Friday, February 10, 2012

Scathing Reports Aren't Always Destructive

You know that feeling when someone asks you what you think? Not one of those half-assed efforts that people say because you're equals or because they feel they should. But when they actually look at you, open their eyes and ears, and ask you "Hey, I want to hear what you have to say about this." It can be a pretty good feeling in a lot of cases, having your input matter, because most of the things we are involved in we care about and have feelings about them. But you know when that question is even more enjoyable? It's when someone asks what you think about something that you think of truly negatively. Oh boy, does that feel good.

If given the opportunity to fill out a survey or speak with someone who could hear my opinion, I would jump at the bit. Man, oh man, you have no idea how excited I got about this. I have ranting in private about my work for ages now but haven't been able to quit because of it's importance to the next steps I will be taking. I have told coworkers, families, friends, even some people I don't know whose day seems bad but gets better when they here about the hoops I have to jump through to stay afloat at work. And finally, after a long, long time of keeping my feelings from the people who need to hear the frustration so that they can make a difference, I could finally get the opportunity.

I would go into the survey with a menacing grin as I reiterate the past verbal tirades into paper, where I am able to compose my thoughts and make the complaints better spoken and more organized. I would give unsatisfactory marks everywhere that they needed to be seen so that the right people would become known. My report would probably drop the jaws of those reviewing it, unaware that everything isn't so peachy in the workplace. I would do this, while admittedly getting some sick satisfaction, not for myself, but for those my complaints concern.

My point that I am making is honesty: that transparency with work, friendships, groups, etc. is incredibly important in the improvement and eventual success of that relationship. This ties into my last post, about working cohesively with a partner, and the reason we do so well is because of this transparency. It needs to be universal. 

What you might be thinking is that me not doing so to people's faces, gossiping and complaining behind the backs of the people whom are my subjects, is cowardly or maybe even hypocritical. And really, you have a point. I would love to be the guy from Office Space who, when given the opportunity to say what he wants to his employers faces, tears them apart from head to toe and gets rewarded for his candor. That would be wonderful, Unfortunately, that was a movie. Things wouldn't work out for me like that with this job, and you'll just have to trust me on this one.

No, a private, anonymous survey would be the way for me to go about this. Now, I would take the approach differently if it were a friendship, as I have done with a coworker, but that's a different situation. If you feel like you have to tell someone that they are bothering you with what they are doing, make sure you do it in the right way.

In my job's case, I feel like an anonymous, indirect report would benefit the most. The message that I would deliver would encompass everyone, making people evaluate what they are doing and if they are doing it the best way. Because my audience would be a group of people, naming names would only point a blistering spotlight at that person and likely cause defensiveness. Rather, I would leave it open, because it is the best way for me to convey my message, which is not to relieve myself of stress but to inform my audience of what I think needs changed.

But know this, sometimes these messages can be far more beneficial when said in a scathing manner. Often the polite suggestions with no apparent weight will go unnoticed while ones that really attack an issue will spring people into action. And don't you feel like that is owed to your friends, yourself, everyone? I do. If I am not doing something in the best way that I can, I would want to know. Even if I choose not to make the improvements, at least I am aware, and that's the most important part. The point of a scathing report is not to degrade, disrespect, avenge, anger, offend, bother, haunt, hurt, or destroy. The point is to make someone aware that what they are doing doesn't stand well with someone who cares enough to tell them. That in itself is special, and will often result in respect, rather than offense. 

Do yourself and your audience a favor, do not be afraid to speak your mind:  our minds are far more intelligent than our mouths, except for when we tell it not to say what we think.

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