By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.
A year or two ago, I sent a video to my landlord from the basement of the house I was renting. Water was literally pouring through a hole, looking very much like a stream you would see in a fountain. My concern was damage to the foundation since, if it wasn’t fixed, water would freeze in the winter causing more damage. The landlord responded, “It’s only doing that because of the recent heavy rains.” Gee whiz, thank you, Mr. Science. He never did
Apparently, he assumed I just thought I wanted to know why, and I’m guessing he was quite proud to be able to explain it to me. So, when he gave me his answer, it was probably settled in his mind.
Pride gets in our way a lot. I know I struggle with it myself, so I will offer no answers here, save perhaps to help us see the dangers and symptoms. See, it’s pride that has us trying to answer questions quickly, to show off our knowledge. In so doing, as my landlord did, there are a couple of dangers:
First, we don’t fully listen. When somebody is speaking to us, we don’t fully listen. We wait for a pause so we can jump in and show off our intelligence.
Second, when we do answer, it is often the wrong answer, because we didn’t fully hear the question. This problem can be exacerbated when we are so sure that we have the right answer that we cannot get our brain off of that incorrect response.
Finally, it works against our knowledge. My landlord was so sure of himself, that he never tried to look to solve the real problem, and by now there’s a good chance that this already large problem is beyond repair.
Several years ago, I was working with a police department in the evidence lab. I was given an order to give full unrestricted access to a civilian employee to the photographic evidence database. This individual had no training in working with these photographs, and no investigative portion of their job to warrant access. In fact, there is no justifiable reason that, should s/he need a photograph, it would constitute such an emergency that it cannot be done with supervision of a member of the command staff.
I follow orders, but I have a habit of trying to discuss concerns when they arise. When I received this order, I worried about the reputation of the department. See, this database isn’t just images of houses and blood and car accidents, but it includes images of victims of physical and sexual abuse, often completely naked, and during a horrible and perhaps the worst day of their life. How will these people feel knowing this individual has access to those photos? How will the general population feel? What will happen to the reputation of this department?
So, I asked if I could meet with my supervisor to discuss my concerns. The response I received was, “This has already been discussed at the highest levels. Your input is not important.”
Wow. Seriously? Never once did my supervisor actually ask me what the concern was that I had wanted to discuss. Eventually, this lead to my dismissal. At the last meeting with my supervisor (and my supervisor’s supervisor), s/he said to me, “I know what your concern was. You are worried that this person will use the images inappropriately.”
No, that’s wrong. I know the individual that was given access, and I know that s/he wouldn’t misuse the access. That’s not the problem. My fear is how the reputation of the department could suffer when word got out. My only concern was for the department. But, because of the insubordination I showed by asking to merely speak with my supervisor, I was dismissed, and my boss never did learn what danger had me concerned.
And all because of pride.