Think you’re clever, eh? You’re not alone, it’s a common failing. Well, what would you do, asks Spa! (Nov 24), in the following situation? You’re a lower-middle-ranking company executive and your boss, whether out of malice or ignorance or simply for want of a better idea, hands you a massive assignment and an impossible deadline. There are four choices. 1: You say, “Yes boss! Whatever you say, boss!” - and walk away muttering to yourself, “My God, what have I done!” 2: You temporize: “Er… that’s difficult… that’s really difficult” – and see how he takes it; maybe he’ll take pity on you and extend the deadline? 3: You accept the assignment and then, when the boss isn’t looking, fob it off on some unlucky subordinate who is as afraid of you as you are of the boss. 4: You say, “I can’t possibly do it all, but I’ll do what I can.”
Spa!’s package consists of several hypothetical conundrums of the sort we all face daily, at work and socially, more often than not doing exactly the wrong thing, not because we’re stupid – on the contrary, we’re clever! – but because real life has its tensions that warp the judgment. Anyone coolly assessing the situation from outside would immediately recognize 2 as the worst option – you’re giving up before you’ve even tried. Even 3 is better than that. And yet 2 is probably what a boss hears most, particularly from younger and less experienced staff. As for 1, the only justification for going that route is insecurity bordering on neurosis. No, 4 is best, says one four analysts the magazine enlists, columnist Takeo Maekawa – you’re showing in just a few words the vision that grasps the scope of the work, the courage to confront the boss, and the fact that you take your work seriously.
Or how about this: you’re meeting a client to clinch a sale, waiting for a subordinate with the knowledge to address some last-minute difficulties that have come up. But where is the subordinate? He’s late, damn him! What do you do?
Again, four choices. 1: You apologize profusely and wait for the subordinate to show, relying on your small talk skills to fill the awkward silence. 2: You say, “I’ll give him hell, don’t worry; in the meantime, please pardon us.” 3: You make excuses for him: “He’s an exemplary employee, apart from his unfortunate tendency to neglect the time.” 4: You say, “The responsibility’s mine,” and proceed with the matter at hand, dispensing with the subordinate and his expert knowledge.
No. 4 is best, says Maekawa. See it from the client’s viewpoint, he counsels. The client isn’t interested in you, or your subordinate, or the relationship between you; he wants to close the deal; that’s what he came for. Yes – but what if the subordinate’s expertise really is essential?
From work to love. Are there two kinds of cleverness involved, or is he who is clever in one arena necessarily clever in the other? Spa! (whose readership is predominantly male, incidentally – hence the masculine pronouns) doesn’t say, but the question naturally arises. Imagine this: you’re at a restaurant with your date and she finds a bug in her food. What do you do? 1: Take her plate and give her yours, letting it go at that. 2: Call the waiter and demand a replacement. 3: Insist that the waiter bring the manager over. 4: Apologize to your date for having chosen this restaurant in the first place.
Choice 3 is appealing if you want to show yourself to your date as a man who takes charge and won’t put up with any nonsense, but causing a scene in a restaurant spoils a happy occasion and leaves everyone feeling foolish. No. 1 fails equally for the opposite reason – you come across looking nice but feckless. How about, suggests Takako Kawasaki, who runs a consultancy for working women, 2 plus 4 – a quiet request to the waiter for a replacement and an apology to the lady: “I should have known better.” Or something.
One more: you and your date have been dining and drinking and having a fine time, each moment a little more intimate than the last. You leave the restaurant or club or bar, a love hotel the obvious destination – but you arrive at one and all of a sudden she has second thoughts: “I’d really better go home.” Well, you can sputter this and grumble that, but this is one of those situations in which there simply are no good options and all the cleverness in the world won’t help you. Go home, sleep it off and hope for better luck next time.© Japan Today