Mr. Clippy: The Irrepressible Do-Gooder

Posted by jlubans on May 22, 2018

Caption: Mr. Clippy ever-ready to advise.

Do you, if you are of an age, remember the talking paper clip –a Bill Gates look-alike- that would appear, uninvited, on your laptop as you typed in the word, dear?
"It looks like you're writing a letter. Would you like help?"
No question - we are assured even by geeky denizens of Silicone Valley – maddened more people back in the heady days of Microsoft 97.
Unbidden, he would default on your screen when least expected. And, to top it off, there were no workarounds to get rid of the ever helpful Clippy.
In other words, what Mr. Clippy really was saying:
“It looks like you're writing a letter, and I'm going to help you with that. Whether you like it, or not.”
In 2001 Mr. Clippy ceased being a default.
But, while Mr. Clippy may be gone, the underlying reason for Mr. Clippy is not.
It is identical to the inner belief possessed by a certain kind of micromanager: I know better.
Therefore, follow my lead, if you know what is good for you.
The micromanager masks this control behavior by claiming he or she is simply being helpful – aiding the less intelligent or the less able – and certainly finds it difficult to understand why people find this kind of “free” help egregiously arrogant, insulting, belittling, disdainful, an indignity, and deprecatory.
(All of these terms appeared frequently in posts about Mr. Clippy).
I have always aligned Clippy with Mr. Bill and other unexpected micromanagers, like Ms. Docker, the protagonist in Patrick White’s play “A Cheery Soul”
I recall her on a Sydney stage as a do-gooder who itched – it was her Christian duty, she’d say - to correct those in error, albeit with a gleeful vengeance and catastrophic result.
And, then there a department head peer who was tingling to tell me just how ineffective I was; all she needed was my permission.
Why do we dislike micromanagers?
It’s a fairly simple answer. The micromanager gets more out of giving advice than we do. He has us under his thumb, so to speak, and we have to listen.
We cannot turn Mr. Clippy off and he knows it, aggravating even further our disdain for being told what to do instead of being left alone to figure it out.
The latter is how people learn and the effective teacher knows when to offer advice and when to stay silent, letting “trial and error” lead the way to a better understanding.
I have found myself more and more content with bouncing around a problem, even when I know I could probably arrange an orderly agenda. I am not really multi-tasking even while jumping from task to task.
I am sure my approach would inspire all micro-managers and do-gooders to tell me how wrong I have got it.
But, you know what?
Maybe it’s the Wrong that I am content with; maybe knowing that I can get to what needs doing IN MY OWN WAY is just fine.
Or, is this an onset of early dementia or creeping curmedgery?
In solidarity with the millions stuck under the long, long tail of the Internet, buy Lubans’ new book “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or, for the frugal, get your library to ante up for a copy.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

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