eradicating emotional abuse

bored
He arrived a half hour late and offered no apology for the rudeness. He sat back from the table, alternately leaning back in the chair with his arms reaching behind his head or rubbing his eyes with his hands. His eyes wandered, expressing boredom and disinterest in the conversation. He said nothing during the whole meeting.

He was not there as an observer. He was there to discuss a partnership, a potential working agreement with the other attendees. His supervisor was also in the room.

No one confronted him. No one asked if he had a problem or if there was some reason he was not participating or if the meeting should be re-scheduled. The meeting continued with tension in the room and without resolution.

The others left with a sense of frustration, time wasted, questions unanswered… and just a hint, down deep, of self-doubt… wondering if somehow they were the cause of that strange behavior, or if somehow they had done something wrong, or if the other was normal behavior and they were the strange ones to expect something different…

From the outside, from a position of healthy relationships, I wanted to scream for them… THAT IS NOT NORMAL BEHAVIOR! In emotionally healthy work environments, people do not act that way at meetings! And if they did, someone would say something to them… quickly!

That was clearly passive aggressive behavior designed to intimidate, discourage, and display lack of respect and value for the others attending the meeting. It was immature, inappropriate and rude behavior.

Sadly, in an isolated setting, without healthy examples around, it is easy to lose perspective and not recognize the harmful behavior. Or when someone has been through too many situations where they are not respected or valued or validated, a person can begin to perceive the negative behaviors as normal. Psychologists sometimes identify this as learned helplessness, and it is common in physical abusive situations also. Others react with anger in return.

How can we teach the ones we care about to recognize emotional abuse when they experience it? How can we help them respond with confidence and control, without allowing the passive aggressive offender to affect their minds or the meeting?

Have you faced situations like this? What would you suggest?

is there magic in teams?

Aside

Sometimes we act as if we can put a few random people together, call them a team, and we will automatically obtain magical results. All of a sudden, miraculously people will be happier, progress will be faster, productivity will be greater.

I love working on teams.
I have had incredibly positive experiences working on highly effective teams. I have also had horrendously miserable experiences working on dysfunctional teams. I can tell you… there is nothing magical about a team! Healthy, effective, highly productive teams require work – preliminary work in forming the team… and continual effort working together as a team.

From my experience, these are some of the most important errors to avoid when building a leadership team: 

  • If you are going to have a team leader – have a good one.

Do not pick a leader just because he is a “nice guy”. Do not pick a leader who has no vision for the team or who isn’t willing to work hard to turn the vision into reality. On the other hand, do not pick a leader who is a control-freak or who is hesitant or incapable of building and developing the people around them. If you are considering someone who has a track record of feeble results or a history of working alone… don’t do it!

If at all possible, pick a leader who has a proven track record as a visionary who also makes things happen by working together well with others. If that person doesn’t exist at the time, it might be better to create a “peer team” and share the leadership responsibilities. Consider term limits – you don’t want to place someone in leadership who won’t step aside so others can lead in the future.

  • Consider the emotional and spiritual maturity of each potential team member. 

Do not invite team members who constantly criticize (very different from critical thinkers) and complain. Do not accept people who take all the credit for themselves when there is success and then act as victims or blame others when challenges come. Steer clear of anyone who evades honest evaluation and direct communication. Unhealthy people = unhealthy teams.

You are not looking for perfect people, but rather people who are learning and growing – if possible, those with a track record of healthy relationships with others… those who know they aren’t perfect and openly recognize their need for others, and those who walk humbly with their God and give grace to others. Choose those who actively pursue community and accountability in their life… who have a good attitude and encourage others.

  • Don’t just yell desperately for “help” and take anyone who comes running.

(Been there. Done that. Paid the consequences.) Sometimes the people who respond to a crisis actually like crisis… and continue to create them in order to stay busy helping to fix them. This is not a good person for your team. Do not choose people simply because of seniority. Do not choose people just to fill the gap.

In the long run, it is better to learn a position empty, than to fill it with the wrong person. Evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses and those of your present team members – if you have one. Have an idea of where you want to go, and then recruit intentionally – more admin, more vision, more HR, more Ops, more crazy, more fun… depending on the need. Choose people who bring skill, experience, and excellence in their area of expertise. Add diversity (age/gender/nationality/etc) whenever possible.

Now ask yourself… do I work well with others, dream visions and get things done? Am I humble and growing? Do I bring value and excellence to our team?  

Would others want me on their team? Would I add to the “magic”?

Let’s learn together… What has been your experience with forming a team?

(In the next blog, I will write about working together as a team.)