Wick Communications

Is ‘lazy’ really the right word?

In Management on 19 Sep 2013 at 2:39 pm

lazy pic

You may or may not manage any people at your workplace, but you are probably managed by someone. That is a fraught relationship, isn’t it?

All of us want to be competent and even excel. Most of us think we are giving our best effort. So it hurts when we find out through a regular employee review or, worse, through the grapevine, that our boss thinks somewhat less of us.

I both nodded along and cringed a bit when I read Jill Geisler’s excellent column on management on the Poynter site. It’s aimed squarely at managers, like me, and I’m sad to say I see myself in some of the half-dozen pointed questions she poses. If you are an editor or a publisher, please take a moment to open the link and see if any of that stuff hits home for you.

Here’s part of the problem, as I see it: There is a natural tendency among humans to be overly reductive when describing complex problems. So, instead of explaining to our own boss why, say, one of our direct reports doesn’t do a good job on his beat, we simply describe him as “lazy.” We know it’s not that simple. The guy may be lazy, but here’s betting that isn’t the root of the problem.

Terms like “lazy” and “stupid” and “slow” turn job performance into character assessments and that is a huge mistake. For one thing, these become self-fulfilling prophesies; if you expect someone to be slow, she surely will be slow. These terms are ineffectual for managers. They will not help you fix the perceived problem. But more importantly, these reductive terms are unfair on a human level. …

Geisler makes several other really good points. I cop to being a fixer and am prone to avoidance if it makes my life easier. They say accepting your flaws is the first step toward a better day. So here’s hoping.


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