Tuesday, April 1, 2008



1: serving to defend or protect
2 a: devoted to resisting or preventing aggression or attack
b: of or relating to the attempt to keep an opponent from scoring in a game or contest
3 a: valuable in defensive play
b: designed to keep an opponent from being the highest bidder

I got an email from my immediate supervisor recently in which she suggested a change in the way I do my job. I did not take it well, because I disagreed with what I assumed to be her reasons for that suggestion. She told me to slow down at my job, and I assumed that was because she judges that I may be making mistakes because I'm doing my job too fast. My problem is not with the suggestion per se, but with the reasoning behind it.

Her email was in response to my email in which I had just drawn her attention to several job items that were missed during a recent project. These items were missed before they got to my stage in the project, so I had no way of knowing they were missed, so I brought them to her attention in case there was a problem with our automation higher up. I explained to her all the checks that I did to make sure I had not missed them, but from everything I recieved on the project, I never got any materials on these missed items, but she persisted in suggesting I had 'accidentally' lost those items, which questions my competence in a way that I find very offensive. Even so, I would normally be open to the possibility of my making that kind of mistake except that in this instance, I am CERTAIN that I never received those materials.

On a broader scale, one easy way to check the part of my job I was apparently doing too fast is the other half of my job. Well, the other half of my job is compounded quarterly and shows better performance in the past three months than in the prior three months, with improvements not only in the departments that I directly oversee, but in other departments to which I have contributed ideas, explanations and extra time. So, when I received this email suggesting I slow down, I was not pleased and asked, hopefully respectfully, if she were aware of more errors than those I had brought to her attention, because I did not feel I had been rushing, to use her word, but just happen to get the job done quickly.

Now, this is all actually just background information, because the real issue is defensiveness. Obviously, I'm really defensive about my job. I think I'm doing a good job, I'm proud of the work I've done and I do take pride in the fact that I do it quickly, efficiently and accurately. Now, knowing full well that I take criticism extremely poorly, I still think I'm justified to a) want my boss to provide such criticism verbally instead of in email and b) to disagree with my boss's assessment, especially in this case of a mistake she actually knows little about. But, my fear is that my reaction, which though I sent too quickly (I should always let these things sit overnight), but tried to phrase diplomatically (diplomatic filters are off here), will subject me to the further criticism of being called 'defensive.'

By definition I am defensive when I am defending myself from what I see as an unwarranted attack on my character, job habits and work ethic. (Okay, maybe it's not that serious, but it felt like it, especially when compounded with the personal comments she directed to me, which has taught me the eternal lesson of mixing business and personal lives. Don't do it.) And why does an accusation of defensiveness mean that no defense is possible? If you are defensive when being accused on being racist, sexist, gay, a thief, a conservative, uncreative, selfish, greedy or any other quality that isn't considered positive for the accuser, it is immediately assumed that you are in fact that which you are accused of being. There is this mighty negative connotation to the word defensive that somehow becomes its own character flaw.

And I don't like it. Pout.

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