Modern Jackass

I was out the other day with my wife and one of her best friends. We were planning activities for their joint birthday party; a scavenger hunt and a topic for a future blog post. Anyway, we were all laughing and her friend brought something up about some guy she knew and how full of it he was; Modern Jackass, they both shouted in the car in unison!

For those who do not know what a Modern Jackass is, the NPR show This American Life coined the term to describe “a person who talks expertly about something he/she actually knows nothing about.” We laughed and agreed how he, along with many people we come across in work and life, take one piece of information, fact or data point and talk about it as if they are experts on the subject. We discussed the topic the rest of the afternoon.

Shoot forward to the middle of a work day…. I am having a conversation with a co-worker about a subject that I know more than one fact about, but nonetheless, am no expert on when it struck me; Modern Jackass! Ahhh! I am a Modern Jackass!

It gets worse…

I was Monologuing too! Yes, like Syndrome in The Incredibles (One of my all time favorite movies,) I got on my soapbox and monologue’d about the situation, the problem as I saw it and the people involved. The other person in the discussion did the same and I guess it was cathartic or something. Still, I felt like a jerk.

Two big “fo pas” one should never conduct at work, right there, by me….at the same time! What killed me was how easy it came to drop in default mode, act like an expert due to my position in the company and start talking about stuff I really had not fully researched or understood.

I see this happen every day, all around me and especially in the work world. I have read blogs and articles that point to a general fact that people talk more about things they know the least amount of and this goes hand-in-hand with psychology studies that show people seek out sources of information that support their point of view. My wife is a Social Worker and has said this for years.

Together, these make a righteous pair…

Don’t be a Modern Jackass and do not monologue. Ask questions, more questions and even more questions. Learn the facts before stepping on a soapbox and preaching your self-proclaimed expertise. Your co-workers will think you are an arrogant jerk and all around know-it-all. This is not becoming for anyone. We know it’s true.

Every problem, puzzle or situation has more than one side to the story. It has multiple, complex sides that deal with politics, money, emotions, ego and each person’s personal sense of value. Blogs and career sites across the web tell us to listen more and talk less as an essential quality for career success.

Do not underestimate this poignant fact. Yes, you can know the answer, be direct, kick-ass, take names, make it happen and get it done. But, you won’t have much support from co-workers internally when you screw up…and you will. We all do at one point in our careers and when that day comes, there will be nobody to get your back; they will all be under the bus talking about what a jerk you are etc.

You can see I am monologuing right now…

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