From Superior Smirk to Sparkling Smile

Bosses running around me like chickens. Color coded papers being separated into piles but somehow simultaneously dissapearing. Data entry specialists overflow with papers on their desks. It seems impossible that the computers can store all this stuff. The bagels are stale. The coffee is cold, and I’m too sleepy.

It’s days like this when I see many of my superiors flustered and basically rude to those around them helping. I watch as an administrative assistant, quiet as a mouse, meekly waits to ask the director a question. The patient assistant politely states, “whenever you get a second,” smiling. The response is a smirk and a frustrated, “I won’t obviously.”

Here’s where I am confused. Although everyone is busy trying to exercise “exactness and efficiency,” this productive colleague seeking clarity in order to ensure the effectiveness that her Department needs, arrives at a dead end with no answers, guidance or agency to organize by her own method (hence the colleague would be perceived as overstepping and presumptuous). So, what should a professional do at a time like this?

As an observer, it seems the answer lied within the administrative assistant’s reaction. She did not appear alarmed, frustrated or confused. She simply waited one more minute until the leader composed herself and finally turned to converse properly to the patient peer. At this point the leader looked less arranged and more flustered than the administrative assistant. I witnessed the verbal exchange, and eventually both colleagues interacted calmly and politely.

In other words, not only did the reasonable question get answered without conflict, but also the cynical response was diluted by the inquirer’s professional composure.

In order for a team-oriented task to be successfully completed, it is the whole team’s job to keep things glued together. This includes actively exuding dynamic/proactive feedback that can then network throughout the body of the team. Had the administrative assistant been offended or frustrated by the response received, conflict, miscommunication or failure to perform may have inhibited production and accuracy.

Innately, one (myself included) tends to blame the leader for the disarray, however, because the administrative assistant took the high road by prioritizing the task rather than herself or her boss’ social gliche, the team continued to perform.

But how much responsibility must the team members take in terms of this mutual dynamic between members and the “boss”? What differs the accidental second of rudeness from simple disrespect or exploitation? The difference may be in behavior patterns. I suppose productivity could be another indicator, but there are many times when a leader implements rudeness and still attains results.

Whatever the answers, I did learn that if you like your job and your boss, it’s worth momentarily leading the leader toward the high road, keeping everyone on track.

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