The silly things people do when they think they’re being so clever can be so much fun, don’t you think?
Like the cute kid who asks, “Mom, would I be in trouble if I broke the TV?” Mom hears that and bolts for the remote to see what the problem is, leaving the rest of the world caught between wanting to teach the kid a lesson and giving him a wink for the effort.
Or like the hapless high school senior boy who, in early April, approaches the equally hapless girl and stammers, “I, uh, you know, um, next week is prom, and…” The adult world, relating all too well to this scene, silently screams in unison: “C’mon, kid, ASK,” while John Hughes gets busy with Anthony Michael Hall blocking another scene for Sixteen Weird Breakfast Club Science Candles.
What makes these scenes so easy for people to relate to emotionally and enjoy is the fact that the protagonists so clearly telegraph their intentions. As an audience, we know where these scenes are going right from the get-go, so we have plenty of time to anticipate the conflict we know is coming: mom’s frantic dash to see what’s wrong, the girl’s response (will she say “Yes”?!).
But that’s as audience members. When we are in these scenes ourselves, those initial telegraphed intentions create STRESS.
Now, against this backdrop, let’s look at some of the things you do at work.
–Do you put all new hire candidates through an assessment battery and make them earn the right to talk with an individual? That’s nice, I bet you get lots of good data. Meanwhile, your candidates stress out at the thought of being a number in the bureaucracy.
–Do you ask for your team’s input while in the same breath giving them your opinion? That’s a good strategy… if you want to create stress for people who don’t easily do the whole fake smiling and nodding thing.
–Do you start conversations with, “Let me give you some feedback…?” Yes? Wow. Why not simply tell the person, “I heard what you said and am ignoring it. Instead, I am coming back to you with cutting criticism, and I look forward to monitoring your fight or flight response.”
Way to go, Mr. Smooth. Do you have any concept of the impact of your approach in these situations? Or are you like that little boy who can’t understand why his simple question made mommy so upset?
Next time, think about how you’d feel if you saw someone else using your tactic and remember, just like a character in a movie, you’re more transparent than you realize.
Jason Seiden is a career consultant for professionals and managers (http://jasonseiden.com/). He wrote the best dang career book ever (just ask him), called How to Self-Destruct: Making the Least of What’s Left of Your Career, and is a master facilitator of the cranial extraction method of on-the-job performance improvement. And yes, even though we value the intrinsic worth of his writing, we pay him per post. That makes us part of the problem..