I hate to be the guy sort of putting down an article with the title “Be Kind”. So right here at the top, yes, be kind! That said, this person appears to have swung from one extreme to the other. Neither one being healthy.
I was just callously indifferent
Yep, being callously indifferent isn’t healthy or normal – even work “families” require some level of personal investment and understanding.
But believing deeply that I am responsible for how I make others feel…
Now he went to the other extreme, he is putting forth that he is responsible (in control of) how other people feel. That is IMHO, worse than being callously indifferent. At least when callously indifferent you view the other person as an equal. When you believe you can control someones emotional state, you are stripping that person of agency, dehumanizing them.
There is a middle ground between being “indifferent” to peoples emotions and believing you are in control of them. Maybe he is someone who isn’t great at working in the “gray area” so this is a useful model for him.
being callously indifferent isn’t healthy or normal – even work “families” require some level of personal investment and understanding.
You’d be amazed how long it takes some people to learn this. Many people never do–I would put it down to bad people management, which is absolutely endemic in the industry.
Now he went to the other extreme, he is putting forth that he is responsible (in control of) how other people feel.
“Responsible for” and “in control of” are not synonymous. I’m responsible for my team’s productivity, but I don’t directly control how they do their jobs. I mentor, I coach, I help make decisions, I try to identify the reasons for success and failure, but I’m absolutely reliant on the team to manage their own day-to-day tasks.
“Responsible for” and “in control of” are not synonymous.
One is required for the other. Without control, being responsible for something is nonsensical. You can’t control the weather, hence I can’t get mad at you if it happens to be too hot out today! You can try to be a good person, but you can’t control how others will feel, and to think you can diminishes them and aggrandizes you.
I’m responsible for my team’s productivity, but I don’t directly control how they do their jobs.
Sure you do. You choose not to use that control to micro-manage, but MANY managers DO love micro-managing, having direct control over how employees do their job. Additionally, you have control over WHO is doing that job – you can FIRE people who can’t be “controlled”. If an employee you had opened up every file and just typed “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA” in it all day – you might not be able to ever force that person to stop – but you WOULD fire them and replace them with someone you could “control”.
If you couldn’t fire your “I only type A’s” employee, and you were fired for his ineptitude, then you would be responsible without control, which would be terribly unfair.
I think the author probably meant something closer to “I am responsible for both the intended and the unintended impact of my behavior on the feelings and well-being of others”.
Maybe he did, but how does that make it better? I hope it was just a poorly written idea and he actually isn’t so arrogant or misguided to believe he controls others feelings.
Do you agree that to be responsible and accountable for something you have to be in control of it? Do you agree that me holding you accountable for things you have no control over would be both illogical and immoral? This idea of “being responsible for other peoples feelings” is toxic on both sides of the coin.
From the POV of the person who believes they can control others “feelings”: Believing you can control others emotional response is dehumanizing, it strips people of agency. Imagine for a moment if you actually COULD control other peoples feelings rather than just your actions, imagine the control you would wield over them, and in turn the level of responsibility that would go with it (Great power, great responsibility, etc) . Luckily, it is profoundly untrue, we decide how we process input and respond to events, we control our own emotions.
From the POV of the person who believes they can’t control their own “feelings”: Believing you can’t control your own emotional response is exceptionally dangerous thinking. Stalkers often believe that the victim is “responsible” for making them fall in love with the victim, and consider stalking a logical response. Domestic violence abusers often think the victim is “responsible” for making them angry, “Why do you make me hit you?”… lots of vile things are justified using this logic.
No matter how you slice it – believing Human A is responsible for the feelings of Human B is unhealthy. You control your actions, not how people respond to them, so just try to do the right thing according to the only mind you can know, your own. You are not responsible for (nor in control of) other peoples emotions, and they are not responsible for (nor in control of) yours.
I don’t think what you’re working from represents my beliefs or my proposed interpretation of the author’s beliefs.
I don’t think anybody intends to suggest stripping the agency from others. It’s clearly arrogant at best and insane at worst.
Instead, we’re talking about the operations of “civilization” as a technical concept—self-domestication, really. We are not at rights to do all that we might wish to because it is common knowledge that doing certain things does cause damage to others. We therefore collectively agree—implicitly and as a child, really, and the validity of mechanism here is something that could perhaps be debated, but its existence cannot be—that we will operate under certain rules and boundaries. The existence of these rules and boundaries allows us to feel safer around one another and operate more smoothly. Without them we would be forced to protect our own more clearly to the great detriment of society.
So Civilization means that we all operate under an implicit compact about what behavior is OK and we all agree to not build defenses against these things. And by “agree”, importantly, I clearly don’t mean that there’s a written contract somewhere. The exact notions of Civilization are vague and shifting and, importantly again, may be different in subgroups as they are from the population as a whole.
For instance, the compact says it’s alright to hug your close friends and family but not strangers. If you try to hug random strangers they may act violently toward it because they have established and maintained a defense to physical contact from strangers.
Anyway, long tangent aside, you obviously are not responsible for the feelings of others in the sense that you obviously do not have control over them. I agree with you completely here.
But you are responsible for the compact of Civilization and even the tiny variations which may exist in pockets of society like your workplace. If you violate this compact and thus cause harm to those around you—and yes, it was their choice to be open to this harm—then you are responsible for that.
And frankly, as demonstrated in this article, the typical way that Civilization accounts for those who persistently fail the compact is that it kicks them out.
[If this idea is interesting to you or seems copacetic to things that you feel or believe, then I highly recommend the following article by Kevin Simler. I feel I had some grasp for these ideas far before reading it, but the vocabulary and imagery developed really sticks with me in a great way: http://www.meltingasphalt.com/personhood-a-game-for-two-or-more-players/]
A responsibility to the social contract makes a lot more sense than a responsibility for others emotions. You control adhering to the social contract, hence can be responsible for it. Breaking the social contract can cause you to be judged regardless of if harm was imparted to anyone. Additionally, as you mentioned, it varies from place to place. I spent around a year in a half working on a tiny team building software in which bugs == dead human beings. His new watch words might be “Be Kind”, my teams was “Be Right”. The social contract on that team was all about brutal, unsparing honesty – both on the giving and receiving end.
My point (initially, all the way up there at the top) was that being “callously indifferent” and “emotionally manipulative” are the acts of the same underlying personality quarks. One is just significantly more effective, there is a reason we see so many sociopaths as top tier CEOs.
Also, the article was worth it just for the pictures but I didn’t really gain a new appreciation for anything, mostly basic social norms type stuff – I like the bit about the only way to make civilized people is with civilized people – the process oriented approach.
I think you’re essentially correct robots the difference between two kinds of social contracts, but I am unsure I can follow your assertion that one is strictly better than the other. I think it’s an incredibly complex question.
And ultimately, when it’s all said and done, this is what the story is about. A misunderstanding of the social contract led to unintentional damage to coworkers. The author was then asked to normalize.
I have been a manager for years in non-IT positions. The environment of the workplace was my responsibility and I for certain had control over the kind of environment I cultivated.
I am not a manager now (Gladly) but I am still responsible for how I make people feel about me. If I am not friendly or approachable than most people will feel I am not friendly nor approachable. I also go out of my way to help co-workers to complete their task that are not my responsibility. So people will feel like I am a team player. If people are behind in their own work they will not feel like I will criticize them, but I am there to help them out.
I strongly support what this article presented. and passed it on to my non-profit company’s upper management who has than sent it out to the rest of the management team. It is very important to understand that you have the ability to make people have a emotional response when they see you.
Well, we simply disagree than, I think your delusions of control over other peoples emotions is just that – a delusion, and harmful one at that. That said I hope you still try to be a good person, friendly and approachable, but not out of some odd idea that you can control how others feel. I have worked in large enough organizations to know that every action you take will likely make one person like you and one person hate you.
friendly or approachable
“Always talking with people, chatting, bullshitting… never working.”
I also go out of my way to help co-workers to complete their task that are not my responsibility.
“That guy props up these useless engineers, the reason they don’t get fired and replaced with decent engineers is that this guy is always propping them up, so everyone else has to do more work” <– this is a REAL problem in many organizations, hidden bad actors.
Just – anything you do is likely to make someone unhappy – that is life. Just be the person YOU think you should be.
I certainly agree with the message, but am fairly appalled by the story. Is lambasting coworkers anonymously a popular thing to do at Facebook? Do people not discuss their problems face-to-face? I can’t imagine working in such an environment.
Is lambasting coworkers anonymously a popular thing to do at Facebook? Do people not discuss their problems face-to-face?
I’ve never worked at Facebook, but I have worked in the industry for over 20 years. Many (most?) people generally try to avoid direct conflicts with their coworkers. Complaining about coworkers to your management is actually a pretty good way to go.
Are you referring to the statements his boss showed him? That sounds pretty tame, tbh, and I’ve worked in fairly nice places. I’m used to nominating a handful of people whose feedback I would like, but who actually have which feedback is secret. (Although in practice you can often guess because of different writing styles.)
That seems like an industry-standard performance review scheme (note: nobody in the industry has any idea how to do this right; Peter Seibel promised to give a talk on this which I’ve been lucky enough to see a preview of recently; it strongly influenced how we do perf review at my workplace).
A bunch of people (me included) consider anonymized peer reviews an antipattern; you can de-anonymize it, and it’s seen as a mechanism to rant about others without providing actionable feedback. In the OP’s case, the anonymized feedback cycle seems to have helped, but it’s not hard to imagine their past unkind self dismissing those notes as useless.
I usually cc’d the person the feedback was for, which helped me focus on only saying things I felt comfortable delivering to them directly.