When Compassion Harms
Supporting people who drift encourages drifting and de-motivates high achievers.
Leaders who won’t challenge people harm them. Yes, challenging can go too far. But support is most meaningful when people are stretching themselves.
- Parents who coddle children.
- Team members who tolerate weaknesses under the guise of supporting the boss.
- Leaders who prefer keeping the “peace” to developing the team.
- Spouses who smile and say everything’s OK when it isn’t.
Compassion is weakness when support takes the form of avoidance.
Challenging compassionate supporters:
Tell compassionate supporters that they’re hurting their leaders/team members when they avoid issues. Use language like ‘hurt’ and ‘harm’.
Use the language of compassion to confront avoiders.
Try saying, “You wouldn’t intentionally harm anyone. But, what’s happening when you won’t point out negative patterns, poor performance, or disappointing results?”
Explain how they might make life better by encouraging improvement. You might say, “If you help the boss improve, you make life better for everyone on the team.”
Challenge compassionate supporters when they justify weaknesses and minimize poor performance. “How are you helping when you allow poor performance to continue?”
I’ve seen compassionate team members refuse to point out a leader’s weaknesses. In reality, they’re the best ones to do it.
Start the conversation for them. Compassionate supporters may be reluctant to point out problems. If you start development conversations for them, they may find ways to keep it going.
Help compassionate supporters give tangible expression to their heart. “I know you support the boss. One thing you can do to help your team is encourage the boss to be better.”
Compassionate supporters – who won’t speak to weaknesses – are like parents who blame Johnny’s teacher for his poor grades. It doesn’t help when you shift blame, avoid issues, and encourage irresponsibility.
How might leaders help compassionate supporters have tough conversations?