Anyone can be the Asshole
(One of the 83 quick and practical life & work lessons from Sh*t Sandwich: Quick & Practical Success Lessons for Practically Anyone.)
Be The Expert; Not The Asshole
Every business and every industry has experts.
Not the “fake it ‘til you make it” variety, but genuine experts who have a crap load of knowledge they can share. While being known as one of these at your company could be valuable, it’s important to remember that nobody likes a know-it-all. Nobody.
I’m going to overgeneralize here, but true experts basically come in two flavors: the Wise Mentor-Experts and the OMG-Will-You-Please-Just-Shut-Your-Mouth-Experts. The lesson I’m going for here is to help you become the expert without becoming the asshole… and this is not going to be an easy task for some of you.
If you truly have most of the answers (someone must, right?), I understand that it’s tough living with such greatness and having such wisdom. I understand that there are times when you look around your office and you just want to scream at the top of your lungs because you work with such incompetent people. I understand that for every issue presented, you have an instant solution that’s just dying to be heard.
If your work life seems a little backward – in that the more you know about a subject, the less your coworkers want your advice or assistance – then you are probably more of an asshole and less of an expert to others. If this describes you, let’s look at how you can use your great intellect and tremendous store of knowledge for good instead of evil.
First, let’s agree that most of the people you will ever work with – in fact, the overwhelming majority – will be folks who believe that good enough is good enough. The frustrating part for the experts is that these people are mostly right. Good enough, in most cases, is actually good enough. (Thus the moniker “good enough.”) There is a price for perfection that is too low when we’re talking about space travel and too high when we’re talking about making a coffee at Starbucks.
Recognizing when a decision concerns a critical spacewalk versus when it’s what to serve at the company Christmas party will help the asshole in you stay silent when a coworker suggests canned cranberry sauce. (Oh the humanity!)
Next, understand that for most decisions from above there are multiple good answers, even if there is only one best answer. So long as your boss has chosen one of the good ones, zip your lip and move on. The damage to this important relationship caused by always being right is cumulative.
Finally, when you must openly disagree with someone (because it’s a critical spacewalk decision), try to mix in a little respect and kindness as you first explain their position and the reasons you agree with most of it – you’ll be amazed at how quickly people will begin to see your side.