Low Expectations

One of the executives, David, is quite self-sufficient, preferring to take care of his own affairs. A while back I offered to help him manage his calendar and he was overjoyed, saying, “Oh wonderful! Wonderful I didn’t want to ask before, but since you offered, that is great.”

I regretted it almost instantly, thinking he was probably the busiest person in the company and his calendar would eat me alive. But he isn’t, and it didn’t. For the most part, he is a very low-maintenance man. (To be fair, so is my boss if I exercise the proper judgement and foresight to put out fires before they begin, but the relationship is very different.) He prefers to make his own arrangements, from airport services to restaurant reservations to, oddly, calendaring, as that was what I offered to do for him in the first place, but occasionally he will “bother” me (his word) with little tasks here and there that he simply does not have time to do.

Mostly, printing out Excel spreadsheets. For anyone with an ounce of common sense (and I like to believe I have at least 5 oz.), printing out an excel spreadsheet often requires more than two pages, depending on the content. Excel is a big part of most people’s job descriptions – accountants, business planning, sales analysts, etc. all seem to live and die by Excel. Can’t use Excel? Don’t work here. My job is a little different: don’t know how to print out Excel spreadsheets? Don’t offer to manage David’s calendar because essentially, what you’re offering is your willingness to put down whatever you’re doing and print out massive spreadsheets that span three or four pages, depending on how many rows and columns there are.

I confess in the beginning I had a bit of trouble, not because I did not know how to click “print,” but because I did not know that spreadsheets had tabs and such. I would print out the first tab and neglect the rest and David would look at it curiously and then at me and say, “Where’s the rest?” And then I would redirect the curiosity back to him and say, “Of what?”

That is when I learned about the tabs. Anyway, once the spreadsheet is printed, it follows that with just a quarter of an ounce of common sense, a person would glue or at the very least, if there were no glue, tape the spreadsheets together to recreate the impression that they were all on one sheet, just as though one were viewing it on a giant TV screen, as people do here. I did just that for David, not out of the generosity of my heart, but out of a sense of duty. He asked me to do a job. I wanted to do it well. I snipped the extra bits off and glued the sheets together, rather seamlessly, I might add. It was very beautiful work and only a nit-picky ass would say, “Oh this line is a hundredth of a fraction off. Please re-do it.”

David is not a nit-picky ass. Not at all. Instead, when I present the expertly glued spreadsheets to him, his eyes light up and his hands come together in a sort of delightful prayer, as though in the history of his time at the company, no one had ever thought to glue the spreadsheets together.

“Oh great! Great!” he says, every time, “This is perfect!”

And now, I don’t know if this is an insult to my intelligence, to my position, or to his general and apparently very low expectations for me, but he says, “You are so smart to glue them together like this! So smart! Excellent!”

I stand there and accept the compliments and the praise (something my boss does not dole out quite so generously) though I am quite unsure of their value.

Please share your thoughts. No really, please.

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