Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Criticism in the Workplace

As a student in the field of correction, I've noticed a few approaches to criticism in the workplace. I'm going to focus on editor-writer interactions, but I think this actually applies to many other jobs in which criticism has to be given:

Let the Brutalizing Begin Many writers request this treatment ("Please be brutally honest with me. Does it suck?") Being brutal isn't helpful to most of us, even when we request it. As an editor I refuse to brutalize a writer, because brutalizing fundamentally ignores that my opinion on a work is just that. My opinion. And you know what opinions are like, right? Everyone has one. And as a writer, I run away shrieking if I sense I'm about to have my work brutalized. I just don't think this works in the long term unless you're into some intellectual version of S & M.

The Cursory Positive Assessment This approach seems generally well-intentioned, but poorly executed ("Thank you for all your hard work (overall it was fine), but I've found 42,310 things wrong with it.") I think this is lazy on the part of the editor though it is terribly widespread as a practice. As a writer, the list of 42,310 things wrong always leaves me feeling hen pecked.

The Sandwich This is an often recommended approach for correction in the workplace in which you sandwich the criticism between two pieces of fluffy white bread praise. ("You did this well (the top bun), but there is an issue with blah-blah (the meat), and finally you also did this well (the bottom bun))" If the praise is superficial and fluffy, I can sense that as a writer (I can also sense that I'm being manipulated).

The Oh So Thorough This is my growing edge for giving criticism in which I thoroughly address and describe all the positive aspects of a work before going into anything that might be able to be improved. As an editor, it's a ton of work, but it leaves me feeling I was fair to the writer's work. And as a writer, it's the only one of these methods that leaves me excited to revise, which is truly something else.

That is all I got.