The NFL draft is on April 27th. This is the time where many heralded college football players will learn their fate and get that first job in the “real world.” All of the hard work and dedication will start to pay off for a select few who are fortunate enough to hear their name called by the commissioner. Inevitably, there will be a player who will be passed over by several teams and have pro-bowl caliber career. This player will always be flashing the “double middle finger emoji” to the haters and carry a chip on their shoulder. While this may be a great motivator for professional athletes, being spiteful for motivational purposes in the workplace can drive the wrong behaviors.
There are some greats, like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, who were passed over by many teams for some reason or another. Maybe they played in a weaker conference in college. Maybe they didn’t start every game or didn’t have the exposure or gaudy stats that some of those drafted before them had. And, as those players who were passed over rise to their NFL stardom, we hear statements from them like, “I’m here to stick it to all the 30 teams that passed on me in the draft. It’s the fuel that drives me every day.”
Each of these great players received some feedback at one point or another in their career. There may have been a few things that scouts missed in Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, at that time. But they all got some type of feedback to help them improve. They took this feedback and used it to be one of the best in their profession. This drove them to be the best at all costs, even if it meant demonstrating some behaviors that may not fly in the every day workplace. I’m all for the fire each of these guys possess, but if I have a manager get in my face because I ran the wrong report, I may have a little different reaction.
We see these types of behaviors play out in the workplace. An employee is not meeting the expectations set out for them. Their manager then gives them the feedback on what they need to do to improve. Instead of taking the feedback as something positive and working to improve, that employee looks to change in spite of the feedback. They start exhibiting selfish behaviors, like not working as a team or not sharing information with teammates, in order to make themselves look better.
I’ve seen this happen before because I was the person who received some constructive feedback early in my career. I didn’t take it too well. Every bit of the feedback I got was valid. And I knew it. But instead of taking it and doing something positive to change my behaviors, and the perceptions those had of me, I developed a big chip on my shoulder. I dug my heels in to prove that person wrong. My behaviors shut my co-workers out because I was spiteful and condescending just to prove I was right. My pride was hurt and I never recovered. I ended up leaving that job for another. It was best that I left when it was my choice, because I was on a path to where it wouldn’t have been my choice.
I’m all for the sports analogy in the workplace. But I also realize these don’t always translate to the everyday job. We see it all of the time. Those articles about how the superstar sports dude exudes the qualities we should all have as leaders. You know, those superstars who get in the face of those who mess up, those who get to the pinnacle of their sport by degrading and belittling those who don’t live up to the standards that they do. Not so sure I want to work for that dude. Life is too short.
I went to Indiana University during the Bobby Knight glory days. People loved when he behaved like an immature bully because he was winning. He supposedly “built character” and taught these young more more than the game of basketball. But would you really want to work for someone like that? Would you accept these behaviors in your workplace as long as this person was getting results? Really? Hmmm.
I’ve learned some very valuable lessons about constructive feedback. While I’m initially a little hurt or put off by it, I’ve learned to take a step back and understand why this was given to me. I try to use it as a positive way to make myself, and those around me, better.
Use feedback for good. When you’re feeling angry, reflect on why that person may have those perceptions of you. Use it as a reason for positive change. You will feel better. One day you may be able to thank that person for the feedback.
When you double down to prove someone wrong, you exhibit the exact behaviors that prove them right.