Thursday, 29 October 2015

Time to stop blaming your bad boss?

Recently I ran a workshop with a team experiencing quite serious internal difficulties.  As individuals, they were loyal, hardworking, experienced and professional but their behaviour as a team was now damaging both their performance and their wellbeing.

The cause of the team's problems was clear.  Their boss.  Tales were told and re-told to illustrate their boss's shortcomings.  Most issues could be resolved, they said, by the boss changing or leaving. 

Sounds simple doesn't it?

A light-bulb moment came half way through the day, when they were asked to describe their natural talents.  During this exercise, they realised how far away they felt from their talented selves.  The positivity, collaboration and many other wonderful traits they prided themselves on, were barely present.  In fact their behaviours, they noted, were almost the opposite.  They were part of the problem.

So what?

It had been fairly easy to blame the boss for all the team's problems.  Maybe the boss was at fault and maybe they weren't but that's only one part of the equation.  The aspect that everyone was conveniently overlooking was their own behaviour.  Every person in that team shared responsibility for the difficulties and failures they were experiencing. 

We are social beings.  Just as we are impacted by and react to the behaviours of others, others are impacted by and react to our own behaviours.  We can be quite quick to notice when we are affected by others but how often are we fully aware of our own behaviour and its impacts?

Looking back at the team, they were acutely aware of all the impacts of the boss's behaviour on them and their colleagues but their awareness of their own behaviour and its impact was only just beginning. 

They have lots of work to do to improve the team's performance and to recapture their love of their jobs but the work is on something they have full ownership of - themselves.  By noticing and understanding their reactions, they can choose how they behave and be aware of their own impact.

Most of us will have experienced a "bad boss" or two.  I have a few tales of my own which I replay more often than is helpful.  What I know now is that, however badly my boss behaved, I was (and am) entirely responsible for my reaction from that point.  I didn't always get it right but I know what I'd do differently next time which is a start!  

If you find yourself in a similar situation, know that you are not alone and remember that while recounting tales of bad behaviour, getting angry or withdrawing may make you feel better for a while, you and only you, have a very powerful choice to make about what happens next.

Stephanie Smith works with intelligent individuals on personal impact, choice and change. Find out more about being perfectly imperfect and book a sample session at: 

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