In her book, Why is is Always About You?, Sandy Hotchkiss talks about how certain people put their needs above everyone else’s and ultimately abuse their power. Although we have not spoken with her about it, we expect she would agree with the statement that these same people undermine organizational health and are prime contributors to organizational ill-health and its symptoms: poor morale, poor alignment, poor execution, poor retention and the like.
So, what is it about these people that make them toxic to organizational health? Mostly, it’s about their need to see themselves as powerful and what they do to protect their power–whether they have real power, like a CEO or Senior Executive, or little power, like a first time supervisor. Whatever their level in the organization, their need for power is likely to show up in one or more of the following behaviors.
Please note: These behaviors are based on the book, Why is it Always About You? They may be conscious behaviors but more often are unconscious or something people don’t realize they are doing in the moment.
A Tendency to Scapegoat – These individuals don’t tolerate failure well and blame is consistently shifted to others. This can appear as extreme defensiveness or a failure to acknowledge mistakes.
Work/Life Imbalance – These individuals often directly or indirectly ask others to go “above and beyond” to ensure their own success. That people are often willing to sacrifice their own work/life balance to serve a leader is something these individuals will all too eagerly exploit.
Importance of Admiration – The need for admiration for these individuals will manifest in a couple of ways: always needing to be the one with the final word, with the best idea/plan OR dejection when there are setbacks or challenges to his or her ideas and plans. It is the intensity of emotion that is the telltale sign of the importance of admiration: success brings intense joy while setbacks bring intense self-doubt.
Unusual Levels of Unprofessional Behavior – Unprofessional behavior like blurring the boundary between one’s personal and professional life or expressing emotions intensely, varies in degree from very minor to extreme. A red flag should go up when you feel too much personal information is being asked for or when there are frequent and unpredictable strong outbursts of emotions. Both of these “unprofessional” behaviors are signs of trouble that inevitably undermine healthy interaction and boundary setting in a workplace.
At Vital Growth we work hard to help organizations maximize their organizational health. We know improving organizational health is a huge competitive advantage for any business. Sometimes it’s a matter of making a team more functional. Sometimes its a matter of finding out and working with a power abusing individual who is eroding organizational health in his or her department or throughout the organization.
Give us a call if you think you’ve got a power monger in your workplace. We can coach you through your choices.