April 15, 2013

Being in charge is not the same as being a leader. Don't be a jerk. k thx (blog post)

I haven't worked on my novel in a month because I've spent all my discretionary non-family time on work. It's been a busy, frustrating period in my job for a number of reasons. My backlog is building every day. I haven't been able to make time to exercise or play soccer. It's been that kind of two-month period. (I know, I know... poor me. The awful problems of a white male upper middle class executive. Just bear with me, okay?)

Last Friday I vowed to reclaim some personal time starting this morning. I believe people can't be effective at work if they aren't balanced in their life--physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Even so, I worked several hours over the weekend to meet a deadline.

Then this morning I received an email that was so disrespectful to me, my team, and our product that I just can't let it go. It came from a senior "leader." He had a good point or two buried among the insulting language, and we'll work with those as we plan future product improvements. But that doesn't excuse the disrespectful language.

This has me incensed for two reasons. First, I do take it personally. How can I not? I'm a professional and will use the actual feedback he provided, but I'm also an individual who deserves to be treated professionally and with respect. That is, I'm a person with feelings. So yeah, it hurts and makes me mad.

Second, I am sick and tired of people who use aggressive language and bullying to get their way. The email I received isn't abusive per se, but it's one of those "if you disagree then you're just as stupid as they are" tones.

I am not an easily bullied person. I once lost a job because I refused to fire a good employee; my boss needed someone to take the fall for his mistakes... when I refused, my boss decided to fire us both. I lost my job, but I kept my integrity. I would do the same thing again. I'm no rebel, but I also won't cowtow to petulance and disrespect just because that person holds a powerful position.

People, say it with me:


You can often get people to do what you want in the short term by being a jerk. But I believe that you get far more from people by respecting them, supporting them, and giving them room to challenge themselves. Frequently they will outperform your expectations.

About the boss that wanted his underlings to take the fall for his mistakes... that startup company was out of business a year later. I'm sure there's a lesson in there somewhere.

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