In my previous post I spoke of the significant problems which can eventuate when we rescue others – denying them of opportunities to learn and develop.
On the surface, relieving someone of a burden can seem like a caring and noble thing to do.
If, however, the load isn’t beyond their capacity, taking it off them could deny an individual the chance to gain strength, and become a more effective person.
I’d suggest a subset of rescuing others, or, seeking to be rescued, is the very common decision we make in difficult situations – to avoid the problem.
Essentially hoping it’ll go away or look after itself!
Last year I shot out a simple survey to approximately 50 people, representative of a broad range of businesses and levels of leadership.
Among other matters, I was interested in checking whether my personal experiences of avoiding difficult situations in the workplace, was unique to myself and those I worked with. I strongly suspected it wasn’t.
The first question in relation to this area read as follows:
“Have you ever avoided challenging colleagues / employees about poor or unproductive behaviours at work, despite thinking you should do so?”
82% answered “Yes”
The follow up question asked:
“If “Yes”, what would be some of the reasons you would give to explain your avoidance?”
These options were provided:
too hard; unsure how best to challenge them; not worth the effort; worried about hurting the person’s feelings; concerned about a possible aggressive response; hope the problem will go away / solve itself; believe the person won’t change – so what’s the point?
All options rated highly as reasons for avoidance, the highest being, “Concerned about a possible aggressive response” followed closely by “Worried about hurting the person’s feelings” and “Unsure how best to challenge them.”
Don’t get me wrong. Challenging a person, possibly a colleague you rate highly, is far from easy. It’s important, however, we understand the impact of our avoidance.
There’s effectively a triple, detrimental impact, when we choose the option of avoidance.
By avoiding, we are essentially rescuing ourselves, denying ourselves the opportunity to learn and grow.
At the same time, if the avoidance relates to challenging a person about some of their behaviours, we are stripping them of an important opening, to develop and get better.
Finally, there’s the repercussions for those we work with.
They have to continue to engage with colleagues whose unproductive behaviours are unlikely to change, unless support is provided in the form of a challenge.
We start to see, how a seemingly innocuous decision to avoid, can have such serious consequences.
Workplace morale takes a hit due to the ongoing frustration and tension resulting from behaviours which go unchallenged.
Productivity, team cohesion, decision making, creative input and levels of engagement, are but a few of the key elements of a flourishing workplace, which are impacted.
Back to the survey.
Interestingly, the 4th most common response was: “Not worth the effort” – reported by 52% of respondents.
I’d suggest this is a prime example of ‘false economy’ thinking.
If we’re honest with ourselves – we know it’s worth the effort.
Workplace problems swept under the carpet don’t go away. They tend to grow and cause greater problems, often surfacing when we least expect them.
I’m a big fan of the mantra: “If it’s the hard thing to do, it’s usually the right thing to do!”
Keeping this front and centre – in our minds eye, doesn’t necessarily make the ‘hard thing’ any easier.
From my experience, however, it can compel us to act, rather than avoid – and that’s a good thing!
In my next piece, I’ll outline how all of the elements of a Red Triangle paradigm, often work together in what can become a vicious cycle, hampering the best efforts of leaders and their teams to build morale in their workplace.
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