How to be Bert or Ernie


This is what happens in every organisation I’ve been in when someone more important asks someone less important for something.

The someone-less-important doesn’t feel they can ask more about what it is that is needed, as the someone-more-important has already told them and made it perfectly clear. At least it was to them when they said the words out loud.

So the someone-less-important takes a half formed and semi-understood request and creatively turns it in their head into something they can do, goes away and does it in seclusion until it is presented all finished, to an awkward and uncomprehending response from the someone-more-important.

The someone-more-important doesn’t want to say out loud that they don’t understand the thing they are looking at, so they learn to pretend to like it, even if they don’t wear a beard.

The someone-less-important has learnt that they have got away with it, phew, and that the thing they made up in their head must have been right all along, so thank god they didn’t ask any clarifying questions as that would have made themselves look stupid unnecessarily.

Both people now are even less likely to ask for clarifying questions, as they both got through it without. Why add to the mortifying embarrassment when you can avoid the awkwardness of saying ‘I don’t understand what you mean” by just getting on with not understanding. No need to make yourself look stupid when you can just be stupid.

They have learnt that not querying or investigating works so are now more likely to carry on doing this dumb shit.

This is how organisations work that aren’t populated by glove puppets.

This entry was posted in clarity of purpose, command and control, communication, questions and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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