WILL UNWOUND #731: “Tough Love”April 12, 2012
If not, please quickly re-read Will Unwound #652: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
Geraldo is the drywall contractor, sorry, “artiste,” who did the drywall on my new house project.
If you remember from Will Unwound #727: In Which Will Gets to Keep His Man Card, I spent a harrowing hour on Easter Sunday doing an insane painting tightrope walk between the 3rd tier of the stucco scaffolding and the roof of my new house project. After that little life affirming episode I retreated to the interior of the project to continue the more mundane task of painting the drywall constructed and textured by Geraldo, the artiste (see Will Unwound #717: One Letter Separates Pain from Paint). At least I thought it was fairly mundane until Geraldo showed up unexpectedly to inspect what my painting had done to his art work (drywall!):
G: “Is shit!”
Me: “What is shit?”
G: “Two paint drips on ceiling!”
Me: “Geraldo, those are texture marks, not paint drips!”
G: “Am artiste. Not texture…paint!”
G: “Paint. I show you.” With that Geraldo scrambles up on the scaffolding, reaches up to the offending marks on the 16 foot high ceiling, pulls a putty knife out of his back pocket, scrapes the offending material off the drywall, then throws it in my direction and yells two words: “PAINT” and then “SHIT.”
G: “You fuck up my art work.”
Then Geraldo stormed off as I was left humiliated in front of my wife.
Now 4 days later I can talk about this experience as an issue in human relations. Receiving constructive criticism is never easy. In fact, my experience from 35 years of library and city management taught me that roughly 95% of my employees simply could not handle constructive criticism. Most people want validation not correction whether they are doing good work or bad. This all starts with the nefarious trend of grade inflation in our colleges.
No matter how gently or how positively I would put the constructive criticism employees would invariably flinch from it: “Ted, you are a wonderful human being and a crackerjack reference librarian. You are a wonderful human being and a crackerjack reference librarian because you are always learning, evolving, and improving. In that vein, let me coach you about several areas where I think you can improve your job performance. I know you want to know these things.”
Nope. Nada. Yilch. Ted never wanted to know these things. Ted’s idea of constructive criticism was having me call him a wonderful human being and a crackerjack reference librarian.”
“Will,” he would say with a tear in his eye, “you mean I’m not a wonderful human being AND a wonderful reference librarian too?”
“Crackerjack is pretty, good Ted.”
“But it’s not wonderful.”
Question of the Day: Why can’t library employees handle constructive criticism?