1

Context

I'm from a Latin American country. At my university there are student groups called "Student Chapters", there's one for each degree (Computer Science, Mechatronics etc.), and each chapter has a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.

Background

I've been part of my student chapter for 5 semesters (I just started sixth semester) because I firmly believe in its mission of complementing the academic development of the Computer Science students through extracurricular activities.

The problem lies in that the Student Chapter of my degree is the worst. I wish I was exaggerating but trust me, I'm not (I could give you the reasons but I think it will make the question too long, if you think this is important please leave a comment and I'll edit the question).

I hate doing things the wrong way, and the people managing the student chapter always seems to take the wrong decisions (secrecy, favoritism etc.). This is supposed to be an academic organization, not a political one.

The situation

I've been putting a big effort for two and a half years into the Chapter, offering my help, correcting and anticipating mistakes, participating actively on it, organizing trips, contests etc. ... the thing is that most of the people in there are way too lazy and are part of the chapter either because they want to go on the trips at the end of the semester or they're friends with someone on a high position. At the end, 2 or 3 people including myself end up doing all the work while the rest put in the minimum effort possible. I despise this.

I have the best average grade of my generation and I'm always working hard to lift the reputation of the Computer Science Chapter, but the only thing I've gained is the hate of the other members of the group. They always try to denigrate my work, talk bad about me behind my back and warn new members about me being "problematic". Still, all the professors love my work and congratulate me every time.

The problem

Last week was the election of the new president, vice president, treasurer and secretary. There was a meeting about a week before the election to give the rules of the process of electing the new representatives, the main rule was to send the proposals on a given time.

The day of the election resulted in only three people sending proposals (myself included). Two were candidates for president, and I was a candidate for vice president. The Counselor was very angry because out of 30 students listed on the chapter only 3 sent the proposals on time. She knows that all the members are way too lazy and always avoid responsibility, so she stated that we were going to vote for the president but the vice president role was going to be directly appointed for lack of contestants.

As you may remember every single member of the chapter hates me except for two or three that actually work, so this decision has brought a lot of comments about lack of democracy. I don't understand why, I mean they didn't send proposals, they don't work and they don't want other people to work. I don't really care of what they say about me, but the thing is that I'm going to have to work with them for a year.

The question

In a week there's going to be the ceremony of change of representatives and we're supposed to give a little speech.

What can I add to my speech to let this group of people know that I'm well-intentioned and want to do nothing else but lift the reputation of the chapter?

Extra comment

My mother is the Counselor of the chapter, but we have a deal that states that she's just my mother outside university, so she gives me the same treatment as the other students at school. Even if you're still not convinced that there's no favoritism present on the elections, it wasn't my mother, but the chief of the Computer Science department who took the decision of directly appointing the charge of vice president because of lack of contestants. The problem is that the rest of the members don't know this, and I don't see why I have to justify myself if I've always worked hard for the Chapter even before my mother took the charge of Counselor.

I think this is important so I added it to the question.

closed as off-topic by Alina Cretu, Jesse, Rainbacon, curiousdannii, user58 Feb 20 '18 at 6:03

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about interpersonal skills, within the scope defined in the help center." – Alina Cretu, Jesse, Rainbacon
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
    Sorry friend, we are not a speech writing service. You seem to be well intentioned, and hopefully that will come across, for all it's worth. Best of luck! – AndreiROM Feb 12 '18 at 15:22
  • I'm not asking you to write a speech, just a simple line or two, I've already tried to tell them that I don't want to cause problems, just do things right, but I'm not good at communication, I'm a really blunt person and bluntness hasn't worked with this gorup – Garcia_K Feb 12 '18 at 15:27
  • Still, this seems a question about politics more so than interpersonal skills.You're fighting an entrenched group of people who want to do things a certain way. Sorry to break it to you, but your chances are slim to none of being able to affect change. – AndreiROM Feb 12 '18 at 15:32
  • 1
    Interpersonal skills are the skills we use every day when we communicate and interact with other people, both individually and in groups. A speech is a type of communication with a group, but even if that doesn't apply here then where can I find help with this? – Garcia_K Feb 12 '18 at 15:40
  • 3
    I understand what you're saying, but what you really need is a political platform, and a way of communicating it. It's a lot more complex than mere "interpersonal communications". This is not "how do I deal with a coworker who yelled at me", or "my GF does this, which I don't like, how do I speak to her about it?". Those are simple interpersonal scenarios. What you're asking for is "how do I go up against a group of elected officials, within a culture of mediocrity, and win the votes of all these people who are fine with the status quo. You need a political adviser, not advice on IPS. – AndreiROM Feb 12 '18 at 16:17
7

Consider that in your future professional life, you will encounter the same kind of people in many places. Perhaps they will be your colleagues, your underlings, your subcontractors who deliver sub-par work late, or maybe even your boss! Yikes!

Thus, while you grumble about them right now, these people are (without knowing it) actually helping you learn important professional and social skills. It is up to you whether you choose to benefit from this free teaching or not. I would say it is a wonderful opportunity, since any mistakes you make will result in bruised egos, but not in much worse consequences like getting fired.

Just take it as "the lazybum sims" -- level 1, tutorial mode.

I hate doing things the wrong way

While that is very admirable, if you are to be an engineer, you must learn to compromise. Sometimes what you think is the "wrong" way is cheaper, more efficient, and results in putting a product on the market on time. Thus if you think about it, it isn't that "wrong" anymore. Perfectionism is nice, but it can be a hurdle. If you are one year late to make a perfect product, the competitors will already own the market. So, when you feel you "hate doing things the wrong way", take a step back and review which compromises you are making. Can you find a more optimal solution? Someone who makes no compromises to please others quickly gets ostracized...

and the people managing the student chapter always seems to take the wrong desicions (secrecy, favoritism etc.). This is supposed to be an academic organization, not a political one.

Every company has politics, that's how people work. Some have lots of politics, which makes them highly toxic, some have a lot less. Again, watch them and learn. If you learn how to quickly identify you are walking into a bucket of crabs, this will help a lot in avoiding toxic work environments in the future.

At the end 2 or 3 people including myself end up doing all the work while the rest puts in the minimum effort possible. I despise this. I have the best average grade of my generation and I'm always working hard to lift the reputation of the Computer Science Chapter, but the only thing I've gained is the hate of the other members of the group. They always try to denigrate my work, talk bad about me behind my back and warn new members about me being "problematic".

The fact you are hard working and an excellent student emphasizes their own laziness and lack of results, and makes them look bad by comparison. So they hate you for this, and then you hate them back in return. This is the usual result this kind of situation. They will put you down, because it's easier than competing with you fairly. Additionally,

My mother is the Counselor of the chapter, but we have a deal that states that she's just my mother outside university

They will attribute your successes to this instead of admitting you're more talented than they are. Sure, it's unfair, but that's how things go.

Even if you're still not convinced that there's no favoritism present on the elections, it wasn't my mother, but the chief of the Computer Science department who took the deicision

Well, I am convinced, but they won't be. And they also think you brown-nosed the Big Boss to get the spot.

I don't see why I have to justify myself

This is yet another problem: what matters is they think you need to justify yourself.

Hate between colleagues isn't healthy. So you have to make a choice between going bitter and developing an ulcer, getting a new job (leaving the chapter in this case), or finesse it by compromising. Let's go with the latter. Good thing is you seem much smarter than them.

Still, all the professors love my work and congratulate me everytime.

...which makes your colleagues hate you even more. As Andrei says, you are facing an entrenched group of opponents. Also, you have no stick (I suppose you can't fire them or do anything really). And you don't have carrots either since they're not paid. So your means are limited.

Alright. Let's solve all your problems in one elegant move. This is non-verbal IPS of the "adjusting your attitude" sort:

1) You failed. You can relax. View all projects as cancelled. Stop caring about it right now.

Since you're the model student, failing hard is something you need to experience at least once! (LOL) and this is a wonderful opportunity since there will be almost no consequences, except to your pride, but you just stopped caring one paragraph ago.

Now that you no longer care, you will be a lot more relaxed. No more ulcer or sleepless nights. And any project that you actually manage to salvage will be a huge bonus!

Just like a herbivore anxiously dipping their snout into a watering hole deep in mysterious Serengeti, the lazybum playing Candy Crush on company time is equipped with a finely tuned instinct thanks to which it foils its natural predator: the annoying boss who wants them to work. In other words, you.

But... since you are now relaxed, drinking a beer in your office and not giving a damn, they will view you less as "this annoying nerd who wants us to work" and perhaps more as a human being. It's camouflage. Yet, if you get "elected" VP you will be responsible of the complete SNAFU that this chapter has become. So you will have to deliver, somehow.

Sort all projects by descending order of priority. Split the team into workers and slackers. Have a meeting with the workers and decide to only do the projects that are most important. Everything else is canceled. Workload should be limited to what is fun to do. Do not work too much: reducing the amount of work you do for ungrateful people will reduce your level of hate and bitterness and you will be able to interact with them in a much more relaxed way. If you only do the parts that you like, then you are working for your own enjoyment.

Then, the cancelled projects should be distributed among the slackers, at their choosing. If they still manage to pull it off, then... what a wonderful surprise!

Now, about your speech: it seems the only currency you got to negociate your way out of this is praise. Good thing is, your slacker buddies must not be used to it, so it has high value to them. Therefore:

  • Bring cake and drinks (preferably alcohol)
  • Use self-deprecating humor, "yeah I know I'm an insufferable know it all, but I'm trying to get better"
  • Joke about how you got the job (you'll never tell them how much you bribed the teachers though)
  • Try to find something to praise about everyone, try to remember something they did for the chapter, etc. Don't be afraid to go max level hypocrite
  • Emphasize the chapter needs their help for whatever important project you're doing

Considering your current situation, it can only get better, right?

Of course this should all be adapted to the current situation and seasoned to taste.

  • 3
    Props for taking the time to write this lengthy, & much needed answer. I was thinking many of the same things you've written here, but the prospect of writing a short novel in order to dispel the OP's naivete was disheartening. Second, your analogies are hilarious; herbivores (may I suggest wildebeests?) indeed. I do think there's more advice that could be given in this situation, but much would depend on specific situations, & the people involved. I would heavily advise against the sort of jokes you recommend at the end, however. They could be interpreted as a confession of corruption – AndreiROM Feb 12 '18 at 17:51
  • Thanks ;) and, yay for gnus/wildebeests. Agreed that jokes should be adapted to local tastes. – peufeu Feb 12 '18 at 20:18
0

Your question is a good one and goes directly to interpersonal skills. And that is how do I persuade an unsympathetic (or hostile) group of my sincere intentions? These are indeed valuable real world skills.

If you are at all a pragmatist you have to consider the gulf between trying to argue a subject on it's merits - a fine approach to an audience that is neutral or truly open-minded. And works particularly well if an audience is well educated.

And what is far more likely to succeed with a unsympathetic or hostile audience. An unsympathetic audience is not predisposed to listen with an open mind and dispassionately evaluate the strength of your argument on it's merit. Quite the contrary, they are already biased against you, likely to resist being persuaded and likely to suffer from confirmation bias.

You are far more likely to prevail if you are willing to persuade through emotion, appealing to their self-interest, joking about the situation to break the tension, building a rapport and talking about how you will earnestly work to do a great job to benefit them. Basically you need to concentrate on salesmanship to prevail in a situation like this. You have to be somewhat a student of human nature.

You turn the situation around to persuade them that you are really on their side by concentrating on the parts that they like, appealing to emotion and avoiding talking about facts in dispute where you would get a more hostile reception. Spend most of you time talking about what you can do for them in general, try to make an emotional connection, appeal to them at a gut level, don't dwell too much on actual facts in dispute if you really want to prevail.

Isn't human nature wonderful? Nonetheless these are valuable insights into human behaviour and what interpersonal skills are effective in persuasion, whether you choose to employ them or not.

Even if you decide to stick to facts and argue pretty much everything logically you will still persuade more people if you also strive to make a personal connection with your audience and spend some time conveying your enthusiasm and earnest desire to do a great job for all concerned.

People can be convinced by the tone of your voice, your body language and general impression of your earnestness where they (in this situation) would be resistant to logical or factual argument.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.