child building with interlocking building blocks

Just…

Sometimes I wonder why I use the bookmarks feature of any web browser. Aside from keeping a list of quick-access websites in my bookmarks bar, any other bookmarks end up in a folder with hundreds of other sites which I’ll likely never actually get back to.

I thought I’d do a bit of curating of my bookmarks, and I came across this brief bit of advice called “Just.”

The author, Brad Frost, lamented the responses he’d receive on Twitter when asking for tech help because, as he describes, they often tended to assume things about his knowledge by presenting answers in an over-simplified manner introduced by the word “Just…”

Rather than being helpful, those answers made him feel like an idiot, as if he was lacking what others seemed to consider to be fundamental understanding of a topic.

Back when I bookmarked the thing, I’m sure I did so with the hope that applying the advice to ban “just…” oversimplifications, I’d be a better writer when it came to topics of blogging, code, and even religion.

However, the “just…” shortcut is far more universal, showing up in every manner of conversation. 

When I was still new to my job in retail, I remember watching my coworkers — who often had several years of experience — interacting with the customers thus: “It’s just on that endcap,” “It’s just that the item is not-traited for our store,” and so on.

Inevitably, there would have to be more explanation given to explain the terminology being used, and it wasn’t hard to miss the frustration in the faces of customers when workers would explain things to them in a way which presupposed that the customer understood the fundamentals of retail. I did my absolute best from an early period to speak to customers in a way which ignored the language of retail and instead presented answers to them in a way which was accessible to them, regardless of what their background might be.

I’ve now been a supervisor at my job for (holy cats…) nearly fourteen years, and I have helped train (either initially or as further training) many people. The “just…” shortcut makes its way into training all too often, often leading to unsatisfactory work performance or frustrated employees who lack the confidence to do as good of a job as they’d like to do.

Without exaggeration, when I became a supervisor, my “training” for the job consisted of one sentence: “Here’s your department, and if you have any questions, just ask Michelle, your neighbor [in the next department over].” I struggled those first two years, rarely managing to actually please the management over my area. I can’t help but wonder if adequate training coupled with clear expectations would’ve made any difference!

Having come across “Just” again tonight in my bookmarks, I’m saddened by just how much it sticks out that I’ve fallen into the “just…” habit with the folk I supervise. Having explained how to fix a missing time clock punch or how to properly build an end cap or how to deal with a spill or whatever else has become so blasé, and I never even noticed.

I’m not one for making resolutions for new years, and I’m certainly not one to keep resolutions when I do make them, but this is an important matter, not (heh) just for my job itself but for those around me who do look to me for accurate and thorough explanations. I don’t want to be guilty of the same “training” which was once given to me so long ago!

I hope to, in 2018, become a better trainer and a better explainer by banishing the “just…” attitude. It is a lazy shortcut which does nothing to enable understanding in my listeners.

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