BITE ME: the oblivious

don't ask why. ask why not.

BITE ME: the oblivious

Bite Me is a special 14-installment series based on an undercover  stint at a supermarket to draw out lessons on how to better relate to challenging colleagues in the workplace and how to be a better colleague.

These “profiles” are based on real people who wanted free food.

It’s cheeky and deliciously honest.

To read the others:
The Humble
The A-Hole
The Slob
The Negative
he Snob
he Mute
The Righteous
The Culturally Insensitive


The Oblivious
read the instructions

The Personality

The Oblivious acts first, thinks last. Sometimes with disastrous results. To add insult to injury, the Oblivious often turns the blame onto someone else if he eats something he shouldn’t have. It seems that he expects his mother (or someone to act like his mother) and tell him where to go, what to eat, and how to do it because he doesn’t know how to think before he acts.

With food allergies having increased so dramatically, it is a requirement that I include what allergens are in the food I serve– wheat, soy, etc. This is to allow adults to “read before proceeding.” I’m not your doctor, I don’t know what you can or cannot eat.

The Oblivious comes up to my table and before I can even open my mouth to ask if they want some pork sausage, they grab two toothpicks and stuff it down their mouth. While I stand a bit in awe at the rudeness, I am even more blown away by the question that follows, “Is that pork?” I nod and point to the sign that says in big capital letters, “HOMEMADE PORK SAUSAGE.” Last I checked, pork sausage contains pork.

Upon seeing this, the Oblivious’s eyes widen, and he grabs a napkin and spits the half-chewed food out. “I can’t eat pork!” he says angrily, looking at me as if I purposefully misled him.  The Oblivious storms off. All I can do is hope he doesn’t fall into some open manhole and sue the city because he didn’t see the orange cones and signs saying “DANGER. OPEN MANHOLE AHEAD.”

It’s Not Me, It’s You….

The Oblivious is the person who talks first without thinking. The one who, in an effort to sound like he’s knowledgeable, jumps in with a comment that clearly shows that he didn’t do his homework. While everyone else cringes, he continues as if the silence means everyone is in awe of his intelligence.

The Oblivious is also the person who jumps into a project without planning. The boss will present a project and start to explain the goals, the metrics, and the procedure. The Oblivious will hurriedly say, “oh, yes, I got it” and dive right in. Only he doesn’t really know what he’s working on because he doesn’t stop to look at the short-term and long-range goals. Pretty quickly, he realizes he has to backtrack to fix critical pieces of the project he would not have missed had he not jumped in so blindly.

While immediate action is great in some instances, in the workplace, acting or speaking without thinking can lead to many issues – shoddy work and a bad reputation.

  • Require thinking time. Don’t ask for an immediate response. Require the Oblivious or the entire team that they have X hours/days to respond, but not to respond straightaway. Don’t accept any decision made until that determined time.
  • Write it down. Be explicit in instructions and project timelines in writing – have a record and be sure to remind him that all the details are written and that there should be no confusion. If there is, these questions need to be clarified immediately, but the responsibility lies with him.
  • Set and follow up on goals. Ensure that the Oblivious set short- and longer-term goals. Continuously follow up with him to ensure that progress is being made and he hasn’t veered off the path. Ensuring follow through on goals can help him to create longer-term plans and not make rush decisions that may deter him from achieving them.

It’s Me…

If you know you have a tendency to jump in head first, try dipping your toe in the next time first.

  • Pause. Stop. Look. Listen. Consider the situation, understand what you need to know, and then proceed with your comments or questions. Don’t rush for the sake of trying to be the “first one.”
  • Read the signs. Sometimes, we get so focused at our projects or our own lives that we forget to look around and see what is going on. Has your boss sent you several emails with subtle hints that you need to speed things up? Has your colleagues stopped including you on conversations about the project? Read the subtle signs in the office – sometimes, they are not so subtle – because they often are indications of how others are feeling about your performance or potential in the office. Paying attention to the signs will avoid any, “I had no idea that was coming.” Those situations may happen, but not too often.
  • Don’t blame others. If you make a mistake because of your overlooking something, or say something that is wrong because of your failure to listen, don’t blame others. Accept responsibility and move on. People respond to that much better than you trying to shift the blame.