'I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant'. ~Robert McCloskey
Years ago when I was working for a certain boss as a management consultant in a small outfit. I remember reporting to work on my first day of work and being in a state of euphoria about my work and my future with my new boss.
As expected, the euphoria lasted about 1 week and that's when I started noticing my team-members were a pretty demotivated lot. Not only that, they fought a lot with each other for the most meaningless of things. 3 months down the road, after trying very hard to play the peace-maker and speaking up for people in meetings, I realised that the constant state of strife was really what the boss wanted. We were actually made to fight against each other.
Yes, how brilliant. Imagine a management consultant preaching about teamwork and listening skills to clients but practising 'separate and rule' on the homefront.
But I was younger then. I really thought that my boss wanted to build a successful company, what with mission & vision statement retreats, warm-fuzzy awards, etc.
I was determined to make a difference. I remember one day I knocked on the door of my boss and shared with her that she was driving all of us away by creating a culture of mistrusts and fear in the company. I reasoned with her, that if she cared for us and the customers (she said she does all the time) she should then listen to us and give us a chance to contribute meaningfully to the company, because most of us want to help her succeed.
'Can you please listen to us because if you really listen with your heart, you will find out that most of us want to work with you to build a great company together'
'We know you aren't perfect but we respect you and we are sure you have the experience and capacity to lead us to where we want to go'
'We only hope that you give us a chance to contribute...give us the opportunity to work together '
She smiled and nodded her head at me.
The next day, I was dropped from my project team with a certain key client and assigned to a desk on the far-side of the office. I was walled in by dividers. I heard from my colleagues (the ones who hasn't avoided me like I had leprosy) that I was seen as a bad influence to the team, and that I was the troublemaker who caused most of the problems in the office.
I remember feeling extremely pained by my ex-bosses behavior.
'How could I be castigated when all I'd wanted was to help? I cared, that was the only reason I spoke-out.'
I left the company and made a promise to myself that I will not repeat my ex-bosses behavior when I lead others.