Outrage, judgement, aggression, arrogance…seen any of that lately?
Blame, denial, deflection…?
It seems that everywhere we look – news, sports, politics, social media, reality TV, business – people are expressing strong opinions about, and onto, others. Sometimes this generates hurt, ridicule, division, anger – and so the cycle repeats and repeats.
Not that there’s anything wrong with having an opinion and speaking up. It’s often ‘how’ we do it that is so destructive – if not for ourselves, often for other people. If we are aggressive, defensive, judgemental or abusive in tone, then our impact could be very negative.
Making judgements before seeking understanding – is this the new normal?
Reality TV is a good example. How do we respond when The Bachelor does not pick the person we think best suits them? Some of us talk about it at work, some of us give it no more thought as we get on with our lives. Yet some of us seemingly become consumed by it. We jump onto social media and openly judge – “He’s stupid for not picking the other one…” And in extreme cases, some will even be hurtful and aggressive.
Does it really matter that someone we don’t know personally, chose someone we don’t know personally, over someone we don’t know personally? What reason does anyone have to be outraged about the ending to a TV show (even a highly addictive one!)? Ah, it seems a strange world.
Outrage is everywhere – and especially on social media. What is this doing to us as a society, I wonder?
Now, I have topics that I am passionate about. Topics that can get me a little feisty and opinionated. I get it, there are some things we want to express because we feel strongly about them.
Remember though, it’s often not WHAT we are saying that could be considered inappropriate – it’s usually HOW we are saying it. So our opinion may be valid, yet are we expressing it in a way that cause hurt, harm or offense? Are we taking into account the somewhat radical idea that others might have a different opinion, and that’s ok? Are we allowing space for others to contribute to a healthy discussion, or are we shutting people down without listening?
Managers, teams, and judgement.
From reality TV to the business world. In my coaching and training I often hear people deflect, deny, or blame others for dips in performance, and workplace conflicts. Frequently I will hear managers judge and label their staff – “They are lazy!” “They are incompetent.”
Now, this may not be expressed in the outrage sense, that I was alluding to with social media. Yet it is judgement and labelling. Equally unhelpful in team performance.
Yes, as managers we do need to make assessments. We do need to identify gaps in performance. What I often see though, is that those gaps are complained about, the person is judged and complained about, the situation is complained about. I hear a lot about what’s not working and who is to blame. Sadly in these instances I will hear very little about how the manager is trying to understand and resolve the situation.
In manager groups on social media, I often read the advice given to other group members and am concerned. “Get rid of them!” “Give them a warning.” “Tell them patients have complained.” This last one was seen recently and worried me – someone was suggesting to lie about patients complaining in order to give feedback. Please don’t take this advice – this is not good management!
While we may indeed need to performance manage someone or let them go, too often I see this advice given, without a true understanding of the situation.
Understanding will help resolution more than applying blame.
Could time spent labelling and judging, be better used focusing on understanding someone else’s perspective, identifying possible solutions, seeking opportunities, and applying a healthy dose of reality testing? And even better, to own what you own – looking inwards to discover your role in situations and how you might turn things around or influence for a better outcome.
Because, if someone is not doing their work, or not doing it to the standard we expect, don’t we have a part to play in this? Have we made expectations clear, or just assumed they ‘should’ know? Have we provided them with the training or support to complete tasks as we require? Have we provided feedback when things are not done, or not done well? Has our communication and feedback been delivered in a way that is supportive, and understood?
I’m not suggesting by ‘supportive’ that we are allowing people to get away with not doing a good job. Supportive means giving people the benefit of the doubt and finding out what the barriers are for them. Because only by understanding the real reasons someone is not performing, can we help them change their behaviour or approach.
Rather than ‘write someone off’ because they are not performing, isn’t it better to try to influence the situation in a positive way? Isn’t that our role as a manager and leader – to help people perform to their full potential?
Here’s an idea – let’s get constructively curious before we get combative.
When we start telling ourselves – “how dare they?”, “who do they think they are?”, “are they an idiot?” – perhaps we can stop for 2 seconds and ask instead – “what’s another way of looking at this?” Or “how can I make a positive impact here?” Or “I wonder what has led them to say/do that?”
When our typing fingers get twitchy to scream out in capitals on social media, perhaps we can stop for 2 seconds and ask ourselves – “what are the (real) facts here?”
Constructive curiosity in this combative world might just help us slow down, think about how we react, and consider the impact we are having on others. We don’t need to agree with everyone, yet perhaps we could be a little kinder, get on a little better, and recognise that it takes all sorts of characters to make this a pleasant world.
As managers, developing our coaching skills, our curiosity and our communication is critical in ensuring that we are not swept up by unhelpful judgement of our teams. These skills will help us understand situations, and help people to perform. Focusing on performance vs. blame will help us stand out as exceptional leaders. And it reduces the negative emotions we feel, which make us more content at work as well!
Wouldn’t it make sense to save our outrage for those who truly do major hurt and harm in the world?
And if that seems a little “too fluffy” for you, please minimise your outrage in the comments!