Respectful Critique

“‘Let’s stick some arsenic into President Bartlet’s drinking water and see if he delegates responsibility to the World Bank then.’ ‘President Bartlet’. You reffered to me and to the office with respect. You’re a class act.”
President Bartlet in “The West Wing”

I have written about the difficulties of “telling truth to power”, but the older I get (BTW, I am still young, I’m at the breaking point when the vibrancy of youth meets the wisdom of old ;-)) the more I am convinced that there is no real danger, as long as you keep the respect for the person you are talking to.

The reason is quite simple: A person who is willing to accept feedback will recognize the respect and accept the feedback. This person might not do what you recommend but what he or she thinks will solve the underlying problem. But a good person to work for will accept it.

However, if you give feedback with respect and the person does not accept the feedback but blames the messenger, that’s the persons problem — and it’s a very bad place to be. A place poisonous and stifling to personal growth. A place where the soul dies and you loose interest in leaving your beneficial impact in life.

And no matter how much you like consistency and really, really hate to switch workplaces, in that situation its the best that can happen to you, no matter how much you really, really, really loath it in that moment. It’s a kind of litmus test whether you are at the right place — and life is too short to be in the wrong place. And remember, people who like their jobs have often left jobs which they did not like. Good people can afford to do this — and they should do it.

Because no matter what you might learn from bad experience, without really positive experiences with your supervisors you may not get into the situation to apply the positive lessons you drew from the bad experiences.

So, in short, as long as critique is respectful and directed at the problem and not the person, it is okay.

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