About 15 minutes of cable news is all I can stand anymore. I used to be a news junkie and keep up with current events but any reading or watching of the national political scene just turns my stomach.
Likewise, I have become familiar with a couple of incredibly toxic workplaces that when I hear the stories of extremely poor leadership, it just makes me sick.
The causation of this nausea is not the remarkably bad dinner in Eugene Oregon last night but rather the poor choices made by leaders to invest time, energy and effort in consciously and intentionally doing bad. Don’t get me wrong here; we all do bad and make mistakes and exercise poor judgments and choices but not many people (sans politicians) consistently set out on a path of doing dumb things.
In the case of toxic work environments, consider the amount of time, energy and emotional composition that is totally wasted in documenting, cross-emailing, complaining and filing grievances. All because someone or a set of people have chosen to do bad instead of doing good. Poor leaders concoct schemes to retaliate, get rid of someone, make another department look bad or to protect their own jobs and all at the expense of team members, morale and the general well-being of the workplace.
And back on cable news, our elected officials (mostly national but also state and local) are engaged in a series of grandstanding, ridiculous hearings and posturing rather than doing what is best for their constituents. Rather than good, they serve special interests and their political affiliations all the while that Rome is burning.
We have a choice every moment in our lives. To do good, to do bad or to do nothing at all. That choice becomes conscious and when we can spend a moment thinking about the consequences of our actions, we can learn to make better, and more aligned with the common good, decisions.
Interestingly, the choice of doing nothing in many cases is better than the choices of some leaders. If doing good becomes impossible, then the decision to do nothing is by-far-and-away better than crafting a path for doing bad. For reference, think about the savings in money and time if congressional hearings were vetted against serving a good purpose or for doing bad and focusing only on individual gain or glory. How much angst could be saved if a toxic leader spent her time relationship building, providing positive feedback and empowering others rather than tearing down, conspiring and self-preserving?
To make some better choices, try the following:
- Analyze Motive
Understanding your own motives are clearly the first and most important step of making better decisions and choices. Always asked my boys if they are telling on someone to get them in trouble or save them from trouble. That simple question forced them to examine the motives of their actions and make more thoughtful decisions. We too can examine why we are choosing a course of action but that take a hefty amount of emotional intelligence and self-regulation. Really reflect on why you are choosing the path or direction.
- Test Against Mission
Check your choices against the mission, vision and core values of the organization. This should provide ample guidance in most cases. It’s hard to justify the harassment of a team member when an organizational core value is to treat team members well and fairly.
- Test for Value to Others
Look to see if your decision or choice benefits others and not just you. There is a time and place for a self-caring choice but not in a role of leadership or public service.
- Test for Unintended Consequences
Diagnose and spend some time thinking about what some unintended consequences might occur from your choice. This is enhanced even more when you engage #5 below.
- Seek Input
Ask for some feedback from trusted and wise sources before storming off on your own decision. This input can save a lot of time and energy and keep you from making some bad choices.
An above and beyond all of those, be a deliberate responder and not a reactor. Use some time, take a pause and then choose to either do good or do nothing at all.