Frank Mulligan: Big editors don’t cry
I’ve been told I’m a tad too sensitive to criticism at work, which is just so grotesquely unfair I want to bury my face in my hands and weep like a small child.
Fortunately, that feeling passes after a day or two, but the issue of delivering workplace criticism in the most constructive way possible remains.
How can we best let our underlings at work know that their performance may be lacking? Refraining from referring to them as “underlings” probably would be a good start.
One way in which we can begin to understand the psychology of workplace critique would be to analyze our own reaction to criticism.
How do you react to a less than favorable review:
- I take a good hard look at what I’ve been doing and seek ways in which to improve.
- I consider the critique rationally and with complete objectivity.
- I begin pricing firearms.
- I bury my face in my hands and weep like a small child.
- I pretend I’m someone else.
Like Goldilocks’ experience with the three bears’ porridge, we’re seeking a system of imparting workplace criticism that is “just right.”
But unlike Goldilocks, we’re seeking it in the real world of modern business, not during the woodland B&E of a home occupied by animals usually associated with caves.
In other words, we need real answers.
One bit of advice I would offer is to provide the object of your criticism with your undivided attention when you “deliver the blow.”
For instance, it would be bad form to make your feelings known while playing Texas Hold ’em on your BlackBerry.
Likewise, it’s important to retain a serious mien during the recitation. If you keep breaking off to giggle, the impact of your statement could be ameliorated.
Also, keep the language accessible and refrain from using words that are less bandied in conversation, like mien, ameliorated or bandied.
I would also recommend against rendering your criticism in verse form.
For instance, don’t offer the following:
“Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Why your work’s so bad,
I haven’t a clue,
Here’s a friendly word,
That you should take,
If you don’t get better,
Future plans you should make.”
Likewise, avoid dispensing the bad news in rap form:
“Focus on me, the grand inquisitor,
Listen to my rap, I ain’t no visitor,
As to your performance, I keep on with the heavy eyeball tracking,
And without elevation, I’ll soon send your sorry posterior packing.”
I hope this column has been of some help to my colleagues in middle-management positions.
But if you’ve found that it totally misses the mark and that I don’t know what I’m talking about, please keep the criticism to yourself.
Frank Mulligan is an editor in GateHouse Media New England’s Raynham, Mass., office, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.