Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Man Who Didn't Shout

I once knew a supervisor who didn't shout.

He was polite and soft-spoken. He didn't rush to judgment and when he reached a decision, it was after carefully considering a wide range of alternatives.

He drove many of his associates nuts.

Why? Because they thought he had a hidden agenda. The deadline he gave couldn't be a real deadline, it must be a negotiable one, and the standards he set must be open to haggling.

His rationality was a problem for them. He sought calm, order, and accuracy. They wanted emotion, loose arrangements, and rough estimates.

Both sides, of course, needed to understand the other, but the associates had the greater burden. Their supervisor was not going to engage in emotional pyrotechnics. He would never explode in rage or be abusive. But he was going to be disappointed if they did not learn his low-key lexicon. If he said, "I really don't like that option," that was his equivalent of throwing a lamp across the room.

He didn't have a hidden agenda. He just had a different language.

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