It Doesn’t Always Pay to be Smart

I’m learning that one slowly. I don’t have to be right all the time anymore.

Sometimes that works out and sometimes it doesn’t. I have one example of each and they’re related to the same incident.

On the one side, I visited a school to observe a student. I was told that the student has a taxi arranged as part of her educational program. All well and good, but the taxi wasn’t documented appropriately. When I pointed this out, I got a hand wave and a complaint of "Oh! Those forms are so redundant, so what." Yeah, maybe they are, but this is how you fill them out so why invite grief doing them the wrong way? I said nothing, instead saying, "Ah…okay." Now, this is the closest I came to a confrontation with anybody there that day, so I can only assume that this is what they were talking about when they later complained that I was "pompous" when I was there. So I guess it didn’t work that time. I didn’t get sucked into the argument but it was probably clear that I’d cut short a debate.

I knew that these people weren’t going to like what I had to say (because they’d done several things inappropriately), but when they did it was such a big deal that I commented to my boss later on that there was "weeping and gnashing of teeth and rending of garments," which is a cliche at best and a mixed metaphor at worst. Maybe (probably) I shouldn’t have put that in an email, since he thought I was talking about him. Oops. But the other thing that he says upset him was that the phrase was both Biblical and sexist.

Huh? Biblical, sure: "weeping & gnashing" comes from several places in the Book of Matthew (and once in Luke). None of them are gender-specific as far as who’s weeping (or, in one case, wailing). "Rending of garments" appears throughout the Bible and again has no specificity; it’s simply an expression of grief. I’ll let you do the lookups.

But am I going to bring this up? No, sir. When you’re on the carpet you can NOT appear to be smarter than the guy yelling at you; it’ll just make him angrier. Plus, it’s really kind of beside the point. So, for a change, I managed to keep my damn mouth shut and took the abuse. The only thing I said was that I was going for a cliche rather than a sexist remark and let it go at that.

Nevertheless, the leadership maxim stands: If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. If you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.

At least, I think it does, anyway.