Be direct out of respect

I live in a culture where any negative feedback is so politely given (in general….) that it’s easy to miss or dismiss. Or rationalize. And then people fade away. Don’t invite you places, are too ‘busy’ to get together, let you down at the last minute. Or don’t marry you, fire you ‘out of the blue’ or even leave home and never come back, even for Christmas. Not, I hasten to add, have some of these happened to me, or at least not yet.

So I’m advocating for a magical thing called ‘compassionate demand’. Where you expect the people you love and/or respect to be their best self. I ask a lot of my students because I care about them so much. It makes me feel better when assigning a huge essay over the weekend… 🙂  It does allow me to give them some level hard work and cut through the whining. Turning the idea over, what’s it saying if I don’t? “Oh, poor thing, I know this is too hard for you, so I won’t ask you.” Brrr. Patronizing. There’s a sweet spot for challenge. The zone of proximal development if you want the edu-babble. So I aim imperfectly for that.

But bosses of the world, please, do the same for us employees. TELL us when we are not performing, help us to improve. Evaluate frequently, fairly and be direct out of respect. Hey, give specific praise too when it’s warranted. But it’s actually cruel in the end to let things go, then find a sideways method to force us out. Plus it penalizes your best performers who might be watching it all go down for years and years while they work harder to make up for a poor employee.

Politeness is not the same as kindness. I’m going to continue to try to be respectfully direct – when you do… it affects me like this… so I don’t just disappear on colleagues and people I love when the going gets tough. It’s about the hardest, scariest thing I’m trying.


About Sue Boudreau

Sue Boudreau, 7 and 8th grade science teacher and still loving it after 33 years. My mission is to empower young people to use science-centered project based learning to make a difference in the world.
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