“You don’t matter,” does matter.
“That chair produces revenue. You don’t. We could replace you tomorrow and this place wouldn’t miss you. In fact, in this room of 500 highly-paid, highly educated people, only five matter and you’re not one of them.”
Question, do you consider that, “toxic?”
Some — perhaps most — think it of “middling” to “high” toxicity.
Me? I’m grateful to the senior Vice President (LK) who said that to me about a year into my career. His candor defines the way I view business and the people who drive it.
I worked on a trading floor. As upper management, LK knew how much revenue each position made for the bank. Perhaps too harshly, he explained that very few people — a “handful” — consistently, substantially outperform their peers. Those are the ones you hold onto, groom and promote. Everything else is noise. I took that his input as a challenge that guided my career.
Maybe I heard it because it was harsh. Maybe that’s why it stayed with me.
LK was right then and he may be even more right now.
Jigsaw, a startup housed within Google within Alphabet, is trying to remove toxic comments from message boards. http://www.niemanlab.org/2017/02/this-tool-from-google-parent-alphabet-tries-to-tackle-toxic-comments-through-machine-learning/
I think that’s a mistake. Ok, I’m in the minority. But let me explain — without toxicity.
“Toxic” comments are signals. We need those signals to notice when people want to be noticed. Just as you shout when you stub your toe, sometimes you want to write in ALL CAPS and make it bold. Sometimes you just want to say “arse” or, worse, call someone an arse.
I live in New York’s din. I get the appeal of quiet. Not hearing garbage trucks, sirens, and background would be nice. When signals are pin drops, your hearing has to be exceptional.
Absent toxicity, we live in a quiet world. In it, you’re less likely to notice exceptions.
We need to notice when people are mad. When they protest. When they want to be heard. That angst creates dialogue. It’s not their job to be quiet. It’s our job to note it.
The message boards of the Cleveland Plains Dealer is a real world example. In fact, noise there will tell you who will win elections.
In 2012, no matter what the polls showed, the majority of people on those boards said “toxic” things about Mitt Romney. They covered the same topics over and over — dog, Mormon and 47%.
No matter what he did, they didn’t relent. He couldn’t win Cleveland. So, he couldn’t win Ohio. So he couldn’t win Michigan. So, he couldn’t win. And, he didn’t.
In 2016 those same boards oft-trashed Hillary and vacillated about Donald. Boards negative about Hillary had more than 4000 posts. Boards negative about Donald rarely peaked above 500 comments. For context, many political stories had fewer than a dozen messages. Ohio State football stories have 4000 posts.
Many posts about the election were nasty… and personal… and, by any measure, toxic. They spurred debate and gave people who listen a string signal.
Most people don’t notice or — said better — won’t notice signals.
The last thing we need to do is homogenize them. We won’t hear people when they need or want to be heard.
Let someone tell you, “you don’t matter.” It matters.