Clearing the Air in Your Company – a Critique

Julian Hall, Director and Founder of Calm People, wrote an article in Business Matters, a UK magazine, titled, “Do You Need to ‘Clear the Air’ in Your Company – and How do you do it?” Here is an excerpt from the article and Jerry Medol’s response.

I used to coach a Managing Director who ruled by fear. He didn’t think so but it was the case. When he didn’t like something that was happening in his business he told people “in no uncertain terms” as he called it. That was his euphemism for verbally abusing people. He would shout, and sometimes scream, abusive and hurtful comments at members of his team and then he would wonder why no one brought issues to him and why he had to go and find problems in his business that needed sorting out.

His problem was not just that he was abusive or that he thought it was acceptable, but that he thought once he had given a team member “decisive critical feedback” (another of his euphemisms) that everything was alright and things could proceed as normal. In other words now that he had got the angry energy out of him and given it to someone else everything was fine with the world. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of that type of behaviour will tell you that is not the case.

I recently worked with another business owner who hated conflict. She would do her utmost to avoid it. She would rather crawl over broken glass naked than tell someone directly that she had an issue. She wouldn’t tell them directly but she would tell others. After all she needed an outlet for her issues. In addition she thought that she did not show her animosity towards those she was in conflict with but, of course, she leaked the truth. They experienced her as flouncing in and out of their offices, delivering acid drops of sarcasm and treating them like social pariahs amongst other members of the team. It wasn’t personal – at some point or other she treated everyone that way.

Jerry’s response:

The underlying and unaddressed quality in both scenarios is control. Both characters in Dr. Hill’s scenario sought control. Whether it’s through direct aggression or passivity and avoidance, the intent for control is the same.

Both the direct and indirect attitudes identified are aggressive. Some aggressors seek control directly and others seek control indirectly, but “control” is the intent, and in both cases the unspoken agenda of the manager is an obstacle to team cohesion and development.

In both situations the manager has to take responsibility for their own fear and need for control. It is likely the manager does not appreciate that the control they seek is for them a safety need.

It is a major unspoken issue in the workplace and in our interpersonal relationships that the search for control is a search for safety. It is a simple and natural reality. We feel safe when we have control and we feel unsafe when we don’t. Often we don’t realize that when we are exercising our need for control that we might be disrespecting somebody else.

For the full article, click here

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