Complaining: Don't sweat the small stuff
One of the most common gripes I hear from corporate complainers is that they're surrounded by people who see the world incorrectly. Sometimes it's the accountant who works for a CEO who doesn't understand numbers. Or it's the artist who works for a marketing team that doesn't understand fonts. It's always someone who's so sure she's right, and so sick of the other person's ignorance, that she even sometimes thinks of quitting.
But when you quit, you never know what you'll get in the next job– all you know is that in every company there are people who feel alienated by stupidity. So instead of thinking about leaving, think about how to get along.
The key to getting along with other people is to keep your eye on what really matters and let the rest go. This is the attitude that conveys poise and self-confidence in corporate life. And this is the way you will learn to stop caring who's right and who's wrong.
If you find that more than 45 percent of verbal exchanges matter a lot, you have lost all perspective. Most things people say at work do not matter. Even if the comment affects your job that day or that week, it will not affect your job long-term. In the face of ignorance, you must learn to recognize when to ignore it and when to take action. The standard for something that matters is if it will have long-term impact on your life.
I learned this lesson early because my three brothers and my mother are colorblind. My mom and brothers see color, but they don't see it how the rest of the world sees it. If you say, "What color is this?" and point to something, sometimes they'll get it right, and sometimes they won't. I could say, "It's blue, not green." But they don't care. Sometimes they just shrug. Or say, "Well, maybe to you, but not to us."
There's not much I can do when they are the majority. So I became philosophical about who's right. I realized that in most cases it doesn't matter that I'm right and they're wrong. So we called the family car purple, even though I knew it wasn't.
But sometimes capitulating is not an option– for example, if someone is breaking the law, or if someone is making you truly unable to do your job. But usually, in the case of ignorance, there's a way to compromise.
Once I was driving with my brother and discovered that none of my colorblind family members could see the green light. They depended on seeing if the red or yellow light is on.
I had a fit.
He said that it didn't matter. He pointed out that my mom hasn't seen a green light in 40 years of driving.
Of course I'm right that driving like this is a hazard. But ultimately, my family will continue to drive. And ultimately, it's an issue for the department of transportation (who I hope reads this because 10 percent of the population is colorblind). I would gain very little by insisting that I'm right. So I concentrated on saving my life and reported the color of lights for the rest of the trip.
Many of you find yourselves surrounded by people who are, in effect, colorblind. They don't know what they're looking at and don't care. Instead of insisting that these people admit they're wrong, let them think what they want while you keep your eye on the parts of your job that matter long-term.
Meanwhile, to quell your urge to be rude or mean, remember that few people are stupid in every category. So keep good relations with the chronically ignorant because they could prove useful at a later point.
I find that the most annoying part of being surrounded by the colorblind is that I'm right and there's no one to acknowledge that I'm right. And that goes back to top managers being poised and self-confident. In most cases one's own insecurity rather than brilliance that makes one feels alienated by stupidity.
In search of poise and perspective in my career, I've tried to focus on myself and the smart people around me, and that has made me feel smarter and happier in my work.