen to the
announcer at the same time. :-)

10-17-2011, 10:16 AM
I had a family audience yesterday. Mother has been working on her chicken coop most of the summer and asked me to rebuild the screened door. It needed to be a bit bigger and a new screen. I had a full house for this one! My mother, wife, 3 kids, grandfather, and brother all sitting and standing around watching me work and asking me constant questions while I am trying to measure, mark, and make angled cuts.

I felt like the county worker down in the hole doing all the work while the others stand around leaning on their shovels.

10-17-2011, 10:21 AM
Jerry, a pipefitter friend of mine, used to answer the question of how much to install a water heater: "$200, $250 if you try to help".

10-17-2011, 10:23 AM
Jerry, a pipefitter friend of mine, used to answer the question of how much to install a water heater: "$200, $250 if you try to help".

I have to remember that one!

10-17-2011, 10:25 AM
Jerry, a pipefitter friend of mine, used to answer the question of how much to install a water heater: "$200, $250 if you try to help".

$300 if the customer has already tried to work on it himself.;)

10-17-2011, 03:19 PM
People tend to leave me alone when I'm in the workshop. My wife will bring be a cup of tea and put it just inside the door, says 'tea, love' and takes away the empty cup (or the cold one I didn't drink). Bless her for her understanding :)

10-17-2011, 04:24 PM

It's never bothered me to have somebody watch me work. I've spend a fair amount of time over my lifetime performing and working in front of others to be much bothered.

From having played in dance bands in bars in my much younger days to current days where I mostly work in EMS. I have to be able to deal with anything that can wrong front of the public quickly and efficiently. I have to be able to deal with emergencies on a patient while handling panicked family. So you want to watch me drill a hole or turn a shaft? Pffft! Simple stuff that requires little effort on my part. Go ahead and tell me how to do it. It won't matter because we're going to do it my way anyway.

Ain't much of what goes on in a shop rocket surgery.


10-18-2011, 01:15 AM
Back when I was turning wrenches for a living. I had a sign it the front of the shop that read. " Labor rate $ 50.00 per Hour, $75.00 if you watch and $100.00 if you help " That prity much kept people out of my shop :D

10-18-2011, 03:30 AM
I don't mind people watching me...I generally end up making a bit more money becuase it takes longer, and it makes the customer understand why it costs what it does.

10-18-2011, 04:15 AM
Doesn't bother me at all, in fact it happens almost every day. The bigger problem is getting called away from the job I'm working on to help someone else with their machining / engineering problems. When I return to the machine I was working on I have to shift gears to remember where I was at on my own project. If I am running more than one machine (sometimes 3) I shake my head and wave people off ... they usually take the hint and leave me alone and get help from someone else.