For the curious, this book goes up to #96 + 1. (In other words, there’s still a long way to go) (Also, this one isn’t FFXIV-related)
#56: “Standard Assumptions vs. Arbitrary Expectations”
Published in 2016/03/31 issue
The act of praising someone is difficult. It feels even more difficult at work between colleagues or superiors and subordinates, unless you’re making a conscious effort to do so. It might be easier to praise your child, spouse, or other relative. People have been promoting the act of praise since long ago, with phrases like “praise encourages improvement” and “praise is motivation.”
However, at work, it’s hard to praise people well—it ends up feeling embarrassing or too formal. Looking back at myself, I would subconsciously think that it’s only natural to do your work. So, when the staff complete their content on time at a satisfactory level, I’d rarely say “Thank you for completing your work as we agreed on.” As game developers, we get paid by the company to create content, and the money comes from the customers who buy the game. Our boss-subordinate relationship is based on that too, so it feels strange to say “thank you” for doing the work that you’re paid to do. In other words, finishing your work is the assumed result.
But recently, I’ve been pondering whether that’s really acceptable. Unfortunately, pondering doesn’t make it any easier. No matter what, it feels embarrassing to say “good work, thanks” to someone’s face. Even if I work up the courage to say it, the recipient gets a look of confusion on their face, as if they don’t understand why I said it. Most likely, they stopped being accustomed to praise ever since becoming a working member of society. Either that, or they have high aspirations and are surprised that they would be praised for something that isn’t that special. Regardless, I’m sure that they are happy to receive praise. They may be taken aback at first, but later on they’ll be glad for what they achieved. That’s how I feel when I’m praised, after all.
On the other hand, it’s not like people do things with the intent of receiving praise. In game development, we have people who make games to make money, people who make games because they want people to play their creations, and possibly even angelic beings that simply love to make games. So they aren’t necessarily seeking or expecting praise when they work. If you expect praise for your work, then you’ll be frustrated when you don’t get it. That’s why I think praise should be unilateral. Rather than working for the sake of praise, it’s important to have a mindset of “doing praiseworthy work.”
Japanese people seem to be bad at praise. In other cultures (e.g. American), people praise each other when results are produced, and at the same time, bad results are pointed out. The latter can be a heated discussion for both sides, but it’s more of a ritual to assure that the same mistake won’t happen again. Afterwards, they continue to work together as normal. The way they respect each other and return to peace at the end is more noticeable than it is here. Japanese people value “consideration for others” over all else, and foreign countries often revere our sensitivity, but if you respect others too much, then you won’t point out their mistakes. You won’t criticize them face-to-face, but you won’t praise them either. Lately, I’ve sensed that this could be a stressful environment to live in. This might be connected to our culture of flaming people when things go wrong on the internet.
In my life, I have close friends and colleagues that share my values, as well as many comrades that I work on the same games with. I feel very blessed, but when I think back, I realize that I rarely have the opportunity to say “thank you” when it comes to individual people’s work. These days, the social game industry is booming. I don’t mean to say anything about that itself, but rather, seeing it makes me reflect on myself more often. Compared to regular games, online games have much less distance between the customers and the developers, so we make more efforts toward mutual understanding. This extends past exchanging words—the content we implement is a form of communication between the creators and the consumers. So, when creating content, the development team and I have to have thorough discussions to clearly define its concept and intent.
When I think about it like that, I again realize that I need to offer more praise for individual tasks. Instead of basing it on whether they meet my personal arbitrary expectations, I want to express my appreciation for accomplishing standard assumptions in a standard way as well. Kikuchi-san (my assigned editor), thank you for publishing my column, even though I always barely scrape the deadline. (I’m starting close by.)