One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

July 17, 2010

Too Nice

I wore my glow-in-the-dark robot t-shirt to work today. I was totally excited to wear it to work, thinking I had a number of coworkers who would appreciate it. But it turns out it’s not appropriate to invite your coworkers to join you in a dark closet to “see my robot light up”.

Live and learn.

* * *

My director and I were discussing getting feedback from people and how everyone can hate-hate-hate a project, but when it comes time to review it afterward, they only say nice things.

So I told him this story:

When I was working at Oz as a software trainer, management didn’t particularly care about the science of delivering good training or whether the trainees were satisfied so long as their management that paid for the training was not unsatisfied. So the only feedback they solicited was a lackluster followup email that was really a thinly veiled solicitation for testimonials.

I kinda did care about the training, though. And also cared about giving trainees at least the illusion that their opinions mattered. So I developed feedback forms and brought them along with a big envelope and would finish up training by handing them around and asking participants to fill them out. I implied that I would bring the feedback forms back to the office for my supervisors to peruse, generally by leaving the room and asking them to seal the envelope when they were done.

In reality, I would take them straight back to my hotel room and read them since my supervisors didn’t know to expect them and I was the only one who cared about them.

I have sometimes (even today) felt, on sharing this anecdote, that this confession slightly shocks people. Which I find funny – because even now, I don’t see the issue. Maybe it’s shocking because I don’t seem that conniving? Except that I don’t see it remotely as a conniving act. I see it as a dishonest, but compassionate act. Like when you help a child write a letter to Santa Claus so that you can learn their wishes.

I think it was helpful. It helped me refine what I focused on in training, it gave me the confidence to push participants to share their training needs early in the training instead of at the end and it led me to develop training manuals that I could customize for each client’s needs before training (and which, incidentally, I bound using report covers that I purchased because my office manager could never be convinced that providing documentation for training was beneficial).

And it was helpful for the trainees too. It allowed them a venue to express their opinions and took those opinions to the person within the organization who was most likely to act on them. And it was helpful for my company because it perpetuated to our clients the illusion that we were professional enough to invest effort in the quality of their training.

Anyhow, none of that story was particularly helpful in our exploration of getting people to be more honest in assessing projects and teamwork. At the end of my story, my director said, “and? Did anyone ever say anything particularly honest?” And I had to admit, “no. Even thinking I would never see it, they were always overly nice.”

There are worse problems to have.

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