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Cleaning lady as a judge

Hello guys,

this happened to me yesterday. The woman below is not really a cleaning lady, she's more of an assistant of nurses. However, in this time and place she was playing the role of a cleaning lady.

Situation

In rooms, there is like a "double-door" system which plays the role of an airlock. This is to protect children from diseases from the outside. So we have to close one door to be able to open the other. I was talking with parents to ask them a short question. So I was keeping the door open while talking with the parents. The nurse assistant whom I know (she's quite histrionic) asked me to open the first door. So I had to close the one I was using to talk to the parents to let the cleaning lady in. She said:

  • Nurse assistant: "I enter and then you can continue your little life". (babying, in french we would use this to talk about a cute baby)
  • Me: ignore (at work this is my default frame control as discussed some time ago)

Then the cleaning lady entered and I opened again the door to talk to the parents. After I finished, I closed the door and she tells me:

  • Nurse assistant (giving me the thumbs up): it's good the way you talk to the parents.

So she was being a judge towards me. I was aware she was playing the judge role. I knew I had to reframe but could not think on my feet. So later in the corridor I said (almost only to myself, not sure anybody else could hear me):

  • John: I .... talk to the parents as I live my life

It was a shitty answer, so be it. Now I studied again the articl above and I could have done:

From this article:

  • Judging right back (ie.: fighting for the judge frame)
  • Undermining their judge authority (ie.: who the f*ck are you to judge?)
  • Owning the accusation with pride (high-risk, high-reward)
  • Go meta: explain what they’re really doing, and what their little dirty motives actually are
  1. Judging right back: "Yes and you changed well the trash bag (???)/you're a good nurse assistant (???)"
  2. Undermining their judge authority: "How can you judge this?" (???)
  3. Owning the accusation with pride: "Thanks!"
  4. Go meta: not really appropriate in this case

It's a compliment I heard several times, also coming from nurses. I know this was a positive judging move. But she's two level below me so it's like I would say to chief physicians the same. That's the grey area of status we're in as resident: we're doctors but we're not always considered as such. In the sense that we're in each department for a short time and so we are also "the new ones", the "young ones" and "learners" all low-power roles.

What would you have said?

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood

A quick retort in these cases could be a smirk or "yeah, yeah".

Nurse:  it's good the way you talk to the parents.

John: (looks at nurse, smirks, look back at the child and continue to work)

Nurse:  it's good the way you talk to the parents.

John: (don't look at her to minimise investment) yeah, yeah

Since your default response is to ignore, adding on a smirk to your face, especially for those with less power and authority than you can work.

If John works with the nurse quite frequently and would like to draw boundaries assertively,

Nurse:  it's good the way you talk to the parents.

John: When you make that statement with that tone of voice, it feels judgemental.
Please voice out any concerns directly.

My Personal Experience

I encounter these people from time to time.
Sometimes they are stuck with jobs that they don't like.
These grumpy people in the office get tasked with unpleasant tasks.
Probably, they think that this distance allows them to get tasked less and retain some power.
Though they probably won't climb the corporate ladder.
Inevitably, they are not the most pleasant people to be around.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Since your default response is to ignore, adding on a smirk to your face, especially for those with less power and authority than you can work.

Great idea! I would have implemented it but there's the mask. However, in the same spirit I can blink. Thanks for your feed-back!

Since your default response is to ignore, adding on a smirk to your face, especially for those with less power and authority than you can work.

Great idea! I would have implemented it but there's the mask. However, in the same spirit I can blink. Thanks for your feed-back!

Now I realised that my smirks have been hidden behind a mask during this period.
Probably my facial expressions have been less effective in countering power moves.

Probably a face with these eyes would work as well:

John Freeman has reacted to this post.
John Freeman

Yeah, good advice on using nonverbal -I updated that original article to include more options to defend / fight back-.

I'd personally have also gone with ignoring + nonverbal as well.

Probably more like a slight headshake, rather than smirking though.

This one:

"Yes and you changed well the trash bag (???)/you're a good nurse assistant (???)"

Ehehe, was funny to read, would deserve being in the power moves articles 🙂

John Freeman has reacted to this post.
John Freeman
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Probably more like a slight headshake, rather than smirking though.

I'm guessing that headshake is more assertive and shows direct disapproval.
Smirking is using covert aggression to even the scores.

I'm thinking when to use the Comey's headshake vs this woman's smirk.

Comey's Headshake

Power Savvy Woman's Smirk

My take on this is that when you can be more direct, use the headshake.
In Comey's case, he would like people to see his disapproval so he shakes his head where a smirk would be more challenging to notice, especially at a distance.

If you need to hide behind a friendly facade, use the smirk.

I'm not very sure about when it's best to use the headshake vs the smirk.

Yeah, A. uses a lot the head shake as micro-aggressions. Remember his frame: "other people are stupid, I'm smart." I surfaced it, but not enough: "I see you shake your head" but I did not used the frame of: "You're making other people inferior to put yourself above them". I think using this move defensively is the right way to do this.

Quote from Matthew Whitewood on January 16, 2021, 2:37 pm

I'm not very sure about when it's best to use the headshake vs the smirk.

In my opinion, the smirk is for when someone's done a joke, and:

  1. It was a good joke
  2. People around are laughing
  3. You don't want to break rapport

If it was a good joke and people around are laughing, then not laughing might seem like you're taking it too personally, and being too serious.

Then the smirk says "OK, I acknowledge the humor, but it's not like I personally appreciate this way of interacting with each other".

If it wasn't a good joke -for example, too offensive or value taking- or if it was more like a comment, like in this case, and you don't care about breaking rapport, then you can use the headshake.

IT'S GOOD THE WAY YOU TALK TO THE PARENTS

I wasn't there, so I'm guessing a lot here, but it's possible that she was trying to make up from her joke, rather than doubling down.

She thought it might have been taken the wrong way, and wanted to provide a real compliment.

Still, it wasn't up to her to judge, so a very dry and quick "thanks", possibly followed by asking her something about work, could have been a good answer.

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

I wasn't there, so I'm guessing a lot here, but it's possible that she was trying to make up from her joke, rather than doubling down.

She thought it might have been taken the wrong way, and wanted to provide a real compliment.

I agree.

Thanks for your feed-back, guys! It will help me improve my social skills!

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood