Your baby’s ugly

I’ve acquired a new aversion.  I now hate the phrase: “That’s like telling him his baby’s ugly.”

The offending phrase is oft used to encourage you to soften your opinion against another person’s project/position/process/behavior.

The phrase is offered to encourage you to ease up on your loathing of the other’s thing (see list above).  It is hoped (I’m guessing) that in easing up, you will allow the other person to save face and, should the baby truly be ugly, abandon the child gracefully.

Okay, even the act of writing  the phrase’s explanation has made me angry.  This is going to be quite the rant…

Projects/Positions/Processes/Behaviors are not children.  We need to quit pretending that a coworker’s acquired job trappings somehow rise to equal their children.  Let’s leave the anthropomorphism to children’s stories where they belong.

Let’s be blunt.  Some people have firm, emotional attachments to their projects/positions/processes/behaviors yet they are not entitled to maintain their delusions at the organization’s expense.  To suggest otherwise again begs childish indulgences unsuited for organizations staffed by adults.

To cast shame on the person pointing out the flaws in another’s project/position/process/behavior is to attack the messenger.  This tactic has been around so long it’s its own subset of a Latin labeled fallacy, the ad hominem.

All this ranting to say, as clearly as I can:

An organization full of fear about calling ugly projects/positions/processes/behaviors ugly is an organization in the throws of collapse.

Today’s rate of change strips away any residual capacity organizations used to have to waste after preventing hurt feelings.   Being direct and truthful is no longer a nice-to-have organizational feature; it is essential to survival.

We must name the ugly babies.  None of us will survive if we don’t.  Why not try?


p.s. You’re in good company if you choose to install Name the Ugly Babies methods in your organization.  In “Doing a Job” in 1982, Admiral H. G. Rickover said, “I insist they report the problems they have found directly to me—and in plain English. This provides them unlimited flexibility in subject matter—something that often is not accommodated in highly structured management systems—and a way to communicate their problems and recommendations to me without having them filtered through others.”

3 thoughts on “Your baby’s ugly”

  1. Henrietta Yabeny

    The day I realized my babies were ugly was the best thing that could of happen to me, in fact it was you who showed me this!

  2. Why is it two people can say the same thing and to one is “mentored” about calling the baby ugly, and the other, “wow, great critical thinking and analysis”
    Amen sister. The baby is ugly and I’m not afraid to hear it.

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