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Office Politics & Sibling Rivalry

Posted by: John Butler  :  Category: Leadership, Manager, Morale, Organization

Office Politics & Sibling Rivalry:  How Leaders may Inadvertently Encourage such Bad Behavior

Have you ever noticed how your staff may, at times, seem to act like children?  Bickering, sniping, and ignoring each other, all in an effort to out-do the other and demonstrate their dominance or value in the pecking order.  I have often observed this behavior and have heard countless managers complain about the same.  When this happens, our first tendency might be to blame the employee for their bad behavior.  However, if we were to pause for a moment and consider the dynamics, we would probably find that we are more to blame then they.

“No way” you say!  Take a moment and think it through with me.  What type of culture have you established in your organization?  Everyone knows, and is duty bound to accept, that you are the boss!  But do you reinforce this by always having the best idea, the most thoughtful insights, and the right and timely innovative solutions?  I am reminded of a recent consulting assignment where the CEO would readily boasted of his empowering and collaborative style.  However, when he sat at the conference table, he would inevitably hijack every meeting he attended, regardless of whom he might have put on point to head the effort.

Staff reported that they understood the dynamics – it was his vision or no vision at all!  As a result, whether the CEO was present or not, everyone would defer decisions to his ultimate judgment.  When they were in his presence, they would fiercely compete with each other and work hard to distinguish themselves, trying to anticipate his lead and prove they shared the same ground.

I contend that our employees are our most valued assets.  They want to make a contribution beyond mirroring our every thought and whim.  They want to feel needed, included, and useful, maybe get a little praise, and, at times, even a share of the limelight.  Over the years, I have found that there is usually more than one good way to do just about everything.  If we never allow our staff to spread their wings, I would venture to say, our organizations will never progress farther than we can literally push them.  Successful managers will work to develop a workforce that perpetuates the genius of its leaders.  And, the only way we can nurture and encourage this type of norm is to strategically stand down and wisely use our position to empower greatness in others.

My parting point and encouragement, is for you to have belief in people, guide them in a manner consistent with your belief in them, and they will live up to your expectations.  Ultimately, you will lead your staff to “responsible and mature adulthood” if you treat them like an equal.

John T. Butler, President & CEO

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