I’m not the world’s greatest typist by a long shot, but I’m even slower if someone is standing over me, peering over my shoulder. And I make more mistakes, too.
The challenge associated with doing a good job and keeping our stakeholders well-serviced is exacerbated by near-constant criticism and demands, and the habitual undermining we experience. People seem to expect more, want to pay less for it, and still seem dissatisfied with what they get. Am I unusually paranoid, or is it your experience that people are too quick to voice disappointment, and too slow to acknowledge effort and achievement?
The level of appreciative feedback within many organisations is woefully low.
Part of this is explicit. The growing industry of quality control, assessment and auditing means that we are operating within ever-tighter regimens. Companies and industries have certain standards that they are desperate to uphold. And as long as we know about these standards, we accept the need to provide evidence of adhering to them. After all, it is these standards that keep us ahead, afloat and in business.
The implicit level of judgment is much tougher to deal with. This is the state where everyone seems to know better; where people appear to take delight in your failings; where we sense that people are on the lookout and willing us to fail, just so they can come in with the knockout blow of “Well, personally I wouldn’t have done it like that”. It’s the competitive cut and thrust; the jockeying for position which thrives on putting others down and promoting yourself. It’s the desperate need to disassociate ourselves from failure and mediocrity or any hint of it that drives some people to stick the knife in (ever so gently and subtly, but regularly).
And so our working days are lived under the shadow of subtle criticism, displeasure, and the perception of being permanently on trial.
This is bound to have a damaging effect on our health, and it certainly gets in the way of productive work.
If we’re always looking over our shoulder so we can dodge the next
If we have people constantly breathing down our necks we’re bound to get hot under the collar.
And if we operate in an environment where we are being continuously monitored and judged, we become more focused on defending ourselves and our work than actually doing it.
We spend so much time justifying what we’re doing that the amount of time left to actually do it is diminished. Yet our work loads and demands increase so we are left with few options but to put in more hours. And then we have to justify why we are working such long hours!
What we refer to as judgements are perhaps not really judgements at all if we take the OED definition:
Judgement: the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions
The ideas of consideration and sense often play little part in the judgemental way others criticise us. The assumption they want us to make is that they are right and we are wrong, but people don’t necessarily know better: they just know different.
So, judgmental attitudes and behaviours that you become victim to are more often over-assertive responses to situations that have little to do with the quality of your actual work. They are often driven by the personal needs of the judge to present him or herself in a more positive light than those around them. The only thing under consideration for the Judge is, “How can I make myself look good, here?”
Judgements are valid when part of a process of meaningful, developmental feedback. Those providing feedback have a responsibility to make themselves part of the solution by offering support, encouragement and ideas. And we are even more likely to engage with them if they have the humility to recognise that they are not the perfect finished model with all the answers.