Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wanting to Slap a Minion

If you’ve ever worked with engineers, you’ve probably experienced this. And it doesn’t necessarily happen with only minions (aka people much lower down on the totem pole than you), but you get the feeling most strongly with minions.

A scenario will play out like this:

A professor, who has a doctorate in the field plus 15 years of industry experience plus a book written with his name on it, will be explaining something to the class. It will be something extremely well studied that was discovered a long time ago, probably by Bernoulli, and a student will challenge him. The student will argue with him for ten minutes about something not pertinent to passing the class which is basically saying, “I know you have all these degrees and experience and I’m a 19-year-old boy, but I’ve thought of something NO ONE else has, and basically, I’m smarter than you.”

Unfortunately for that student, most professors aren’t afraid to embarrass you in front of the entire class. Depending on the professor there can be several responses: 1) handing the marker to the student and asking him to teach the class if he’s so smart, 2) just verbally smacking him down by listing your accomplishments versus his (I’ve got five degrees and a Nobel Prize. And you’ve…graduated from high school), 3) telling the student to get out of the class and not come back until he’s ready to learn, and really the possibilities here are endless. Professors are creative people.

But this doesn’t just happen to professors. At my new shiny, real job, I have an intern who makes me want to slap him daily. A scenario will play out like this:

Melody: The type A bolts go here. (pointing to a series of holes)

Intern: You’re wrong.

Said intern couldn’t even see where Melody was pointing. He just assumed that she, a woman with a college degree (which he doesn’t have) and two years of working experience (which he also doesn’t have) is wrong. He then proceeded to give us the “right” answer by pointing exactly where Melody just pointed.

About this time I have an overwhelming desire to slap him upside the head.

He does this a lot and he’s not alone. Many engineers have this “I’m always right and you’re always wrong” mindset. Which absolutely makes no sense to me.

I always assume my superiors at work and school are correct and if there is something where I really feel they’re wrong, I just don’t state “You’re wrong.” I’ll usually say, “Should we double check that?” or “I seem to remember being taught such-and-such (which is the opposite of what you are saying) in class. Is that wrong?”—thereby forcing the person to think about what they said and explain themselves.

Basically there are nicer ways to say things without making your superior want to slap you or just stare at you and say, “I have three degrees. Who do you think you are, Mr. I’m-about-to-be-a-third-year-in-college?”

Currently, we’ve ignored this interns “you’re wrong, I’m right” tendencies. He’s leaving in two weeks. It’s not a big deal. But I’m not sure what the appropriate way to deal with this behavior is. (Slapping is, unfortunately, not an option). Has anyone out there dealt with this attitude? Anyone out there ever wanted to slap a minion? What have you done instead? How have you dealt with it?

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