“Do not tolerate brilliant jerks, the cost to teamwork is too high.” Reed Hastings, CEO Netflix
These men or women show up in our organizations in a crisp navy blue suit, striped shirt & tan shoes. Along with the physical perfection they shine through with their choice of words & deep subject matter knowledge. They know that they are the smartest in the room- and need to ensure that everyone is reminded of that fact, yet once again. These lone wolves rarely invite others to collaborate, because they feel that they are “simply superior” & do not subscribe to the “kumbaya” of culture.
They over-identify themselves with their IQ, and EQ is almost non-existent. This imbalance is expressed with their aggressive behaviour that unveils their insecurity. This leads them to push hard on the team as they demand perfection, which can quickly lead to pressure that fractures the organization.
So why do organizations allow them to still be around? Because most of the time, they are one of the top performers in the organization! And weak leaders are scared to lose these individuals and ignore their toxicity for financial benefit.
Some of these jerks can be reigned-in through coaching, but those not willing to take responsibilty & seek help should not be tolerated.
[Cont in Chp 5]
Now, let’s list behaviors that are considered uncivil:
-Rude & condescending comments, verbal or written.
-Interrupting a conversation.
-Rolling of the eyes.
-Checking your cell phone while someone is talking.
-Not recognizing, or taking credit for, someone else's idea/work.
-“Forgetting” to include a team member in a text/email/meeting.
-Speaking in a language someone in the room doesn't understand.
-“Jabs” that highlight someone's weakness.
-A temper tantrum.
Most of these acts of incivility are unintentional, & they fall into the second quadrant of the Johari Window: things that others know about you - that you don’t, AKA the “Blind Spot.”
But some leaders are clearly aware of their uncivil behavior. It is an expression of a power imbalance, lack of mutual respect, & most importantly a low self image- that causes them to maintain little or no respectable boundaries on how they treat others.
Before you think that I’m “holier-than-thou” I want to admit that I have been guilty of some of these behaviors over the years. I’m still not where I would like to be, but practicing mindfulness and embracing active-listening techniques has helped me evolve as a self-aware leader.
[Cont. in Chapter 4]
If something you did resulted in a loss of $260,000/year for your organization, and also negatively impacted the physical & mental health of your team, would you stop that behavior?
In order to explain this further, I first need to quote the research of Dr. Porath and Dr. Pearson, who shared this in their article in HBR:
“Through a poll of 800 managers and employees in 17 industries, we learned just how people’s reactions play out. Among workers who’ve been on the receiving end of incivility:
48% intentionally decreased their work effort.
47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work.
38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work.
80% lost work time worrying about the incident.
63% lost work time avoiding the offender.
66% said that their performance declined.
78% said that their commitment to the organization declined.
12% said that they left their job because of the uncivil treatment.
25% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers.”
So now, let’s take an example of an organization of 50 people with a CEO that leads with incivility. If only 20 on the team are impacted, and they lose 1 hour of productive time per day, at $50/hr, it costs the organization $260,000 per year!
For now, I’ll just let these numbers sink in!
[Cont. in Chapter 3...]
It all starts with an inappropriate joke, sarcasm, gossip, interrupting a peer, a snub, a temper-tantrum, the rolling of the eyes, even name-calling - slowly, these acts of incivility start tearing the moral fabric of an organization, and if unchecked, this behavior leads to bullying, then verbal harassment, and may even lead to physical violence.
With the political circus that we witnessed on September 29th, I thought this might be appropriate for me to share what I have been working on for the last few months: “Incivility and the impact it has on our organizations.” All in the hopes that if this helps just one person navigate these bizarre times, my work is done.
My definition of incivility is “micro-aggressive speech or behavior that leads to organizational chaos.” And “organization” includes: families, workplaces, communities, states, and even countries.
Research has shown that uncivil behavior is catastrophic for the physical & mental health of individuals involved, and most shockingly, the same negative impact is also experienced by all who are witnesses to uncivil behavior!
Over the next few weeks I will talk about the cause, the human impact, financial cost, & suggest frameworks on how to navigate the toxicity of incivility.
[Cont. in Chapter 2...]
Over the years I have had the opportunity to work alongside some incredible leaders, one in particular stands out as the epitome of a leader who had really “broad shoulders.”
He kept an eye out for those in his organization who “looked off” and he was not afraid to approach them with questions that may lead to difficult answers. He would ask “really how are you?” till he either knew that you were really OK, or you told him exactly what was bothering you!
I really admired his ability to walk into the uncomfortable, and “be present” for his team.
Over the years I saw leaders in his organizations lean on him and so did I. For his dedication, the team responded with respect, love and loyalty- things money cannot buy.
I write this post because these are the kinds of leaders we need to navigate these turbulent times, & to remind us that if we have someone like this in our lives, we must:
-Appreciate and recognize their strength.
-Remember that if they are being strong for us, they are being strong for others - so let’s be mindful of the weight we put on them.
-Speak honestly about our challenges, but let’s not use them as a dumpster.
Finally, if you seek advice, and they offer a suggestion- follow through. Or next time there may not be that shoulder for us to lean on.
We will all experience difficult situations in our lives. Some of us will learn from them and move on, while some will take each of these experiences and, like heavy bricks, throw them in a backpack and carry them into every relationship.
As we talk to someone that is weighed down by their bricks, they may start emptying out their backpack, reminding us, and themselves yet again, about each past painful experience, and use those bricks to build a wall between us and them.
If you feel the weight is a bit too much, embrace professional help, then lean into gratitude and mindfulness. With that lens, some of the bricks may start to break down, and you may be able to use some to build a staircase to a brighter future.
But what if we know someone that is immobilized by the weight of the bricks in their backpack. Well, now more than ever, here are some things we can do to help them lighten their load:
-Spend quality, uninterrupted time with them.
-Love them unconditionally.
-Listen, not to respond, but so they can be heard.
-Remind them of their past victories.
-Cook a meal with them.
And remember to take care of your own self.
Do you have some bricks you need to unpack? Or do you need to help someone lighten their backpack?
The “new day, new problem” world that we are currently navigating requires us to rethink our leadership strategy. I believe that one of the changes that organizations need to make to grow out of these uncertain times is to recognize and empower our "Intrepreneurs." I define these gems as micro-entrepreneurs who are so deeply vested in the success of the organization, that the behave like entrepreneurs. They constantly look for ways to do more, disrupt the status-quo, and are catalyst for culture change - they are our problem-solvers.
These superheroes can be easily identified as they display the highest level of empathy and, not surprisingly, other team members are naturally drawn to them, follow their lead, and confide in them.
So if you, as a the entrepreneur/leader, are still making decisions by only talking to other “leaders on top”, without spending time with your Intrepreneurs - you are making a mistake. Because if you really want to know what needs to change to navigate these difficult times: identify these gems, then slow down, listen, and shine a light on your Intrepreneurs - they probably have answers to most the problems you are getting sleepless nights over!
Tag someone you want to recognize and thank that is an Intrepreneur! #empathy #culture #people ##hr
The collective trauma we are going through is not only limited to individuals, but also apparent in businesses across the world. Post-traumatic-stress symptoms are clearly visible in our organizations through leaders who are aggressive, egotistic, or insecure; a workforce that is scared, uncertain, or unusually submissive; a denial strategy hidden behind the "business as usual" chant; and an overall culture of apathy.
Leading our organizations today demands that we alter our perspective by first, acknowledging the stress in our organizations, and then, I strongly suggest, that we learn to lead the organization through the lens of "Post-Traumatic Growth" (PTG).
So what do you do with this information and where do we go from here?
Get out of denial. Start with gratitude. Have the guts to be honest.