My nephew is in town. He’s a joy to have around, sometimes saying things that you hardly expect from a seven-year old. Right now, we’re just trying to make sure that he gets used to the hot Calabasas weather and over the jet lag that makes him nod his head during dinner.
Yesterday, my wife caught another one of his “adulterisms.” I was downstairs busy at my lap top when she came down and told me, “he doesn’t want me around when he’s changing.”
I asked what he said, and she told me, “I need my space.”
“Yeah, that’s what he said to me.”
My nephew had gone through a lot in the past year and a half. He lost his mother (and I, my younger sister) to cancer, and he had a different perspective on life than most seven year olds, but even then, it sounded a bit too mature. My wife figured that he was simply embarrassed to have to change in front of her, so she respected “his space.”
Later in the afternoon, we were at the shopping mall looking for shoes for him. The employee at the store struck up a conversation with my nephew.
“Nice shirt, did you go to NASA?” he asked.
“No, it was a present,” the little one would answer. I turned around and noticed that there was a big NASA symbol on the tee shirt.
And then I saw the words, “I need my space.”
I poked at my wife’s side and said, “Look at the front of his shirt.”
We both laughed. He was simply reading the writing on the tee shirt when my wife thought he wanted his space.
Misunderstandings can sometimes be funny, and yet revealing.
I recall a somewhat less funny misunderstanding that was quite revealing.
One of the hottest tools in human resource management these days is the 360-degree evaluation. The idea is that an individual should be evaluated not only by his boss, but also by his peers and subordinates. This should theoretically give a more complete picture of an individual’s performance and thus lead to bosses who are more understanding and considerate of those working under them.
After a particularly difficult year, a boss called in his subordinate for a performance evaluation session. The session was not friendly, because the two had major disagreements about the future of the department, and the subordinate was not particularly impressed with his own boss.
At end of the conversation, the boss told the sub, “You know, I think I’m mature enough to handle negative criticism. And even though I know that you’re the one who trashed me in the upward feedback, I’m mature enough that it won’t affect how I will evaluate you.”
The subordinate looked at his boss and said, “I never turned in a form,” and then walked away.
At that moment, I would imagine that Mr. Boss really needed some space.