Leadership is all about building professional relationships at work – relationships built on trust, respect and recognition. Great leaders build relationships where people willingly follow their lead. Great leaders create work environments where employees look forward to coming to work, are excited about their work and feel that the work they do makes a difference. Yet even great leaders occasionally slip up and say or do something that they wish they could “do over” or “take back.”
If you’ve been a manager for any length of time, chances are you’ll admit guilt to at least one of the Eleven Stupid Behaviors. Most managers could pick out one, or even a few, of these stupid behaviors and say, “Wow. I did that once.” The difference between a typical manager that goofs occasionally and the accomplished jerk that completely disengages his/her direct reports, creating havoc in the workplace, has a one word distinction… FREQUENCY!
While most seasoned managers honestly admit that they occasionally slip up and do something stupid, managers who incite chaos in the workplace put at least one of these stupid actions into play on a regular basis. Worse yet, many have had the stupid behavior called to their attention and still continue to display the behavior. A very few, once the behavior is identified, actually escalate the behavior… just because they’re the boss and can!
In the next six blog entries, we’ll highlight some of the classic dysfunctional leadership behaviors we’ve identified in our work with leaders from all levels within organizations ranging from health care, banking, manufacturing, high tech and just about every other type of industry. In other words, dysfunctional leadership can be evident just about anywhere.
At the top of our list of stupid behaviors is the inability to control emotions. All of us have emotions, and most of us, to a degree, bring them with us into the workplace. Emotions are a good thing: they make us a unique human being. But, when emotions are displayed in such a way that they hurt others, they do significant damage to trust and morale.
Explosive, unpredictable behavior is certainly one example of a stupid behavior that affects employees. Yelling, ranting and finger pointing is guaranteed to put everyone on edge. What we find equally as unsettling, though, is moody behavior, because employees don’t know what kind of a mood the leader will be in that day. When we talk with managers who have a reputation for being either angry, or moody, they almost all describe their behavior as being “honest” or as “communicating with passion.” They can justify their behavior by saying that the problem resides with the employee who is being overly sensitive, not them.
Recently, in hopes of giving a manager feedback that would enable her to be even more effective, we conducted interviews with fifteen of her employees and peers who stated that the person’s primary opportunity for improvement was to display emotions that were consistent and appropriate to the situation.
During the interview process we were really grateful to one respondent who said, “I hope that you are not planning to give her this feedback until late in the afternoon. She is never good about accepting feedback. But in the morning she is downright nasty!”
Here’s the challenge with being labeled as moody, angry or displaying other inappropriate emotional behaviors: people just don’t know how to approach you because your behavior in the past has been unpredictable. When given a choice, they’d rather not interact with you. Their goal is to fly below your radar to avoid finding out what kind of a day you’re having today. Having employees who don’t want to interact with you makes leadership extremely tough and full of surprises. Perceptions regarding your inability to control your emotions are incredibly difficult to shed.
To learn more about the next two Stupid Behaviors, Impulsive Decisions and Blaming Others, check back tomorrow and read the second installment in this blog series.