At a job I worked at in the past, one of my long distance supervisors felt that I was defensive and avoided conflict. Well that’s true; the singing “I can’t hear you, north woods no coverage” and “oh, were we supposed to talk at 8am Western Standard time, not 8am Central?” when she wanted to do phone conferences probably clued her in.
She talked the talk, which was reason enough not to trust her. I didn’t always agree , no bobble-headed yes, yes, yes when she just tossed out criticisms or programs to add. If you did agree there were more reports to do and admitting fault – more yuck (sticky, green, slimy) fell on your hair-net covered head and splattered on the white lab coat. So, of course, if it seemed absolutely destined to be, I volunteered to do it – whatever it was – in my area. Method, go first and have the most leeway, let others get splattered.
I was a consultant dietitian (aka food and sanitation police and writer of many nutritional recommendations). I traveled to nursing homes all over Wisconsin saving elderly people from food poisoning. I liked the managers that didn’t just agree. “That’s never going to work, I’m not even going to try it! No.” Oh, oops, that’s me talking.
I never minded staff telling me why some program wouldn’t work for them, it saves a lot of time. I had a really high rate of getting things in place at my facilities, because we adjusted them so they would work – “we’ll just cut the Main Cook into two pieces.” I think my acceptance (yes I do like to know what isn’t going to work) of their defensiveness was part of the reason (along with helping to figure out how it could work).
The other part was knowing/asking what they wanted to have happen or were troubled by because something wasn’t working, then I’d offer ideas or pieces of programs that might resolve their problems. “So they hate the food, are calling the state to complain…hmm, let’s give them fish! Fresh fish from Lake Superior. Yeah, get me a fishing pole, get them all fishing poles.” (This really did happen-well, I didn’t get to fish – and it was one of the keys to get the complainers willing to give us a chance.)
Accepting fault is good if you’re the boss or even the consultant, then you’re magnanimous and loyal to your staff and consultants are expected to abandon the area. I’ve only had one supervisor who always did take the blame and I was very impressed and loyal and ashamed that I hadn’t quite risen to that standard. Accepting blame otherwise is not always appreciated for the bravery and foolhardiness it takes and often results in a checklist of items that you can be the scapegoat for in the future. On page 56 of our weekly 15 minute review of the whole facility and all its policies and charts we initialed everything as complete.
The walk-in cooler is a great panic room, thick walls, lots of McGiver weapons. That’s why I think some defensiveness is a virtue especially when you don’t know where or the why of the attack that is happening.
What, did you say you initialed everything as complete? Don’t initial everything as complete. Everyone knows that’s not true. What do you mean you used the same pen for every day’s checklist for a year? The temperatures can’t all be the same, are you kidding? Under budget, not likely.
No we can’t just skip serving vegetables because nobody likes them. What do you mean everybody liked everything? This is institutional food we’re talking about.
I also think truth, justice, the American way, humility, taking credit where credit might be due, protecting those that need protection, Wisconsin cheese, simplicity, complexity, intuition and deep study are virtues.