Mar 3, 2009

A quick retort left me looking a little silly.

I am not required to like everyone I work with.
Believe me, I have looked. Its no where in my job description. Its not in our contract. There is nothing that even remotely makes the implication.
On the flip side, though, I am required to work with people I do not like. This is implied in almost every part of my job description. Its a fact of life.
Here is an exchange between me and a peer that happened on Monday morning:

Me: thinking to myself: Hmm, not real busy, plenty of people standing around doing not much of anything, I think I'll go to the store and get something to drink.

(Store trip ensues, then I return)

Co-Worker: (looking up from whatever he was doing and in a rather obnoxious tone) Hey, I guess you went to the store? Thanks for checking with me. (Then looks back down at what he was doing)

(This is where I lost my composure)

Me: (This also came out in a rather obnoxious tone) Well, just so you know, now that I am back, I'm going to go to the bathroom and take a crap. Afterwards I'm going to wipe my butt a few times.

It should suffice to say if I was looking to push any buttons on this guy, I far exceeded my expectations. There are a number of issues that come to mind from this brief conversation, and I'm going to attempt to delve into a few of them.

  1. Some people seem to have the idea that being in a position of authority grants them a free pass to talk to other people as if they are complete idiots. I could not be more diametrically opposed to this idea. I have watched this co-worker of mine treat people in a similar manner, and it never ceases to amaze me that one of his subordinates hasn't socked him. I would think he deserves it. Yet it seems to happen, over and over. What happened to people treating others with at least a certain amount of dignity? So, in my anger at being treated this way, I fired back.

  2. Having seen this person treat people as he just treated me, I generally don't like him. Again, I am not required to like him. But from time to time, I have to work with him. And I am OK with this. After all, he generally performs his job functions pretty well. And if I were to get in a scrap, which I have from time to time, I would be happy to have him as help. Conversely, I would be the first to run to his aid should he need assistance. The fact that I failed to check in with him before leaving for a few minutes was not meant as a slight to him, but simply an oversight. I generally make sure people know I am leaving the building. Its a common, and somewhat expected thing to do. It didn't occur to me in the slightest that I had done something wrong when I left.

  3. Which brings me to my next point. People can send the same message in any number of ways. Were I sitting at a long table, and someone said, "Could you please pass the salt?", I would happily pass the salt. If the same person had said, "Hey jackass, give me the salt.", I would more likely be inclined to bounce the salt shaker off of his forehead. Delivery is key in many situations. Most certainly when someone has done something wrong and its your job to correct it.
Having these issues in mind, I want to make it clear that I am by no means perfect (as evidenced by my quick, and rather inappropriate response). But when I am yelled at, across a room full of people in an attempt to make me look like a jackass, I refuse to back down from that.
So after this brief conversation, and a little chance to clear my head and regain my composure, I pulled this co-worker aside. I made it clear that my remark was wrong. I said it quick without thinking. However, I also tried to make it clear in the future I would simply like him to talk to me like a peer, as that is what he and I are, peers.
What have I learned from this? I don't know, honestly. It simply reaffirmed my belief that I don't care for this person. It also reaffirmed my belief that when I am faced with something similar, I don't want to embarrass people, nor do I want to call more attention to wrong doing than is needed.
Something that I know I did learn, I opened my mouth and said something without thought. And that, no doubt, made me look like just as much of an idiot as he was calling me. I will do my best to not let that happen again. An often quoted saying, although I am having trouble finding the actual person to attribute this to, says:
"Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret."
So true. So true.


  1. George Thompson, the author of "Verbal Judo," teaches that "those words which rise most readily to the lips create the greatest speech you will ever live to regret." A lesson we have all learned, I am sure. But, kudos to you for speaking with your peer privately about the issue. Certainly the mature way to resolve an issue that could fester and get ugly. Good job!

  2. Good job Adam. Best to clear the air when everyone is calmer and can see the importance of comunication.

  3. I keep learning and relearning the message in that final quote. Anytime you hear an IM and I yelling at each other it's cuz I popped off and said whats on my mind.

  4. I'm torn as to what my response is to this. My initial irrational response is "kudos to you Mr. Rossiter for putting that jackass in his place" the rational side of me says.....oh wait.....I don't have a rational Kudos to you!


You went to all the trouble to get yourself here, you might as well say something about it.

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