A$$holes and Angels

Life is full of contrasts which span our personal and professional lives. Happy and sad. Victory and defeat. Sunny and rainy. Dogs and cats. A$$holes and angels. Wait a minute – a$$holes and angels! What the heck?

As humans we have a lot of issues. Sometimes we are able to deal with these issues and at other times we are not. When we are successful in meeting our challenges we tend to be more measured and pleasant. But when these challenges become seemingly insurmountable brick walls there is a chance that our personality changes – and not for the better. Feelings of insecurity and inferiority may manifest through biting and snide remarks, ugly facial expressions or downright hostility.

A guy walks into McDonald’s and orders lunch. He just was chewed out by a client and he’s not a happy camper. The person taking his order is a little slow or distracted and he snaps, “Your service is terrible.” Obviously he’s well on his way to winning friends and influencing people. Angelic behavior? Probably just the opposite. Little encounters like this happen all of the time. Unfortunately when unchecked, a pattern develops where lashing out in this manner can become a habit.

In an entrepreneurial organization rudeness and disrespect cause a great deal of tension. It produces negative energy, creates conflict and can destroy the chemistry of a team. Leaders who ignore it are giving implicit approval of the perpetrators. It’s one thing for there to be disagreements between team members. This can be a healthy process toward a successful end result. But when the disagreements turn uncivil and personal the healthy part of the process has come to an end.

I have a pretty high tolerance factor for dissent. I encourage my colleagues to offer different opinions and ideas. And I don’t mind a lively discussion that stimulates new ways of thinking. However, I’ve been told that there are times when others begin to feel uncomfortable because of the intensity of some conversations. The line may have been crossed where the comments have become too biting and even personal. So, I’m learning how to interrupt such situations and nip them in the bud before they digress into the world of the unproductive.

This all easily translates into one very simple premise. There is no place for a$$holes – anywhere in life. When unacceptable behavior is observed it needs to be stopped immediately. If there are several team members present it may be best to take a break in the meeting and consult with the offender in a one-on-one manner. There’s nothing gained by embarrassing an individual publicly. Everyone has a bad day once in a while and a kind and empathetic word may be all that is necessary to diffuse a brewing tempest and prevent it from escalating.

It’s much more troublesome when a member of the team has become a chronic a$$hole. Such a person may walk around with a permanent scowl on his or her face. Colleagues may go out of their way to avoid this individual. No one looks forward to meetings that include him or her, and encounters with this person often end with feelings of hurt, anger or humiliation. Chronic a$$holes must be dealt with swiftly and firmly. As soon as it becomes apparent that this person has chronic issues he or she must be advised that his/her behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. When this person is a high performer it makes dealing with him/her that much more difficult. But for the sake of the team action must be taken including removal from the team as a last resort.

Life (and business) is tough enough without having to contend with a$$holes. Dispensing with such behavior as soon as possible will help restore the equilibrium of a team.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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