Not all information are equal (in this data age)

Leaning over his desk, getting as close as possible to his computer screen, Sam constantly looks over his shoulder, in the same direction.

Sam, mumbling: “I need to concentrate, to get this done.”

In the midst of the noise, behind Sam, you can clearly see a man walking fast, saying: “Scuse me. Scuse me. (…) Thanks. (…) Scuse me.

Pete, short of breath, from his slalom between other people’s desks: “Sam, my man?!

Sam, looking slightly fed up: “Yesss… What is it?

Pete, catching his breath up: “Sam…? I know it’s the hundredth time I come to see you, these past few days, but could you please take care of this when you have a minute? And let me know when it’s done?” While walking back to wherever he came from “I know I can count on you! You’re the man, Sam. You’re the man!

Sam, mumbling, while looking at Pete walking away: “Sure… But you didn’t bother asking me how am I doing. If I need help with anything. If what I did the last time was “Ok”. Or if I can actually help you with this new thing, you came to me with. You didn’t care.”

A recent scientific-literature review has shown that burnout is common among psychotherapists. [1 ] As the journalist who reported the study wrote “Working an emotionally-demanding job can leave you frazzled by alienation, exhaustion, and confusion about whether you are doing any good.”

If there’s one profession or work situation that really is demanding, emotionally speaking, it’s psychotherapists. For they’re constantly in contact with people fighting their own battles.

Unless you work in an isolated environment, and interactions with other people are kept to the lowest minimum possible (ex. long distance truck driver, electric power tower maintenance mechanic, etc.), we’re all constantly surrounded by people… trying to deal with whatever falls onto their plate.

The nuance is when most of our workdays aren’t spent in an “asking something to others” mode but in a “serving others” mode.

Like psychotherapists, nurses, customer service employees, admin assistants and many others are.

You must tend to the customer’s needs.” This is what’s unwritten in all of these people’s job description but is silently expected by their employer.

Truth is, to make sure we give correctly or the “right way”, we need some sort of feedback. So we can adjust, improve or simply change the way we do things. So we can get some sense of pride out of it.

Such feedback isn’t always provided by the person we serve. Because you know, they’ll say things like “I’m on a hurry. I need to be somewhere else. Please make it quick?

Receiving no feedback at all, or only negative feedback, doesn’t do any good to building that sense of pride (in our work) we all seek.

How can you fill this information gap, then?

One way is to look for the small clues people give when they come to see you, or leave once you served them.

Are they respectful or condescending when asking you for something? Are they understanding or judgmental when you tell them what they ask isn’t possible right away but maybe later in time? Do they leave with a smile on their face on in their eyes? Do they express a sense of relief or do some warm satisfaction sounds like “Mmmmm”, while they’re interacting with you?

Another way to fill this information gap is “going for the news” as they say in journalism.

This means, asking simple direct questions to the person you’d like to get some feedback from.

Does this (the work I did, the product I found for you) answers your questions or needs?”. “What is it you liked about the way I tried to help you?” and “What is it you think could be improved next time?

Questions that provides you the opportunity to get some insights on what you do well. More importantly, on how you can improve over time.

For sure, most of us work in fast-pace environment. Because of that, we’re made to believe “No one has time to give any feedback… except complain when something doesn’t work”. Yet, taking 30 seconds to ask a question and listen to the answer can make a whole difference in an 8 hours day. A difference between feeling demoralized or that we’re doing work that matters to at least one person.

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Photo by: JamesOlaDujoye

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