The Generic Villain Takes Criticism

One of the things we Hands of Darkness often find ourselves on the wrong end of is our unshakable belief in our own infallibility. We are convinced that we have correctly predicted all possible paths that our opponents could take; we know for sure that our understanding of our own power and resources as they compare to those of the enemy is faultless; and we turn our full disdain on anyone with the temerity to suggest that we might have made an error of calculation. I am The Villain—how dare you accuse me of not carrying the one? Do you claim that I—I—have misplaced a decimal point?

All I can say is, people, we need to learn. Particularly when it comes to being shown our mistakes by our subordinates.

The first thing we need to be able to do is differentiate between types of criticism; while we can’t just assume that anyone pointing out a flaw in our plans lacks the brains the Dark Powers gave those little rocks that are always in your shoe, we can’t assume they’re all in it to help us succeed, either (even if it is what we’re paying them to do). Some people really are in it to undermine us and take over our organizations—and if the fact that such people exist surprises you, you’re clearly in the wrong industry. You can usually identify them by how they deliver the news—general concern will usually come quietly, either from the person who’s spotted the problem or through that person’s chain of command, whereas challenges to your authority tend to be either very public or very spread through several layers of gossip chain. If they’re patronizing, or dripping with sarcasm, or going on and on about how they would have done it better, they’re trouble and they need to be dealt with.

But let’s say you’ve got someone who really does just want to alert you to the flaw in your plan so you can fix it, and you’ve verified that. Now what?

Do not, under any circumstances, laugh them off. Neither should you patronizingly tell them the error is probably theirs. Punishing them for their presumption is right out. Bear in mind, you’re in administration—which means that you know a little bit about everything. They know a lot about a few things, particularly their areas of specialty and their environments. Even a ground-level red-shirt probably has a better understanding than you do of the morale among his peers, and probably has a better idea who’s better suited to which task. Let me put it this way: you understand the value of the five year old strategist, right? So why not give at least the same level of credence to a redshirt pointing out a logistics problem?

But don’t jump to conclusions in the opposite direction, either; minions are fallible too. Unless it would directly endanger your operations, formulate and implement a contingency for if your source’s predictions turn out valid. Get someone to check and confirm whatever you’ve just heard. If you find proof that the problem is definitely a problem—or even if it isn’t yet but it could reasonably be one later and now you know how to avert it—recognize and reward your source. And I don’t mean our backhanded, vicious little “rewards”. You want the minions watching your back, right? Give them reason to want to.

You’re going to mess up. Make sure that your reaction to being told you’ve messed up isn’t what ends up killing you. Seriously.


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  2. The Generic Villain Takes Criticism… from Protagonists | Exchange of Realities

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