#85: Really Blind Ambition

#85: Really Blind Ambition

A short while ago I was standing in my boss’s office, conversing about the employee performance reviews we had recently completed. We weren’t discussing specific details – more like exchanging verbal high fives that the process was over and we wouldn’t need to talk in acronyms for another year. His door was open, but clearly we were talking. About work. These facts would be immediately obvious to the most casual of observers.

Enter the least casual of observers. I refer to him now as The Barger.

It’s hard for me to describe how someone walked right past me, as I stood mid-office and mid-sentence, and began his own conversation with my boss as if I did not even exist. Well, that’s not entirely true. The incident is easily described so far. What I do not have words for is how utterly shocking it felt to be so thoroughly interrupted and disregarded. It was one of the rudest things that’s happened to me in a long time. I commute in Atlanta traffic, so that is really saying something.

I stood there quietly for a few moments, thinking surely The Barger will apologize for barging, if not to me, at least to my boss – the Director of my entire department. But, apparently Bargers just gonna barge without any attempt at manners. When it became clear I was not going to be acknowledged, I slipped from the room to the sanctuary of my own office, where I tried to will my blood pressure down to less dangerous levels.

I suppose I should not have been surprised by this event, because though we had yet to meet, I had already witnessed The Barger in action from a distance. He had learned about a job opening in my department and was quite determined to present himself, to anyone who would listen, as the best possible candidate. In order to learn more about the job, he spoke at some length to two others fulfilling the same duties as those of the open position. Also, this was his second unscheduled visit to my boss’s office in under a week. He had an agenda, and he was not shy about it.

After a few hours passed and the roaring in my ears subsided, I started thinking about why I found a diss from a stranger so upsetting. Part of the reason was that The Barger was a man. I work in a conservative Christian ministry where the most powerful leaders have always been men, and it is hard to imagine it ever being otherwise. There are a host of reasons why this is a foundational part of our culture, and I even agree with many of them. But as a member of the Free to Be You and Me generation, it hits me hard sometimes that men are almost always the primary influencers here, with women filling mainly supportive and adaptive roles.

On the other hand, my secret feminism has always been at odds with a certain lack of ambition on my part. I might resent my lack of impressive title and salary for brief moments, but overall I am satisfied with where I am in my professional life. I am fairly well compensated for meaningful work that I enjoy, and my contributions are valued. I both respect and genuinely like my bosses and my co-workers. The environment is positive and well-mannered; bargers are rare. I feel called and blessed and very, very fortunate to be here.

Some time has passed, and my anger at The Barger has dissipated. While I don’t have the drive or instincts it takes to be a barger myself, I’ve actually started feeling a bit of sympathy for him. You see, I know something that he doesn’t. It was wise of him to study the job description for the open position. I’m sure it was insightful for him to speak with others fulfilling those same job responsibilities. I might even commend him for his boldness and persistence in presenting himself, to all who would listen, as the best possible candidate.

Where The Barger loses points, despite multiple discussions with various team members, is in failing to ask one deceptively simple question, “If I had this job, to whom would I report?”

Who would have guessed the answer to that question is, “To me.”

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