Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Many Shapes and Forms of Critics

Are you working for or interacting with someone who is constantly and consistently critical? No matter what you do there’s always an element of something wrong with it? Bullies come in all shapes and forms and are very prevalent in the workplace even at the highest level of leadership which is why, when going on an interview it’s just as important for you to interview the people in the organization as it is for them to interview you.

Critics make you feel about an inch tall. They criticize everything you do and even if the piece of work is great, find a way to criticize how you do it. Often they begin the sentence with “Yes, that’s good, however I would have done it this way…” and begin to describe in great detail how many ways you screwed up.

Often these individuals operate from a position of secrecy. The more information they hoard the easier it is to pull apart the numerous ways you didn’t meet their expectations and didn’t produce. When this behavior continues, you start feeling “Why should I bother if it’s going to be redone anyways and even if it isn’t I certainly won’t get credit for my work.” Eventually, hopefully sooner than later, you start looking around for another job and leave.

When looking to move to another job, one of the key points to look for is staff turnover. If the organization has a revolving door, then run the other way. If this is happening a level below leadership and the powers that be aren’t doing a thing about it, then run faster.

If you’re in a position where you have to deal with a verbal bully, then have some responses ready at the tip of your tongue. Don’t become them and bully back, as what would be the point in that? However show the individual you will not tolerate derisive behavior and challenge them on it. For example a way to respond is “Are you sure you meant to say that?" Would you like to rethink that perhaps?” Nothing like getting clarification as to whether or not they intended to be a bully. To shock them into awareness and not own their words, a good response might be “Did you really say that or was I imagining it?” Then walk away. A verbal tug of war doesn’t get either of you anywhere but if you take the high road and let go of the rope, then there’s nothing to war with. When you answer in one line, toleration-eliminating speech, they eventually back off.

As an organizational leader it’s paramount you keep an eye on the communication style of your managers. If this is at all prevalent you need to nip it in the bud before you end up in a staff exodus, for along with the people who end up walking goes corporate memory, knowledge and wisdom. As well, the possibility of generation wisdom when people are afraid to speak up is severely diminished. Bullying goes well beyond inappropriate behavior. It also speaks to organizational wisdom and excellence.

Bottom line is, if you accept this kind of behaviour, then you’re giving away your personal and organizational power to someone you least respect. What does that say about how you respect yourself?

Donna Karlin

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