Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 17, Issue 49;   December 6, 2017: Reframing Revision Resentment: I

Reframing Revision Resentment: I

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From time to time, we're required to revise something previously produced — some copy, remarks, an announcement, code, the Mona Lisa, whatever… When we do, some of us experience frustration, and view the assignment as an onerous chore. Here are some alternative perspectives that might ease the burden.
Desperation at work

Revising work we've already completed should be easier than doing it the first time, because we know so much more about it. But many have trouble getting motivated to actually make the revisions. They resent rework. They regard it as frustrating, boring, or beneath them. If you're one of these, you might hear things in your head like, "I don't have the patience for this," or, "I'm a trail blazer, not a trail maintainer," or "Not again," or "Time for a coffee break." But unless we can give rework the best of ourselves, what we created can never be the best we can do. How can we generate a desire to do revisions well?

For situations like these, instead of creating the desire, what might work better is removing the revulsion. That is, find ways to remove or alter any perception that makes the work of revising repellent. In the examples that follow, I'll pretend that I'm advising the person making the revisions, and I'll refer to the people providing feedback and requesting revisions as reviewers.

Here's Part I, focusing on workplace politics.

They're making me redo this just to demonstrate their power
The signature of this scenario is the utter triviality of the requested changes, which arrive in a staccato stream faster than they can be fulfilled. One trap here is assuming that when a revision request arrives, it's the last one, and so the time has come to prepare a final draft. Frustration sets in when you're about to deliver that draft, and a new revision request arrives, possibly contradicting an earlier request.
Turn the tables on the power game by avoiding responding to requests one by one. Let time pass, and accumulate several revision requests into each revision. If the reviewer complains about the slow pace of your responses, explain that you're packaging them, and suggest that things will speed up if the reviewer can notify you when a package of requests is complete, to enable you to start implementing revisions. This tactic might move the interaction in the direction of joint problem solving, which might resolve the power game.
To revise would be to concede to a political rival
When a political When a political rival is driving
the demand for revisions, confusion
between the work and the self can
dominate the situation
rival is driving the demand for revisions, confusion between the work and the self can dominate the situation. It's easy to make the mistake of experiencing the requests for changes as personal attacks.
Here the politics is probably the real issue. A political concession need not be a defeat — it can be the wisest available option. At an opportune time — possibly later — address the politics politically. Meanwhile, resenting the revising won't help. Do a superior job of revising.

We'll continue next time with a focus on differences about the work itself.  Next in this series Go to top Top  Next issue: Reframing Revision Resentment: II  Next Issue

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See also Workplace Politics and Effective Communication at Work for more related articles.

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