When arrogance gets the better of you

I try to live a low-key existence in the office.  Although I can try and make myself noticed, I choose to keep life simple by retreating into my tiny corner, playing second fiddle to the assitant of my boss’s boss.  I used to be where she was with the former boss, but I’m happy where I’m at, being with the boss I serve now.

I can do so much more, I know.  I can tinker with his numerous presentations and give it more pizzaz, but he has a whole department doing that for him.  If he sees I can do things better, I will be doing the job that others should be doing for him instead.   From time to time, I put in my two cents’ worth editing some of the correspondence his people are to release in his name — only because I want him to be at his best, more so when something goes out under his signature.  Like today. 

A major crisis arose over the weekend when part of our connectivity was compromised.  As a result, clients were affected, leading to many complaints that have escalated through the week-long interruption of service.  One of the technical persons took a stab at the explanation and apology.  It was way too technical and too long, so I suppose he asked his Communications person to give him a draft.  As I have full access to his e-mail, I chanced upon that draft as I was about to leave the office. 

Even if English is their native tongue, many Americans have a problem writing coherently in their own language.  It sounded grammatically passable, but a comma was missing where it should be, and the sentences could have been written better.  So I took a stab at it, re-wrote the note, and typed it as a reply to the original e-mail, addressed to my boss.  I did not hit the “send” button, but instead, I printed the whole thing with a note prefacing the suggested text.  I told my boss that while I know I may be overstepping my bounds in doing what I did, I just thought that the note could be written better, softened to make the customer more open to accepting the apology, and that he was free to take the suggestion or not.  I wrote a PS, though, that if he decided to use my text, I would appreciate it if he didn’t tell them I was the one who tweaked the text and not him.

I have noticed that not everyone has the same attitude as I have when it comes to finding out that other people can actually do things better than you, or that this person knows more than you do.  It’s the same reason I don’t dispense unsolicited advice, even legal advice, unless it is sought.  But when I am asked, unless you catch me at the wrong time, I am usually generous in sharing what I know and what I have. 

Perhaps it’s this feeling of willingness to share and to learn from others that gets me so irritated when arrogance takes others over when they realize I actually have a brain between my ears.  I have long ago realized that while you can find friends among your colleagues, that is more the exception than the rule.  We coexist as workers — that we become friends is almost surely but an accident, and a pleasant one at that –  but I know that coexistence and office camaraderie are not to be confused with genuine friendship.

So I do the usual banter, I will ask about your weekend and your family and share news about mine.. but the really personal stuff, I keep to myself.  That way, I take things in stride when I suddenly hear the assistant of the boss’s boss snapping at me.  And then the next minute she’s talking to me as if we were close relatives.  But please don’t ask my opinion about a question you already have made your mind up about, and get all prissy about my answer.  Arrogance closes our minds and hearts to the possibilities out there.  It gives us tunnel vision which prevents us from seeing the bigger picture.

Maybe the boss will like what I wrote.  Maybe he won’t.  If he does, I just don’t want to risk the ire of the experts.  After all, I’m just an EA in this world.