Friday, January 19, 2007

Dealing with the Naked Emperor

Yesterday was a particularly craptastic day at the Random Non-Profit – one of those days where things start out poorly and just go downhill. However, a lot of my unhappiness was very self-inflicted, so I can’t really blame the day . . .

I tend to get very intimidated when I am around people who are supposedly experts and have a great deal more knowledge about topics than I do. If I am in a meeting and I hear something or notice something that is not quite right, I have a tendency to keep it to myself and think that I am the only person not getting it. But after the meeting is over and I have time to think about the situation some more, I realize that there was something off and that I should have spoken up and said something . . .

Part of the problem is that when I can tell something is illogical, I can’t quite place my finger on why at that exact moment – I usually have to chew on the proceedings for a while. I mean, I could stand up and say “something is wrong here!” but then when asked what it is, I’d have to say “I’m not sure . . . but there is something off, I swear!” and that just looks stupid. And if there is one thing I try to avoid at all costs, that is looking stupid. There is a saying that goes along the lines of “If you sit there, people may think you are stupid, but if you open your mouth, people will know it’s true.” I just prefer not to open my mouth unless I know exactly what I want to say . . .

This problem is doubly present when there are “elders” or people who I feel are above me in the room. Now, at this point in my life I know that just because you have a bunch a degrees by your name, or that you are a few years older than me, does not necessarily mean that you know what you are talking about at any given time (because heaven knows I’ve met lots of people who certainly don’t) but I guess it was always ingrained in me to be deferential to others. Plus, I generally have low self-esteem about my own talents so I tend to not want to contradict what people say in public . . .

It is so hard in an office environment to know what to say and what not to say, to know who might get offended and who might actually be glad you pointed out that something was wrong . . .

The really irksome thing about all of this is that I was talking to a co-worker after one of the meetings yesterday about something I thought had been handled incorrectly and that person had thought something similar, but she didn’t say anything either. What is up with us? Somebody needs be able to step up and say the emperor has no clothes . . .

I still have so much to learn . . . big sigh . . .

4 comments:

CSL said...

This is where that Columbo approach comes in handy. You can say, "You know, maybe it's me, but I'm a little confused about (insert whatever it is here)..." If someone has to re-state something, it might either become clearer to you what is "off" or maybe someone else will nail them. At any rate, no risk of upsetting others. Of course, I am more prone to launching myself right in there and saying exactly what I think the problem is, so maybe I should take my own advice first!

Dean Dad said...

I read somewhere that the great gift that a knowledge of history imparts isn't so much the ability to know what will happen -- nobody has that -- but an intuitive sense of the ways things don't happen.

The catch is, moving from that intuitive sense to an easy 'and here's why' is really hard.

Hang in there...

Virginia Gal said...

oh my God, I'm the same way - when I think something is off, I generally think, "it must be me."
I get intimated so easily! B-school is dangerous that way.

J said...

I'm with csl, the Columbo approach is the way to go.

My daughter goes to a public charter school, which for two years was housed in a church, while the school district built a campus for us. At one point, there was talk of housing our school on an unused part of an already existing school campus. Because it was going to be on a campus that was already there, we were to share their multi use room, etc. That plan fell through, and then they put together new plans for our school, which included an office, bathrooms, and classrooms, but no multiuse room. I never spoke up and said, "Um, where's the multiuse room", assuming that the district wouldn't offer it to us. As a matter of fact, there may have been discussion at the board level about it, but we were just so happy to be getting a school, we didn't bring it up. Well, no one at the district level noticed that there was something wrong, and long story short, we didn't get a multi purpose room, which they would have built for us had they known. We ended up having to have it done ourselves, and it's a portable building, doesn't fit with the architecture of the schools, ugly, AND mighty pricy too. That was the cost of not questioning what didn't seem right. Not that dire, in the sceme of things, but not small either.