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
he Oblivious
The Frazzled
The Hanger-On


The Dilettante
develop an expertise

The Personality

The Dilettante loves samples. He flits from sample table to sample table, never fully stopping to engage or find out exactly what he’s eating or why it might be a product he would want to purchase. The Dilettante doesn’t like to commit. He’s a nice guy and somewhat knowledgeable, but his knowledge is a bit shallow.

He flits by my table, asking me what it is I’m offering. He takes it, makes a comment about how he prefers a particular cut of smoked uncured bacon. I figure he knows what he’s talking about, so I inform him the bacon contains no nitrates.

Then he disappoints me by saying, “Nitrates, bitrates. Who knows what that it is!” I realize that he doesn’t really know about bacon or how it’s made. The Dilettante knows just enough to sound somewhat knowledgeable. If he was at a cocktail party, he might do fine if limited to one or two sentence conversations shared over a Swedish meatball, but his expertise ends there.

Before I can explain what nitrates are, he flits away, uninterested in learning more. I watch the Dilettante flit to the next table, nodding and saying something that sounds reasonable and genuine and then flits away again to graze elsewhere. And so he goes.

It’s Not Me, It’s You….

At work, the Dilettante is the Jack-of-all-trades, but not necessarily in a good way. He knows how to do a little bit of everything enough to sound like he knows. He knows how to fix your printer settings, but has no idea how to get the paper jam out. He knows the language surrounding new product market entry, but doesn’t know the strategy behind it. He knows how to read a balance sheet, but not how to reconcile it with an income statement.

The Dilettante sounds impressive at first with his vast array of knowledge, but he doesn’t ever stick with one thing to learn it well. He might get a lot of projects at first, but soon, he will be bypassed for colleagues who have taken the time to develop an expertise in one or two areas.

While the Dilettante is great for cocktail parties, he may get overlooked for long-term potential and promotions because he knows a little about a lot, but has little sticking power.

  • Delegate. It’s easy for the Dilettante to get away with flitting around if he doesn’t have a specific role or set of responsibilities. By delegating clear to-dos, which require a level of expertise, he has to step up or it will become evident that he may not belong in the team. Delegating the work – and ensuring he has the resources to develop the skills – can help him deepen his sense of belonging and need within the team.
  • Set project milestones. Setting longer-term milestones can help the Dilettante to have a roadmap on where he needs to go and what skills he has to develop in order to get there. By making these metrics clear and public, there will be fewer excuses for abandoning mid-way.
  • Leverage versatility. Consider whether the role he is currently in is the most appropriate. Perhaps his strength is the range of his versatility – and that even if he may not be known for depth, his breadth can make him a clutch player