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Dealing leaders at work

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06th-Jul-2018       
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Sallyann Della Casa :
Our brains are wired to mirror what we see around us, and willpower alone is often not enough to preserve our leadership potential. Like an epidemic, bad leadership often spreads fast and in some cases the damage caused can be permanent.
When we spot a bad leader, we often try to convince ourselves that just recognising bad leadership is enough (at the same time promising ourselves we will never become like that) to keep us immunised. There are major flaws in this reasoning. For instance, many of us marry people who look just like our parents, with the qualities we claim we always abhorred in them. In addition, studies indicate that about one-third of people who are abused during childhood become abusers themselves. If you recall, our brains are wired to mirror what we see around us, and willpower alone is often not enough to preserve our leadership potential around bad leaders. When it comes to business, bad leaders affect every area, particularly the business culture they oversee, which very quickly becomes toxic. The leader is the single person most responsible for shaping an organisation's culture. The leader establishes the agenda and serves as a role model. Period. Here are the telltale signs that you might become contaminated because of bad leadership and, as a result, the presence of a toxic culture:
1-Communication issues, such as no communication at all, indirect communication i.e. sending messages through others, withholding information, giving misleading information, and other dysfunctional patterns such as negative communication with employees, always complaining about management, and blaming others.
2-Inconsistency in following policies and procedures.
3-Low morale, low engagement, and high turnover. Good people leave fast. Those with high self-esteem and self-worth feel forced to speak up, rather than put up with nonsense.
4-There is a lack of productivity, and unpredictable business performance.
5-Erosion of integrity. The values hanging on the wall have no intrinsic meaning whatsoever.
Even though you could never live up to your potential as a leader in this type of environment, you may find yourself in poor leadership situations and not be in a position to leave immediately. Knowing this, here are some ways temporarily to survive (these are not long-term solutions):
Spend time working outside the office. If you can work away from the office for a few days each week, this would be an ideal scenario (but also, admittedly, this is a temporary escape mechanism). Another option, if you have to be in the office, is to take short breaks and go outside for a walk, in a park or anywhere where there is some nature and sunlight, to clear your head and remove the toxicity.
Control your space. If you are not in a co-working environment, try to make your working space as happy and as bright as possible with things you love - scented candles and room sprays, pictures of your family, posters with inspiring quotes, etc. This is priming at its best. Also, if you can play some music quietly that takes you to a happy place, without distracting your concentration, by all means play it. These things will help keep you in balance to face bad leadership and a toxic environment. Seek out like-minded colleagues. If you look hard, you will find someone feeling just like you. You can buddy up and be each other's positivity support system. Set some ground rules that you will both only look at the positive side of things and find solutions rather than complaining, and you will reduce the feeling of being alone in a negative environment.
Treat the experience like a case study/experiment. Stand outside yourself, take nothing personally, and be an observer - know you are being tested and there are some valuable lessons to be learned from the bad examples. Stay above the fray. Keep your emotions at a distance and be aware who presses your buttons, and when. Try to distance yourself as much as possible from people and situations that add to your discomfort.
Set boundaries. Keep bad leaders at a distance and/or their time in your space limited. Stick to your guns on issues, so it is clear when anyone has crossed your boundaries. Plan your exit. You can't change corporate leadership and culture on your own. You are fighting against a savage beast that has become this way over time, and you have to really look within and decide whether it is worth your time and effort. In the end, bad leadership is like a cloud of darkness covering the light of everything and everyone within it. Good leadership is seeking light that permeates everything and everyone it encounters.
Always choose light when you can.
(Sallyann Della Casa delivers 21st century skills through her edu-tech APP, GLEAC)

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