I got called into the boss’ office last week. The big man thinks I should be more assertive. Apparently, it’s not enough to just show up to group meetings and sit in the back sighing loudly. He says it disturbs the others.
I asked whether it’s any better when I crawl under the conference table and weep softly. He said that’s better, but it’s still not good enough. Clearly, he’s not interested in meeting me halfway on this one. Damn.
So, I had to show some assertiveness. Our weekly meeting was this morning, and I had a lot to learn. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to assert yourself.
(I tried that once with the wife. It got me a sore jaw and a week sleeping on the futon. She gets awfully grumpy when someone asserts all over her first thing in the morning.
Moving right along, then.)
The point is, you can’t just hitch up your petard and become assertive at the drop of a hat. I brought this up to the boss.
Okay, technically I whispered it to a coworker and asked her to bring it up to the boss for me. Seriously. Not so assertive.
“The stunned silence in the room — and the water that Sarah spewed across the conference table — told me I was on the right track.”
He relayed back a useful bit of advice — try a role model. Find someone who has their assertive mojo working, and emulate them. Study their moves. Learn their tricks. Use your role model to slingshot yourself into assertive nirvana.
Fair enough. So I did some thinking, and came up with someone who’s the very epitome of ‘assertive’. He’s clear and direct, he isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and he nearly always gets what he wants. In other words, a perfect role model. I chose Samuel L. Jackson.
With my sensei of assertion selected thusly, I began my studies. I rented Pulp Fiction. I went out and caught Snakes on a Plane. And I started watching Afro Samurai.
(I left out the Star Wars movies. Jedis are cool and all, but they’re hardly ‘assertive’. Yoda couldn’t assert his way out of a big green alien paper bag.)
Over the course of these viewings, I think I learned a lot. I lived Samuel L. I breathed Samuel L. By meeting time this morning, I’d graduated from Samuel L. U., and I had become Samuel L. I was ready to assert the shit out of those fools.
Early on, I had my first opportunity. My coworker Sarah was giving a presentation on a new proposal. It’s a project near to her heart, and the excitement was getting to her. She wanted so badly to get her idea approved, she was stammering and sweating through her talk. I decided to assert myself, and give her some friendly encouragement. Assertively.
So the next time she paused, flustered, to take a sip of water and collect her thoughts, I stood up, put a hand gently on her shoulder, and said:
‘You need to ar-tic-ulate the business justifi-ca-tion. Opportunity cost, motherfucker, do you speak it?‘
The stunned silence in the room — and the water that Sarah spewed across the conference table — told me I was on the right track. I was just saying — nay, asserting — what they were all thinking. My boss was right — this was much better than sitting under the table crying.
Later, there was a spirited debate over a proposed improvement that someone suggested. The old me would have never gotten involved. I would have watched from the sidelines, and let the issue sort itself out. But not today. Not Mr. Assertive. I banged my fist on the table, stood up, and made my opinions known:
Me: People, people, peop-le. There is no reason to discuss this any further. This idea is crazy righteous, and it changes ev-erything. I’m talkin’ ’bout a motherfucking shift of a motherfucking paradigm, here!
Coworker Stan: Um… what? We were just talking about whether to move the break room sofa to the other wall.
Me: That’s what I’m talkin’ about, bitches! A motherfucking shift!
Coworker Stan: What?
Me: Say ‘what’ again! I motherfucking dare you. Say ‘what’ one more goddamn time. Bitch, you will KNOW I am the LORD when I lay–
Coworker Stan: Oh, go to hell. You’re probably the one who left that big greasy stain on the sofa, anyway.
Me: Well, check out the big brain on Stan!
I thought the meeting went well. But afterwards, the boss called me into his office again. Now he’s decided he doesn’t want me to be so assertive. Also, I have to apologize to Sarah. And if I quote Ezekiel to Stan again, it’s going on my record. All that fuss, just for following supervisors’ orders.
Sounds to me like some motherfuckers need to make up their damned minds. That’s what I assert, bitches. Oh hell, yes.Permalink | 3 Comments