"Hi," I chirped when a man appeared in my office door. I checked my calendar and followed him down the hall when he invited me (and I had time) for a meeting.
I sat politely while he outlined the problem and smiled across the table at the four scientists who'd gathered. I smoothed my pretty skirt over my knees and tucked a lock of hair behind my ear and cocked my head while I asked what we could do.
"Nothing!" the man on the end said and I frowned at his emphatic tone. It may be worth noting that he had interviewed me at one point and I didn't get that job. Still, he's a bright guy and it was definitely the wrong role for me so there's never been any tension.
Well, until today.
"Nothing?" I asked, raising an eyebrow and keeping my eyes on his warningly.
"It is what it is," Organizer said and I spared him a brief glance before returning to Interviewer who was already shaking his head.
"It is as it should be!" he insisted and I clenched my teeth in irritation before reminding myself to relax and listen. "We designed it that way! So I don't know what this complaint means, but it's wrong!"
"Wrong?" I asked, realizing I'd lowered my eyebrows into what was becoming a glare while his three colleagues remained quiet. I glanced at one of them - we've worked together recently and I like him - and he nodded at me.
"We could," Likable began and Interviewer firmly rebuked him, even putting his hand out to stop the flow of words.
"It's correct the way it is," he said.
"It is not," I replied briskly. "There is an expert user - an important customer - who said it was crap, frankly. And you believing it isn't doesn't mean the expert isn't correct."
"You people," he accused, waving his arm and me and Organizer, "approved this three years ago!"
"Look," I said, leaning forward and reaching full attack mode, "I didn't work here three years ago. And whoever approved it then was either misguided or incorrect. That does not mean this is acceptable."
I leaned back, took a breath and returned my attention to Likable. "How do we fix it?"
I listened as he explained options and showed proof of concept. I talked with Organizer to draft a message to our expert and to talk through potential solutions. And though I remained outwardly calm, I seethed that Interviewer wanted to keep this information from me.
I outrank you, asshole, I thought as I finally walked from the room. And the next time you cross me, I'm only giving you one chance to back down before I go into full scale "don't you dare fuck with me" mode.
I considered it as I sat at my desk, turning to stare out my window for a moment while I took a few breaths. It must, I decided, be annoying to see someone that you rejected to be an underling end up being a very visible, highly paid manager who has a better office than you do. I am not a jerk about it though - I work really hard and I understand different perspectives. If someone is respectful and open to ideas, I naturally return that behavior.
But when someone pushes, I push back. And I often win. (But I'm still annoyed.)