*** Initial Disclaimer: No I’m not talking about something that recently happened. This has nothing to do with my current employer. Carry on. ***
Never, does the pain of elitism sting worse, than when you face-off against a BS artist with stronger speaking skills than you. It doesn’t matter how well you know your stuff, this joker somehow manages to make you look like a babbling idiot. Multiply that pain by ten, if your boss seems to buy into it. You think your head is going to explode.
Since you are a professional, you don’t explode. Instead, you get a grip on yourself, take a step back and regroup. Someday, you might look back on this and have a good laugh. Well, okay, probably not.
Try to imagine for a moment, the times when you have been in a room and some really smart person is talking. The guy knows his stuff. Everyone can see that this person knows what he is doing and you can see how the things he says just “are right“. For example, many people think of Steve Jobs as this kind of person.
I’m not talking about that and I’m not talking about a sales pitch, where you really should expect the BS to be flying like a Gallagher concert. No, I’m talking about a meeting room with a half dozen suits and 2-3 IT folks. There is a smart-sounding person (consultant or something) who is talking and making sense until suddenly, things take a left-turn and he says something that is TOTALLY wrong but nobody questions him. The guy is eloquent and charismatic. He sounds so informed, but did he really just say THAT, like it was a real fact or something. Am I the only person who caught that? Maybe I should raise my hand. That might seem unusual.
I have been in this situation a half dozen times. Even though I was brought-in to scrutinize the material, it didn’t seem appropriate to speak up and interrupt this person. Plus, the person sounds super intelligent and really intimidating. He is way-more prepared to handle you than you are to correct him. He will probably make you look stupid in front of everyone and thereby, seemingly solidify his argument (regardless of its validity). It is like you brought a gun to a knife fight, but this fight is under water, so your bullets are no good. You are actually at a disadvantage.
So I keep my mouth shut while all of the people in the room just keep nodding and go along with it. I’m sure that, after the meeting, people will ask me to set the record straight so I’ll just take good notes and wait for it.
But it never happens. Nobody questions any of it and nobody asks me for my observations. So, now what? Now, it is probably my obligation to find each-and-every person who was misinformed and correct things. Just kidding. I know I should go through my chain of command. I will convince my boss and he will convince the other suits. After all, he speaks their language better anyway. Heck he might already be thinking the same way as me but he kept his poker face. Maybe the two of us can have a laugh about it.
So, you explain to your boss the obvious flaw in the speaker’s logic and wait for your boss to be impressed with your shrewd discernment. After all, there are some serious decisions being based off-of this information. You may have saved some kiesters today. Don’t let it go to your head.
Then the unthinkable happens. Your boss already fell for the BS. He believes the BS, completely. Not only that, now he questions your motives. “What is your problem, eh? You think you know more than that guy? I suppose you know better than your boss too now?” As if you are calling him a gullible idiot and everyone else too. Gulp! Your boss continues, “If there really was something wrong with it, why didn’t you speak up right then? Why didn’t you say it to his face so he could defend himself?” Whoa! What has just happened?
You get the feeling that your boss is expecting you to agree with him and shut up and leave. However, you feel a strong sense of obligation to your employer. This stuff is kind of a big deal this time. You can see how harmful this could be. You feel caught in the middle (and somewhat responsible) with no options.
So, since you are not getting anywhere with your boss, your only choices are:
A. mortgage your career and “go all-in”. If this BS is a mistake that will ruin your department and your company, then it is the most honorable choice. You know you can’t win, but you will die with your boots on.
– or –
B. Just go along with it. After all, you aren’t in charge and you already did your due-diligence by discussing it with your boss and maybe even a VP or something. At this point it is not your fault. Maybe it is not as bad as it seems.
In the end, your better judgment takes over (thank goodness) and you go with the one that sounds less crazy and abrupt.
But somehow, your conscience just gnaws at you. Can you stand around and watch this car crash?! Isn’t there something you can do to fix this?
To be continued… in part 2: What to do now.