“Wait, I’m Confused…”

or the accidental mantra of young women in the workplace

I don’t make it a secret that the job that I have now is the first “real job” I have ever had. Before now I had never worked in an office before and there are some things I have noticed that are….different. I work in a creative profession and in an office that is largely made up of women, albeit women who are, for the most part, quite a bit younger than I am. And I have to say, I am beginning to notice something. One phrase in particular that these young ladies are very comfortable with, a phrase that, when I hear it, grates on my nerves: “Wait…I’m confused?” You will notice that phrase has a question mark at the end of it as it is typically delivered as such, rising up, in tone at the end to drive home the point of the deliverer’s confusion.

These are smart, professional, capable young women. Why do they DO THIS? Is it a hold-over from their college days when the only way to get their sexist, male professors to pay attention to them was to play at being the overwhelmed ingenue? If so, it’s time to drop the act…if for no other reason than it is making my physically ill! Also, can we all just agree that the imagined scenario I just presented is an actual thing that happens every day in this country in the twenty-first goddamn century and if we are not all working toward a better tomorrow for young women we should probably just be taken out back behind the chemical sheds and shot? Good! Great! Grand! Wonderful! NO YELLING ON THE BUS!!!!

I’ll allow that in our particular line of work we are often presented with a lot of information, sometimes from various sources with varying ideas about what the end results should be and it can be….confusing. But here’s what I propose. Instead of standing around throwing our tiny woman hands up and declaring how utterly baffled we are, how about we demand clarification, in no uncertain terms. When someone sends me a folder full of what vaguely resembles a pile of loose dog shit and expects me to make magic out of it they will undoubtedly be hearing from me in a matter of minutes. I will demand that they (whomever THEY might be) do a better job of explaining their needs and their requirements. What I will not do is passively declare that I am “confused” and then wait for someone else to ask the hard questions.

I believe that being able to admit or speak aloud when you don’t understand something is an incredibly valuable way to learn but the thing about the “Wait…I’m confused” that I hear so often is that it is presented without follow-up questions. It is presented as a passive bowing out and not an active attempt to gain a more information and a more firm grasp of the situation. Ladies, I beg you to use your confusion to gain more knowledge! Don’t let it stop you in your tracks! Plow forward and let your ignorance lead you to enlightenment. If you are not finishing that thought then you are going to be just as confused the next time you are presented with the same situation. And wouldn’t you rather not be confused? Wouldn’t you rather be the go-to gal? The person who everyone else can count on to know your shit and do your job? I know I would.

I’m not really asking a lot. I am just asking that when we are presented with a confusing situation we should use that moment to learn, the gain the skills and knowledge so that we encounter fewer confusing moments in the future. That’s all. Just ask questions.

The other day two girls in my office, both of whom, while much younger than I, collectively have been doing this job professionally for significantly longer than I have, were hemming and hawing over a problem, just on the other side of my cube fortress, that had both of them declaring their confusing; Girl #1 “I don’t know, I’m confused…” she trailed off. Girl #2 “So confusing…..”. Finally I could not take it anymore. I thought briefly about whether or not I had ever heard one of the men in our office say these words and when I was absolutely positive that, not only, had that never EVER happened, it probably never would happen! I got up, poked my head over the fortress wall and said, “What’s up ladies?”

They presented me with their quandary, for which I had already come up with a solution because I had been sitting there eavesdropping for the last three minutes because I am an asshole and a busybody. I provided them the solution and then suggested that if that happens again they should immediately address it with the (name the person above the person who was handling that project because talking to people’s bosses usually gets their attention…and their head out of their ass). They agreed with me about the course of action which they totally both could have come up with on their own, and might have but for their default confusion mode.

I guess what I am trying to say is that there is no need to be confused…not for longer than 20 seconds or so. Just ask questions, acquire information, gain knowledge, kick ass, grow, learn, kick more ass, become a samurai, kick even more ass still and basically rule the goddamn world!!! Because there is absolutely no reason that you can’t!!!! XOXO