In some stages of of our lives, there are always other people who take the troubles to guide us, teach us, and even warn us so that we walk the right path and dont end up being junkies, losers, or criminals behind bars.
When we were babies and children, our parents taught us the acceptable norms, instilled in us good values, and reprimanded us when we did nasty things that violated those norms. Their anger, warning, and scolding, bitter as they were, admittedly are the human touch that shaped our personality and contributed to our outlook. When we were young people aged 3 to 15, we had these guardians– parents, older siblings, and teachers– beside us, always ready and willing to shape our minds and if necessary impose strict measures that keep us from going astray.
As time passes and we get older, we find there are fewer people like this around us. When we are 20 something or above, we enjoy the company of friends but at the same time we see the roles of our parents begin to fade away. They are likely to think that scolding, harsh reprimand, and constant monitoring of our deeds are no longer necessary because we are considered mature persons who can differentiate what is good and what is bad and be responsible for our acts. The lecturers in the college behave more or less the same way. They still sometimes give advice and cautions but we feel that they are slightly more relaxed than the cautions and advice our parents gave us when we were small kids.
So, here we are, fully grown-ups at our thirty or forty something. Now, who is going to take the role of our guardians? Who is going to give us verbal warning and sincere advice whenever we commit mistakes or show tendencies to go bad?
If you are a leader, a teacher, or someone at a higher position, no one around you would dare to say those frank but accurate advice, let alone warning. Even if they do criticize you, they are quite likely to do that behind your back, and so however worthy their criticisms are, you will always miss them because you simply cannot hear them.
And you carry on with your life feeling complacent about yourself, thinking that they way you lead or the way you relate to others have been all right. You assume that since you are adults, you have learned enough lessons from your childhood and teenhood and thus you feel no need to improve further.
One might argue that the evaluation system in your work place will eventually reveal to you what areas of your behavior needs improvement, but in practice that very rarely happens. In some paternalistic and non-egalitarian cultures, the evaluation system, be it 360-degree evaluation or any other sophisticated labels, simply fails to capture the most honest opinions about colleagues’ or superiors’ shortcomings. It is common to see that employees give each other the average points for almost every item on an evaluative questionnaire. While this maintains superficially harmonious relationships, it masks the honest truth about weaknesses which otherwise could have been revealed openly by a really caring guardian.
While we were more malleable beings in our childhood, when we grow up much older we have to realize that we have become persons with fixed type of personality and outlook. What we need to have are well-meaning people around us who would sincerely give their corrective feedback and opinions about us.
That way, we will not stop becoming better persons.