I have this brilliant friend who landed a job in a big multinational soon after college. While working with her boss, she saw his slip-ups and wrong decisions. So, like a helpful underling, she privately and quietly told him how to correct some mistakes he had made — and pointed out the land mines that he ought to avoid. She didn’t expect gratitude or fanfare. To her, she was just doing her job.
Unfortunately, her boss didn’t appreciate this gem of a human being who was working for him. Instead, he was annoyed and told my friend to back off — as most insecure people do, when intimidated and paralyzed by their own fears.
My friend told her boss (without skipping a beat, without batting an eyelash): “That’s fine, sir. Then I will just quietly watch you tie yourself up in knots.”
A few days later, she turned in her irrevocable resignation. She must’ve realized that she didn’t like watching people tie themselves up in knots. And she didn’t want to be under someone who was too impressed with himself, and for no good reason.
Alas. That’s how we lose our good people! Thanks to my bosses (I had three in my lifetime), I learned — way before I even became a boss — that it pays to listen to correction, a dissenting opinion, even harsh criticism, especially when the source is trustworthy, intelligent, and knowledgeable in the field s/he is talking about. Too many people have fallen headlong into pits they could’ve avoided, had they listened to good feedback.
One thing we need to remember is that even if we’re “the boss,” we’re highly fallible. We don’t always operate at full throttle. We don’t have the corner on great ideas. And yes, we can make pretty stupid mistakes, just like everyone else who we think has a lower IQ than us.
A know-it-all (whether you’re a boss or not) is like a balloon that’s high on helium. A person who has a “better opinion” for almost everything is like a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal, a broken cistern. They don’t amount to much, except for appearances.
So let’s not lose our good people just because we won’t listen to unpleasant feedback, dissenting opinions, or flat-out criticisms. Many bosses mistake a dissenting opinion for rebellion or hard-headedness. But we know that there’s a HUGE difference between “being obedient to authority” and being a lackey, a yes-man, a go-fer, or a court jester. We easily see the difference between the two when we’re not the boss, right? Unfortunately, some bosses don’t see it. So they lose their competent, bright, hard-working staff who have the courage to speak up when they don’t agree or when they have some good ideas that might seem off-tangent.
Even in families, the same dynamics can occur. That’s why we have brilliant, “disobedient” sons or daughters who have strained relationships with their authoritarian parents. As parents, we must pray for discernment. Are we dealing with a disobedient, intractable child? Or one who simply thinks out of the box, a curious child with an active imagination, a thinker — not just a sponge?
The next time someone disagrees with you, criticizes you (gently or brutally), comes up with a suggestion that’s “not the practice or not within policy,” pause and pray. Let’s vacuum-seal our egos. And try to see things from a different perspective. They could be right. They could be wrong. But at least, we listened and thought things over.
That’s one way to keep our best people. And we keep them thinking on their feet!