Recently, I had dinner with my very good friend Spence and as usual we talked about many many things. The one that has stuck in my mind most, is talking about sitting in judgment of others, or criticizing others, causes us both to self-criticize even more. She was speaking of her relationship with her daughter, I was speaking of my relationship with my staff. Obviously a mother-daughter relationship is very different...charged with much greater emotion and pure genetic complications. But if you go to the simplest analogy...they aren't so very different.
I find myself drawn into frustration and judgment and perhaps because I don't trust myself to be appropriately critical and actually fear I am being overly harsh, I then take the criticism upon myself.
Staffer 1 has trouble getting in on time. I'm pissed and calling her on it constantly.
Then turning it on myself - I arrive an hour later than her, I'm 5 minutes late for a meeting with her, I have a hard time getting up in the morning too. It doesn't matter that I stay at the office until 8PM everynight and she leaves at 4:30. Bad, Bad Wenderina. Staffer 1 is really not so bad, is she?
Staffer 2 charged 15 hours for something that should have only taken her about 4. I criticize her time management skills and push her to be more efficient.
Then turning it on myself - I have a laundry list of things to do and I've only crossed off 1 in the past 4 weeks. I'm not completing critical tasks on time, I'm having to work 50-60 hours a week just to keep my head above water. I'm wasting time all the time. Bad, Bad Wenderina. Staffer 2 is really not so bad either.
Staffer 3 is harsh and uncommunicative. She is overly critical of co-workers. She avoids working in teams.
Then turning it on myself - I'm too harsh on her. I do too much on my own without delegating and creating teams. I'm building up my own library of criticism of others. Bad, Bad Wenderina. Staffer 3 is really not so bad either.
This is a vicious cycle that Spence shares - when she plays hardball with her daughter, she ends up beating herself up even more.
Then there is the issues we both have with compliments. Neither of us are very good at accepting compliments and do that typical female thing. You know the one.
Compliment: Nice job on that Wenderina!
Response: Thanks, it was really a team effort, Staffer 1 (when she came in on time), Staffer 2 (although she spent too much time on it) and Staffer 3 (who didn't keep any of us in the loop on what she was doing) all contributed! They really deserve all the credit.
Compliment: You only rated yourself a 3 out of 5 on Group Management! I gave you a 4.5 - you had a tough year, with lots of tough staff issues. You excelled.
Response: Thanks, BUT I still feel x, y, z are unresolved and should be done by now. I suck at this and should be beaten and strung up by my toenails. (ok that 2nd sentence was only an echo in my head, but it was there).
And yet, Spence and I both agreed, we are absolutely craving this attention. She has history with a father who withheld affection and approvals so she strives for that in everything she does. My father and mother were quite good with their praise, and yet, I have my own baggage from somewhere that gives me that desire to people-please over everything else. My successes at work and in life make me high...and in equal measure, make me squirm uncomfortably.
So, where is the lesson in all of this?
There probably is none.
Except that therapy seems to be about awareness and using that awareness to change behavior, or at least understand it and compensate or mitigate the results.
So, for the next few days, while I'm in meetings that include many of the top execs of our company, I'm going to try and be aware. I'm going to try not to people-please so much. I'm going to try and take compliments with a simple Thank You. I'm going to try to curb my desire to criticize - others and myself.