Wise guys finish last

It is sometimes a temptation to strut your smarts in front of others. But doing so spontaneously and mindlessly can be self-defeating.
By Raymond Dreyfack November 1, 1999

It is sometimes a temptation to strut your smarts in front of others. But doing so spontaneously and mindlessly can be self-defeating.

At a meeting attended by members of the plant engineering staff, the subject under discussion was a roofing cost estimate that had been submitted by Ted Jordan, a young engineer. Project Supervisor Hal Glover fired questions at Jordan that he had difficulty answering. It quickly became apparent that Jordan’s work on the job left something to be desired.

Embarrassed, the engineer asked his boss, “How would you have approached the job?”

Glover grinned. “Any way but how you did, I guess.”

A chorus of appreciative chuckles followed. Jordan’s red face registered something other than appreciation.

Later that day, having been informed of the incident, Plant Engineer John Holden summoned Glover to his office.

Question: In Holden’s place, what would you have said to the project supervisor?

Holden’s counsel: “That crack you made to Ted Jordan at this morning’s meeting was pretty clever, the way I heard it,” Holden said.

Glover shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

“A touch of humor is welcome at meetings,” Holden said. “But clever or not, when criticism is heavy-handed, it may come off as amusing to others, but not so much to the victim. Even if the joke was well intended, the only purpose accomplished, other than displaying your wit, was to embarrass Jordan more than he already was. When temptation like that strikes again, my advice would be to curb it.”