|About the Author: Dale F. Williams, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, BRS-FD is a Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders and Director of the Fluency Clinic at Florida Atlantic University. In addition, he is a consultant for Language Learning Intervention and Professional Speech Services. A board-certified specialist in fluency, Dr. Williams served as Chair of the Specialty Board on Fluency Disorders from 2008 to 2010. He has coordinated the Boca Raton chapter of the National Stuttering Association since 1996. His publications include the books Stuttering Recovery: Personal and Empirical Perspectives (Psychology Press), Communication Sciences and Disorders: An Introduction to the Professions (Psychology Press), and Shining a Light on Stuttering: How One Man Used Comedy to Turn his Impairment into Applause (The Brainary), co-authored with comedian Jaik Campbell. Dr. Williams is currently working with a publisher on a series of stuttering workbooks.|
Blair, Lynn, Taylor, Jan, and I were tasked with hiring a new assistant director. We had the field of candidates narrowed down to three, so it was time to discuss the interviews. We decided to begin that process by establishing a list of questions to ask each of them.
“Why duh-duh-do you want to work here?” was my mumbled suggestion.
“What, D?” asked Blair.
Since when do you call me D? I wondered.
“Why do you want to work here?” clarified Lynn.
“Good one!” exclaimed Taylor.
“Thanks,” said Lynn.
Why is Lynn taking credit for my question?
“Let’s ask about their political beliefs,” suggested Taylor.
What in the world for? It’s a management job.
“What in the world for?” asked Blair. “It’s a management job.”
“Yeah, but it’ll help us see if they fit in.”
Blair nodded. “OK, I can see that. Good idea. Jan?”
“I’d like to ask: If you were a cactus, what kind of cactus would you be?”
What on earth would that tell us? And who even knows different types of cactus, cactuses, cacti—whatever they’re called?
“OK,” mumbled Blair, as he took notes. “I guess that leaves me.”
So, the cactus question is a go?
“I think it would be helpful,“ continued Blair, “to find out if they’re married.”
You can’t ask that!
“I don’t think we can come right out and ask that,” said Lynn.
“Then let’s change it to: ‘How does your spouse feel about you working here?’ That’ll get the information we’re after.”
How about just finding out their job skills and professional goals? You know—stuff that’s relevant.
“If not, let’s review,” said Blair, apparently now in charge. “We have questions from D and Lynn that cover work-related topics…”
No, we don’t. We have one question that was suggested twice.
And apparently, I have a new nickname.
“…and we have Taylor’s, Jan’s, and mine that get at personal matters.”
“Let’s rate them by section,” suggested Lynn.
This ought to be good.
“How?” asked Blair.
“Well, if we rate all the answers from 1 to 10,” Lynn explained, “then we can have a work and personality score for each candidate.”
“Good. And since personality is more important. We should weight the scores accordingly.”
They’re already weighted, you idiots. One score has two questions—which is really the same one asked twice—and the other has three. And anyway, who decided personality is more important?
“That makes sense,” said Taylor. “Maybe make personality 70% of the total score.”
A few nods of agreement followed this idea.
“Seems like too big a gap,” argued Jan. “Should be more like 65% and…let’s say 50.”
Apparently, Jan doesn’t understand how percentages work.
“Let’s split the difference,” offered Blair. “Go with 60 personality and 40 work.”
How is that splitting anything? It’s what we already have…well, assuming we ask my question twice.
“Is everyone OK with 60 and 40?” Blair asked. For some reason, the other three raised their hands.
“OK, so how do we do that?” asked Blair. “Take the totals for the first two questions and multiply by forty, and the next three questions times sixty?“
That’s stupid on just so many levels…
“Sounds good to me,” answered Lynn. More nods.
“Do we need an equation?” Taylor asked suddenly.
Several seconds of silence greeted that query.
“Good question,” said Blair. “You’ve got us thinking here.”
About time something did.
Finally, Jan said, “I think I’d rather have some calculations to fall back on, so we can show the higher-ups what our standards are.”
That doesn’t even make any sense.
“We gotta have high standards,” agreed Lynn.
And, once again, heads were nodding.
This is insane! Nobody in this room knows what any of the five—which are really four—questions measure or whether personality really does serve us better than work answers. How are these “standards” in any sense of the word?
“Any more discussion or should we vote on the procedure?” asked Blair.
If I raised my hand, I would have to speak up. A lot. That means there would be many difficult words to struggle through. There was, after all, much that needed to be said about this plan.
Butterflies gathered in my stomach and my mouth tensed just thinking about it.
Should I speak?
Let me first consider this from the other side. Devil’s advocate and all that.
Would an assistant director chosen primarily on the basis of politics, marital status, and cactus preferences necessarily be bad?
When it comes right down to it, who’s to say?
Have you ever been the smartest person in the room, yet let a bunch of dummies have their way because you were afraid to speak?
Do you regret it as much as I do?
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