Solution Saturday: Witness to Sniping and B*tching
I work in a place where I witness sniping and b*tching all the time about how the boss is hidden away, or has no leadership skills, or how others aren’t doing their job properly.
I’m not a leader yet, but I think I can change people around me by using the tools you share. I’m sick of hearing this negative vision, dragging everyone down.
Any tips how to address this?
Witness to Sniping
Thanks for your email. Congratulations on listening to your desire to make things brighter in a dark environment. Your aspiration shines brightly through the little phrase, “I’m not a leader yet.” The word ‘yet’ sings with hope.
Concern over sniping and b*tching is well founded. The most important thing about us is the way we treat each other while we work.
First of all, you can influence, but you can’t change people. Trying to change people has the feel of superior to inferior. It leads to manipulation, resistance, frustration, and disappointment.
Influence is best exercised at eye level where mutual respect defines the way we treat each other, even when we disagree. You can’t influence those who feel disrespected by you.
I hate being negative, but it’s not likely you’ll be able to turn a dark culture to bright without the active participation of leaders at the top. But, there is something you can do.
Worry about things within your control.
The secret to success is choosing language and behaviors that express your best aspirations. You may want to complain about lousy leaders, but, in the end, you put yourself in the same bucket. Hold yourself accountable to the highest standards. Become the leader you wish you had.
Work with those closest to you to change the environment closest to you. Let go of your desire to change the people upstairs. Embrace the challenge of building positive relationships with people across the hall.
Discuss simple daily behaviors that build an environment where the people around you love to come to work. It will take clarity, commitment, grit, and, most importantly, time. In addition, define language and behaviors that need to stop.
- What does a great place to work look like?
- What behaviors will move you toward that best place?
- Who will join you on the journey?
- How might you encourage each other?
Own the environment where your own shadow falls. Reject the easy enjoyment of blaming others.
Go ahead and think big, but act small. The desire for radical change makes small changes seem like a waste of time. Choose small behaviors that move the agenda forward.
The downward drag of a negative culture is not easily overcome. It will test your resolve and require you to humbly bring your best self to work everyday.
You have my best,
What suggestions do you have for Witness to Sniping?
*I relax the 300 word limit on Solution Saturday.
I LOVE those questions! I would love to brainstorm with others around this. Twitter chat?
Thanks Principal. I’m with you. It would be a great conversation for any team.
Dan, Great article. Although written as a response to someone not officially in a leadership position, the questions are great for all leaders in all organizations. Especially those that are working to improve or establish a toxic culture. And you are absolutely right that real change will require support from the top management. The leadership dictates the culture…
Thanks Jay. Of all the responsibilities of leadership, culture building is one of the biggest. All leaders should courageously look around. If they don’t like what they see, they should look in the mirror.
It’s not that leaders have complete control over culture. But they must lead the charge.
The key is “control what you can control” as Dan points out. If you can gradually influence the worst offenders would be my choice, sharing your views to influence them with positive vibes. See how receptive they are? If you sense your hitting a block wall, rethink your approach perhaps one on one, or try a focus group discussion if can get a small following, just one success at a time may be the reality or none at all. Tough playing field you have!
If all else fails seek suggestions from senior partners and see what they see as a solution.
Thanks Tim. I particularly like the idea of gathering a small following.
It would be a great win to crack one of the tough nuts.
Love it. Great subject and advice. Im always a stong believer in the impact you can have by creating a cultural oasis of positivity. Work to be the leader you want your boss to be. You will attract other game-changing kindred spirits, and the impact will grow… particularly as your positive approach gets breakthrough results.
When people ask “how did you do that… share yoiur approach to balancing both results and relationships.
Thanks Karin. “cultural oasis of positivity.” — I love a well turned phrase.
Your suggestion about kindred spirits makes me think about keeping your head up and watching for a spark in others. When you see a spark, fan it.
Leave and become the competition. Start your company right, take advantage of the weaknesses you see where you are and never look back.
Thanks Kelly. Sometimes leaving is a good option. It might depend on the ability to make a little progress. If you can’t, then move on.
Dear Dan, I am an avid reader of your posts. You are plain simple and brilliant.
I am happy as well as sad that what you have recommended in this post was imbibed and followed by me. However, I failed in influencing a change.
As you rightly said, without an positive involvment of top management, a positive atmosphere is not possible.
My efforts to bring about a cheer in the atmosphere did have some effect. People said they now come to office because there was humour even in failures. I loved interactions , be it professional and personal with the team and problem solving with brain storming.
I was unable to sustain, as the top boss with his toxic approach used to interact directly with my team members and belittle them publicly ( he did it to most of our employees).
I did engage him requesting that he should hold me accountable for unsatisfactory (perceived) performance as a head of my team. But he never picked on me, but attacked my team.
I had no option but to resign for I feared for the welfare of my team members, if I continued. Every one said, my ‘popularity’ with my team and outside the team was not liked by my boss. My team was in tears when I left so was I. I had an option to quit, but they didn’t. They needed a job for survival.
Can such situations be ever resolved positively?
Volunteer to set up some sort of socially aware initiative at work, something that will give you an excuse to interact with people at all levels in a natural way – and then use this platform to promote your philosophy of positivity in the work place. Hopefully, you’ll meet enough kindred spirits at all levels of the organisation to make a real difference.
When I was a “not a a leader yet”, I found the two best tools I had were:
To model the behaviour you wanted to see: never talk anyone down, not go behind backs – show the level of professionalism you want to see. Those you can influence will come on board, the rest you can identify clearly;
Lead. Even if you don’t have any defined leadership authority, guide others. Groups that bicker and backstab follow someone. Set yourself as an alternative unofficial leader.
Make yourself somebody people of all levels listen to – think classic fictional Mafia Consigliere: you can’t give anybody orders, but you’re the person everyone listens to.
In discussing culture change, I would point out that one of your early points in this post, that “Influence is best exercised at eye level,” has to remain at the forefront of any culture change process. Executives can’t remotely dictate culture and have any lasting impact. Real culture change has to take root at the “working level,” among the people who serve customers, make the product, or generate the business of the organization. Finding people at all levels who are “true believers” and who can influence their peers is a necessity to achieve culture change. Leaders need no titles in order to lead -influence- others, and organizations typically have “leaders without titles” (maybe they should be called “mis-leaders”) who defend or perpetuate troublesome cultures or subcultures. Countering this influence is a must. Great post and comments!
The statement ‘not a leader yet’ is not correct in my opinion. By addressing this – you are leading. You may not be in the formal management chain, but you are most certainly leading. Way to go!
Thanks Steve. Nicely put!