Throwing People Under A Bus – How to?

Greetings from lovely Kansas City, MO! I’m here right now for the AASHTO RAC annual meeting. It’s hot, but not as stick as New Orleans was for SLA. I suppose that’s not saying much, but it’s appreciated.

I’m at this meeting to present about my vision for Open Transportation Research. I’m also here to preach the good word about Transportation Knowledge Networks. Preach is not the right word, more like explain and field questions, but it’s all part of moving forward. It’s all good, right? Well… sort of.

In one of these meetings, one of the transportation researchers basically threw their local librarian under the bus. How? When we were talking about all the fantastic things TKNs (and librarians) can do for the transportation research community. This researcher mentioned a wonderful demonstration of research tools and techniques that was provided by some academic librarian (their emphasis, not mine) and how their agencies librarian could “never provide that level of service.” I had to fight a bewildered look of, “Really? Did you just say that?” It was interesting to hear their impressions of one of my colleagues, but at the same time, it was weird to hear somebody slag their librarian off in front of me and 20 other people. I wanted to stand up and proclaim, “Your attitude stinks, just like your institutional support for the library, which is why your librarian probably doesn’t have the time and energy to give awesome instructional sessions that I’m sure they’d rather do than the billion tasks you expect them to do with no money, time, or staff,” but I let it go. I guess I chickened out.

This made me think though, is there ever a way to throw somebody under the bus and still remain professional? How do you convey your felling of, “Wow. This person/place/thing/idea/goose chase really is a waste of matter,” without seeming irrational/immature. Damning with faint praise, or that telling silence always seem effective and acceptable, but is there anything so bold as to really just call people out? I guess there’s something to be said for being frank, but really, if you’re going to do that, have some tact. (Is that possible?) Or at least remember your audience. People talk.

5 thoughts on “Throwing People Under A Bus – How to?

  1. Talk to this person individually after the session. You can ask them questions in a non-confrontational way that might get them to think more than confrontation would. For example, “What would support for your transportation plan look like?” “Who are potential allies for this plan?” “What would success look like?”

  2. That sort of negative attitude is very toxic in the workplace. It makes it hard to not only do your job but also to innovate. I’ve been shot down just for asking a simple question. To try to start a new service with that type of person is nearly impossible.

  3. Depends on the person. I’d prefer to be called to task rather than find out I was screwing up later on. Then again, I like feedback and a lot of people are more sensitive to it.

  4. I am torn because I do want to let that person know it’s not cool to be so dismissive in a group, but at the same time, we need to do a better job of of marketing ourselves. I feel stuck in the middle. I guess I should blog about that!

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