A recent New York Times about incivility at the workplace got me thinking about the way I operate in the workplace. Am I too busy to acknowledge my team, or am I setting a bad example?
The article had the following insight:
Bosses produce demoralized employees through a string of actions: walking away from a conversation because they lose interest; answering calls in the middle of meetings without leaving the room; openly mocking people by pointing out their flaws or personality quirks in front of others; reminding their subordinates of their “role” in the organization and “title”; taking credit for wins, but pointing the finger at others when problems arise.
As a senior to middle manager in a large 20,000 plus employee organisation I need to question my actions and their consequences. Last year during a mandatory eight day leadership program, spread across six months, I was encouraged to learn from positive examples. While I have a few positive role models, Stuart Forsyth was a great boss and leader in my eyes, I feel I learnt way more from negative examples.
I recall being yelled at and belittled in public for a mistake I didn’t cause with the result this manager apologised the next day (in private) in a quiet voice, a very diminished in my mind. I remember the manager trying to sabotage my promotion to another area a few weeks after I was ranked the most productive employee in her area, I was too valuable to lose apparently, my dedication and extra effort stopped that very day their was no balance to our relationship. I regularly see managers not supporting their best staff get a promotion because they are too value. I’ve seen exceptional staff become poor performers as they became too value to go offline and get development opportinuties. I’ve witnessed a senior manager blame their staff for minor issues after taking all the credit for the major successes the manager did little to achieve.
This has a health impact on staff. One of my previous roles was in Human Resources as a Rehabilitation Case Manager. I have no doubt I meet functional psychopaths. In particular the Director who wouldn’t separate the woman from the manager she accused of sexual assault (later proved) as he was a friend of the boss. Or the lack of any empathy for the staff member who tried to commit suicide by setting themselves on fire and the Director wanted this individual back in the same public work situation despite being seriously disfigured “he either leaves in a box or resigns” was the actual comment that made me leave my role, I couldn’t support someone who was comfortable with a death to set an example. They wanted to be seen as tough on workers, to get the others to work harder.
So I promised myself never to be like the worst people I endured and experienced. But do I get the mix right surely I don’t bully my staff? However some days I barely say hello to just a couple of my team members, ignoring the rest, as I get caught up on a media enquiry or dealing with a key client or association. I ask for trust all the time from my people but do I inspire or deserve it?
I’m currently on a tour of the country motivating front line staff, over 300 employees, but am I spending more time with them instead of my 16 direct reports. Add in roadshow visits to key clients and a recent Leadership Conference and I’m starting to think I’m ‘too busy’ to support my people.
Your actions, not words, shows your true character and priorities. As a leader the pact with my staff I believe should be I’ll provide the vision/plan for the area, back their work decisions (within reason), support their career / life objectives (again within reason) and support their wellbeing and in return they will deliver team objectives and support me.
No one should ever suffer health wise due to work. Being too busy to notice or even worst cause it is no excuse. We concentrate so much on numbers but are we missing the human connection which without you are doomed to long term failure.