It is impossible to go through life without encountering rude behavior or treatment. This is especially true if you work in a bureaucracy. Some bureaucrats are intentionally rude; a way to establish their supremacy over others. Others are just mindlessly rude. They do things ‘according to the rules,’ without regard to how it affects those who receive such treatment. Between the two, I’d often rather deal with those being intentionally rude. The mindless drone is often unaware of the rudeness, and will express shock if called on it. At least, the turkey who is deliberately dissing you knows it, and is apt not to be surprised if you react.
In my 48 years in the government bureaucracy, I have on more occasions than I can remember been treated rudely – sometimes deliberately, more often than not, unintentionally. In either case, it hurts.
In all that time, though, the rudest thing that has ever been done to me is one that I have never been able to determine whether it was deliberate or unintentional.
I was asked to move from the organization where I was working quite successfully to take on a job in another agency. The request came from the office responsible for the job, but was fully approved by the head of the agency. Before I made the move, there was a change of administration, and both the office head and the agency head changed. The new agency head approved my assignment, but there was a delay in getting a new office director in place. Having received the blessing of the new agency head (and, I might add, the newly elected President) I cleared affairs in my office, said my goodbyes, and moved over to begin my new job.
About a month after my appointment had been announced to the Senate and the public, a new office director was appointed. I spent over a month following that trying to get an appointment with the individual to introduce myself. Knowing how busy I had been in the early days of my own appointment, I was not surprised that it was difficult to get time on his calendar, but I was totally unprepared for what happened in that first meeting.
The first thirty minutes of the meeting consisted of a lecture on his views of the area of responsibility that I had been assigned. Again, no surprise there; bureaucrats always have to establish their credentials. What did shock me a bit was when he questioned my assignment to the job, saying, “that he had no idea why I’d been assigned, since he did not know me.” My CV was included in the briefing package given to him before our meeting, and my 47 years experience at that time had been clearly outlined. I had never failed to be successful in any previous job, and in that particular agency, my reputation was known. I had held senior positions in the two previous administrations, and never before had my ability to do a job been questioned in such a blatant manner.
The meeting then went from bad to worse. The office director informed me that someone, who he would not name, had questioned my commitment to the job, and he was concerned and would be keeping a ‘close eye on me.’ My initial reaction was shock, followed by anger, but I held my tongue and asked him what caused the doubt. He informed me that he couldn’t tell me that either.
I wisely held my emotions in check and calmly informed him that I never accepted a job that I did not take seriously. I also told him that I had been planning to retire, but had cancelled those plans when this job was offered, and if that wasn’t a sign of commitment, I was at a loss to come up with a better one. I left the meeting bewildered and hurt. Never in all my years of service had my loyalty or dedication been called into question. I resolved to demonstrate my commitment by my performance rather than engage in a pointless dispute, but to this day, I don’t know if the incident was deliberate or just the confusion of a newly assigned bureaucrat with poor people skills. But, having grown up in the American south during a time when rude treatment of minorities was routine, this incident ranks as the rudest thing that has ever been done to me in my entire life.