“You know, I’m really disgusted that the word hater has ever surfaced. Everyone is now walking around talking about their haters. It just gives some people an excuse to behave as silly as they want to and find illegitimate reasons to stay that way. Just because I don’t like what you say, what you do, or how you act does not mean I am hating on you.” These comments from a friend and author, Janice Jones, moved me to write an earlier post, Leaders: Crossing Paths With Haters.
The primary objective of the earlier post was to call attention to the increasing use of the words hate and hating in today’s jargon. This post digs a bit deeper into the nature of disagreement. Although disagreements are not designed to create haters or hating, they often do.
Disagreeing vs Hating: Disagreement is as old as mother earth, and occurs with humans, the animal kingdom, and between the two species. My pooch and I have had some strong disagreements about our course of direction, or how long we are going to stay in one spot when we go walking. At 110 pounds, this American bulldog-mastiff mix can be very stubborn and often attempts to exert his will. So can I. Am I hating on Wally? No. Is he hating on me? No. Are we in disagreement about direction and rest breaks? Very much so!
According to Dictionary.com, disagreement is:
a) the act, state, or fact of disagreeing
b) lack of agreement
c) a difference of opinion, or
d) an argument
Recalling a previous contract assignment, I along with several others were directed to list our first, second, and third choices of departments that we wanted to work in for the upcoming project. I complied with this request and, to my knowledge, so did everyone else. Later I was asked by a manager to join his team, however, his department was not one of my three preferences. While I was not opposed to working with him or with his employees, I wanted to know the outcome of my three preferred assignments before making a decision. That is when my troubles began.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, the manager proceeded to tell those in decision-making roles that I had agreed to work in his group and they should remove my name from the other assigned areas. Later, this supervisor would tell me that I had chosen his department as my second choice, and that I had been assigned to his group as a result of this.
After three rounds of “No I didn’t.” from me, and “Oh yes you did.” from him I said, “Let’s agree to disagree. I’ll review my notes when I get back to my desk and make a copy of the original list of preferred assignments when this conversation is over.” As I already knew but confirmed, the printed copy of the preferred assignment’s list did not include his department by my name. Later this same manager would ask a few of my peers why didn’t I like him? What did I have against working in his group? Why didn’t I want to stay with his team? etc. What he didn’t say but most likely wanted to is “why is she hating on me and my team?”
The truth of the matter is that I had nothing against him, his group, or the people working in it. I didn’t’ hate him or his team. Since I was given the choice of selecting my first three preferences just like everyone else, I certainly didn’t understand why anyone including this manager would be upset if I had not chosen his area. It appears that others didn’t choose his department either, however, I was being singled out for not doing so.
In addition to the above, I had personal and professional reasons for selecting the three departments that I did, and once again, exercised my right to choose as everyone else. In addition, no one told me that all three departments were no longer available to me, or that there were no other persons available to fill the void on this manager’s team since we had all received the same training for this work assignment prior to the start of production.
Whiners vs Haters: Whiners can be haters, but all haters are not whiners. Whiners usually snivel or complain in a peevish, self-pitying way. Usually they whine about everything including haters, wanting a new car, house, apartment, etc., being overlooked for a promotion, not having a male or female companion, unruly children, or the empty vending machine in the break room.
Like whiners, haters can be extremely negative. Professional success draws haters. As noted in a poem about haters, “That’s why you have to be careful with whom you share your blessings and your dreams, because some folk can’t handle seeing you do better than them.” Here’s another thing about haters, while they are angry and jealous about what you have and what they don’t, they most often overlook what it took for you to get where you are.
We have all been guilty of whining – at least I have. However, rather than making it a common practice for what is wrong in your life, get up and do something about it.
Constructive criticism vs Hating: Unfortunately these two terms are often used interchangeably, however, they do not have the same meaning. Constructive criticism is designed to help the individual that is receiving it by either providing feedback (here’s how you performed) and/or coaching (here are some things that you can work on to improve). The bad news is that criticism can be hard to hear, but is a necessary tool for self-improvement.
In Find the Coaching in Criticism [Ref 1], authors Heen and Stone share the following: “The past 20 years we’ve coached executives on difficult conversations, and we’ve found that almost everyone, from new hires to C-suite veterans, struggles with receiving feedback.” Another important note about feedback from the authors: It is the receiver who controls whether feedback is let in or kept out, who has to make sense of what he or she is hearing, and who decides whether or not to change. People need to stop treating feedback only as something that must be pushed and instead improve their ability to pull.
Feedback has proven difficult for many to receive. The authors note that the process strikes at the tension between two core human needs—the need to learn and grow, and the need to be accepted just the way you are. As a result, even a seemingly benign suggestion can leave you feeling angry, anxious, badly treated, or profoundly threatened. Understanding and managing your feelings and triggers to feedback that is given is a first step to improving your response to feedback.
Heen and Stone go on to share that there are three primary triggers that the receiver gets from feedback that is given:
- Truth trigger – is the content true or false? Off-base? Or unhelpful?
- Relationship trigger – the receiver of the feedback makes an assessment of the person providing the feedback, and what the receiver knows or believes about the feedback giver, and his/her credibility on the topic or reputation for telling the truth.
- Identity trigger – this is about your relationship with yourself. Right or wrong, if the feedback causes your sense of who you are to come undone, it can be devastating.
I have experienced all three triggers at various points in my life and career. I’ve also learned to not react or respond to comments that are given, but take the opportunity to step back and take another look thru a different lens of the feedback given, and then, if warranted, provide an appropriate response.
Negative feedback, when presented properly and truthfully, has had some enormous and positive effects on the receivers who were interested in improving or changing the outcomes. Likewise, it has also had some devastating effects. Heen and Stone advise that your professional growth depends on your ability to pull value from criticism in spite of your natural responses and on your willingness to seek out even more advice and coaching from bosses, peers, and subordinates. I agree.
Americans are guaranteed the right to freedom of religion, a free press, freedom of speech or expression. This is known as the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (ratified on December 14, 1791). Many of my fellow Americans take the liberty to exercise these rights on any given day and for some, as often as they can. However, just because you can say or do something does not mean that you should. This is both true for those who give feedback, and for those who receive feedback. Life’s lessons can be hard to learn, and some are never mastered.
Regarding the manager that I referred to earlier in this post, a few years have passed since this work assignment was completed. I am still asking myself why exercising my right to choose created a problem for him? I was not hating on him, he just thought I was. I also believe that it would have been a lot less strain on our working relationship if he had been more open about what his needs were, and how he thought I could help him achieve them. Manipulating outcomes that are not yours to manipulate are sure to result in a negative trigger – sooner or later, and undesirable results in the short- and long-term.
1. Find the Coaching in Criticism, by Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone, guest authors, Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2014