Shove the Tool in the Toolbox

by Emily Jasper on June 29, 2010

Tool ManThere are times in our lives when you see someone or something they did, and your inner monologue responds with: “Jackass.”

Should you accidentally blurt it out, you might catch a couple turned heads, but they’re probably just happy you said it first.

Unfortunately in the warm-fuzziness of political correctness, we can’t call a spade a spade anymore. Unless you’re actually on a show called Tool Academy, labeling someone as a tool, jackass, waste of space, or anything else is considered rude.

Instead, we dance around the issues a bit, perhaps finding other things to blame, and toolishness ensues. Can’t we be a bit more frank?

I’m not saying be mean or bigoted. This isn’t an invitation to start going off on people. But let’s face it, there are plenty of times we’d like to point something out without a smokescreen of vagueness around it.

For example, we all know “That Guy” who never pulls his weight on projects, yet somehow manages to take the credit. Especially as a woman, I get the impression I’m supposed to demurely sit back, and that the group credit should be enough for me. Gag me.

Or the business leader who thinks each rollout of an item is perfection, and really it’s the customers who have problems, not the product. “I Am Mighty” is the response for not dotting Is or crossing Ts.

What about a group of people who, despite knowing they’re already getting a better deal than everyone else, pushes to still be special? Apparently everyone else should have pushed more, and this one group wouldn’t be unreasonable anymore.

This isn’t just about underperformace, egos, or not settling for mediocrity. It’s the blindness to everything else that changes someone from taking advantage of an opportunity to being a tool who needs to be put back in the box.

If you encounter these unpleasant people, be sure to stand up for yourself. The only one taking ownership of you is you. Don’t sit back and let “That Guy” take credit. Demonstrate you know more, did more, and are the expert of this project. If you aren’t going to make yourself look good, he’ll have no problem making you look bad. If you do this with smarts, suave, and savvy, your professionalism will shine through.

If the “Mighty” gives a crap about customers, he’ll know that you can switch to the competitor whose product is going to make him run. Do your homework and make the switch instead of complaining.

You may not be able to do a lot about a group of people demanding more, but learn from their behavior. You may encounter something similar in the future, and really look at the reasons they want to keep pushing the envelope. All of us have our moments where we turn into the 10 year old who keeps delaying bedtime for 15 minutes…before you know it, it’s another two hours. Is that the case here?

Just as rules provide structure, frankness can as well. You don’t need to call a tool “Jackass” to his face, but be sure to recognize the situation so you can put him back in the toolbox where he belongs.

What other tips do you have when encountering tools? What ways should you watch out for to avoid being taken advantage of?

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