The workplace has a way of reinforcing bad habits. Let me explain. All leaders and managers, (myself included) have moments where the standard civil approaches at problems don’t work. I call it the “breakdown of 3”. Whenever a subordinate does something wrong continuously, the breakdown usually plays out something like this.
Strike #1: The first incident usually doesn’t go too badly. Maybe a sarcastic comment or two–The manager hopes that the person is just having a bad day. “I’ll overlook this one, because Mary is usually such a good worker”.
Strike #2: The 2nd infraction causes the redness under the collar to burn a bit more. In hopes of keeping harmony in the workplace, the thoughtful and caring leader will bring it up again, but won’t push it too hard. A pattern is starting to develop, and patience is beginning to run out. Here is where disaster can be avoided if the leader would take the time to sit down and have a heart to heart with the employee. This is what should happen, and sometimes it does, but most of the time real dialog doesn’t occur. Big mistake. This is the pivotal moment, but because we are all so busy a REAL conversation is put on hold—-UNTIL:
Strike #3: The evil doer pushes the last button. It always comes at a horrible time when the stress levels are already at a breaking point—Strike 3 is usually the point of no return. I’ve been there many times, along with every manager I’ve ever worked for–Even the great ones. So the yelling begins…..AND where life actually gets better in the workplace–For everyone except the manager–You see, the manager feels guilty, horrible, out of control, and like a failure, because they lost their cool.
This is where the meltdown actually creates a pattern where more blowups will occur. The bad behavior of the leader actually makes things go back to normal–quickly. All the other workers see how bad you yelled at Mary, so they start going out of their way not to make waves. Mary will hold a grudge if you don’t patch things up, but let’s assume a deep conversation does finally take place—Now Mary never wants it to go into meltdown mode ever again, so her work improves.
A leaders bad behavior is now reinforced. This can quickly turn a leader into a tyrant. In order to break out of the cycle, dialog has to take place before strike 3. A leader needs to take time each week to solve problems and have open feedback with everyone on the team. No favorites, everyone treated equally. Lack of communication is the root of all workplace evil–
And for the record, lack of communication usually happens in companies where communications is the main business–Welcome to radio!
(Gregory Peck knows how to communicate…(Although he does snap at the end of the movie 12 o’clock High)–