"There is no 'P' in hamster." This is not a controversial statement. Any dictionary will agree with it. Any pet store will too. But Carol Blymire overheard a conversation between a young employee with her boss, and this came up.

The boss wanted a correction. The employee insisted that the word should remain "hampster" because that was how she spelled hamster. And that was what mattered.

The boss, according to Blymire, continued calmly, bringing the employee almost to tears.

We could dismiss this as someone who just can't take feedback at all, but then we'd have to ask how you make it into your 20s without wanting to trust a dictionary, but the saga continues with the employee going back to her desk and texting her mom. Mom calls her and the employee puts her on speakerphone where mom proceeds to tell her that she should report the boss.

OK. Now we know the problem. This woman has received so much support and validation from her mother that she couldn't fathom that she could be wrong about something. What she wanted was more important than what the actual truth was.

Now, you can certainly argue that language evolves, and maybe in 100 years we'll all spell hamster as hampster, but your boss gets to decide what evolves and what doesn't in the workplace. (And I seriously doubt this is where English is going.)

Learning how to take negative feedback is a critical part of being an adult. Learning how to say, "Oops, you're right. I was wrong," is a valuable life skill. There are times when you should stand your ground, but not when it comes to spelling. The dictionary wins every time. And if the dictionary says there are multiple correct spellings, the boss gets to choose which one you use in the office. 

This mother, in trying to help and support her daughter, made her very difficult to work with. And as Blymire points out, teachers and professors undoubtedly bowed to the mother's whims rather than do battle. All of them did her no favors. Hopefully, she'll figure it out soon enough, but until then, her poor boss.

Published on: Jul 15, 2019
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