No matter what you do, or how well you perform, 10% of the people around you will complain you’re doing it wrong.  That 10% mandate is true for students, instructors, hardware vendors, volunteers and any other sort of human effort where one works and is involuntarily “evaluated” by those around you.

How do we deal with those who are waiting to tear us down with glee just because they think they can?

Sometimes, the Ten Percenters will fake courtesy and ask if they can “tell you something…” — and I always recognize that setup and I respond to those self-appointed do-gooders by saying, “No, thank you.”

A “No” doesn’t stop them, though — they merely pause and proceed tell you what they think anyway — which is actually pretty rude and crass and merely opinion and never fact, and makes me ask them back, “Why bother asking permission if you’re going to say it anyway?”  The soundless reply is always a conceited grin and a shoulder shrug.  I guess they feel empowered by sharing their unwanted advice.

When I was teaching at a major, East Coast, public school, I was surprised to discover, after teaching there for several years, that my Department Chair always had to deal with 10% of my students in each class, every semester, who would go to him with “complaints” about me.

When I asked why I hadn’t been previously informed about these “complaints,” my Chair told me, “What’s to tell?  Students complain.  I ask them if you’re a good teacher, and they reply — ‘Yes, but…’ — and I cut them off after the ‘but’ because I know the rest of the sentence is always going to be about not wanting to do the work.”

Hmph.  I suppose I felt honored that my Chair had my back, but I was also pretty ticked off that those students had surreptitiously gone behind my back to complain “over my head” to my Department Chair.

It is true, though, that if they’d gone to me, I would’ve rebuffed them after the “but,” too — but it still stings when you give your best and, no matter what, those 10% will always find some way to try to bring you down with an ignoble complaint that goes nowhere, but still wicks your energy.

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