The Advent of the Misunderstood Analogy began due to frustrations with a boss who shall go un-named. As situations go, this one started innocently enough. A misunderstanding here, a plea for help and change there, anger, grief, spite, burning rage… Everything you might expect when it comes to work related issues that you’ve managed to let get under your skin. You might say the innocence was lost in an elevation of emotion.
But all other details aside, this story is about an analogy which I believed was quite clear, but which somehow missed the mark. Let’s begin, shall we?
A sad, frustrated, and somewhat disgruntled employee sat across the table from his boss, a glassy-eyed woman with the best of intentions and an infuriating smile on her face that said, “I hear you, but I don’t understand.”
“Have you ever done any research or study into work place motivation? Essentially, what you’re doing is exactly what every study, and every expert on the subject, says to avoid.”
“Well,” the boss said, her voice aglow with practiced honey and an underlying stubbornness. “We’ve done it that way for two years. We aren’t going to change that now.”
The employee drops his head and looks at the table in front of him. What can he possibly say? Looking up halfway through his words, he responds, “But if it’s wrong, and most signs point toward this being a negative form of employee motivation, wouldn’t you want to stop and try for better results using proven methods?”
“Well you see, we’ve been doing it that way for two years, and we’re not going to change now, just because of you,” the boss said, her head titled to the side, a look of both confusion and resolve equally at play on her face.
“I’m not saying this for me…” the worker said, again dropping his gaze and wishing he could will her to understand.
(On a complete side note, unrelated to the story… A bird just flew into the window two feet away from me. Quite literally flew, full speed into the window, bounded off, hit the ground, got up, looked around, and then flew off a bit wobbly. Nice.)
“Let me try and hit this from a different angle,” he said.
“Okay,” the boss said, “I’m open to your feedback.”
No you aren’t, he thought. And you couldn’t grasp it even if you were. Still, he had to try. “Okay. So you said you’ve had that up for two years.”
“And that’s the base of your argument to keep it up.”
“I don’t see a reason to take it down,” the boss said.
“Other than that all experts agree it is the type of thing that fosters an unhealthy working environment,” the worker points out.
“But we’ve had it up for two years,” the boss responds with a smile, as if striking the killing blow.
“Yes…” the worker says. “I could punch myself in the face every day for two years but doesn’t mean I should keep doing it.”
The boss pauses for a moment. “Of course not, we don’t endorse violence.”
Wait a moment. Did I just hear that correctly? Maybe this is just me, but I thought that was pretty obviously an analogy. You know, when you compare two ideas/actions to highlight a point you're making? I am wrong in thinking I that this was obviously an analogy? At this point, I’m stuck somewhere in-between extreme frustration and being incredibly amused. Surely nobody could think… but no, she obviously did. It’s like she turned on manager training mode. She had the right words and phrases to handle any situation… unfortunately, there seemed to be a disconnect between trigger words and the meanings and intentions behind them. All else is explosives and primer cord. In one sentence she has initiated the detonation.
If this particular event hadn’t happened to me, I would be laughing outrageously, and to most people, quite unjustifiably. This is the type of event that sets my funny meter to overload. “…we don’t endorse violence.” Classic! But I was there… I experienced this. This is MY boss, a person who, while obviously nice, caring, and even willing to try and tackle concerns and my frustrations, seems to be lacking the competence to grasp a simple analogy.
I’ve chosen to call this The Advent of the Misunderstood Analogy, but perhaps it would have been better to call it The Beginning of the End of My Workplace Sanity. And should she see this, perhaps The Short-lived Waiting Career of Brandon Orgill