I have connections, colleagues, and friends on LinkedIn — people like Leslie Hossner and Nelly Jebran — who are kind, astute, and generous enough to point out the differences, similarities, and relationships between words like accept and except, like than and then. I’d like to return the favor — and perhaps make a point that may fall into the category of Adulthood — by explaining the differences, similarities, and relationships between two other words: facility and facile.

I’m prompted to do such a thing by an article in Fast Company. When I first started reading Fast Company somewhere around the turn of the  millennium, it was written for an audience of people over the age of 10, who wouldn’t have been comfortable as characters in Lord of the Flies. Well, I suppose one can’t be expected to stay on top of everything, eh?

At any rate, since the transition to its pre-adolescent readership is now, apparently, complete, Fast Company published an article — “Exactly what to say in these five difficult work situations to diffuse tension” — that contains this Solomonic nugget of blatancy:

It’s no secret that work can be stressful. But it’s typically not the work itself that feels draining. It’s the tension caused by other people.
And lest you long to know the difficult work situations in question, they are these:
  1. Someone attacks your work.
  2. You don’t get along with a colleague.
  3. There is no common ground on your team.
  4. Senior executives make people feel afraid to speak up.
  5. Someone makes an insensitive comment.

Okay. Now that we have the heavy lifting out of the way …

Let’s Take a Brief Pause

Before we forge ahead to the obvious questions, what say we take a look at the words with which we started this inquiry. The first of these, you may recall, is facility:

facility (noun): 1. something that permits the easier performance of an action, course of conduct, etc. 2. the quality of being easily or conveniently done or performed.

Next, but not lesser, is facile

facile (adjective): 1. moving, acting, working, proceeding, etc., with ease. 2. without depth; superficial

I bring them up and define them to make my meaning clear when I say the Fast Company article provides precious little facility. But it is, however, alarmingly facile. And the questions raised by the article are these, presented in the order in which the ostensibly difficult work situations are presented:
  1. What would happen if you ignored the nincompoop who attacks your work? If said nincompoop weren’t trying to run from something (his incompetence) or hide something (his insecurity), he’d likely be more interested in his own work than yours.
  2. With the exception of this one colleague, do you get along with everyone else? If you recognized the likelihood that neither you nor your colleague is perfect, it might make it a tad easier on your expectations for universal harmony.
  3. Whose job is it to find or establish that common ground? If it’s yours, worry. If it’s not, find another team. For added help, see #2.
  4. Do you want to have anything to do with senior executives who make people afraid to speak up? If not, two simple words should come in very handy: Move on. Unless there’s a bazooka to your head keeping you in the job with the abusive senior executives, get another one.
  5. What would happen if you followed the advice in #1? There are some other words that would help here: Grow up. Thick skin. Consider the source. Be the adult. Fuggedaboudit.

Facile on its Face

Advice like this is particularly facile:

If there is a personality clash (or any other divisive issue), talk it out … Say, “There’s something I’d like to chat about.” Then dispassionately share your thoughts, and how the teammate’s behavior makes you feel. Discuss a solution that will work for you and ask for her support … This conversation will clear the air and make for a smoother relationship.

If the people responsible for creating difficult work situations had the capacity, the wherewithal, or the maturity to conduct smooth relationships, would they have created difficult work situations in the first place? I don’t think so, either.

Everybody deserves a chance. I get that. But some people thrive on drama and difficulty. With folks like that, the high road is the one you take walking away.

Aside from the fact that it doesn’t sell magazines, why isn’t that obvious?