They shoot messengers, don't they?
Wickipedia says “Shooting the messenger" is a phrase describing the act of lashing out at the (blameless) bearer of bad news. The advice "Don't shoot the messenger" was first expressed by Shakespeare in Henry IV, part 2 (1598).
This is a second post using a section of ‘The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t’ (Feb. 2007) by Robert Sutton, Stanford University professor. The first was May 18, The very difficult people who are more trouble than they are worth, http://www.extension.iastate.edu/mt/civility/2007/05/the_very_difficult_people_who.html
Sutton explains that the perpetually difficult people suffer from delusions of effectiveness. In today’s competitive world, some people rise to power by walking over others. Leadership research shows, particularly in nasty and competitive cultures, subtle moves like glaring and condescending comments, insults and put-downs and even physical intimidation can be effective paths to power.
These skills may work to rise to power…unfortunately. They don’t work for effective leadership.
The people who work with such a person have ways to cope. If there’s a “shoot the messenger” mentality, people learn very quickly to be silent about bad news. There is only good news. People put on an act when the jerk is around.
In a fear-based organization, employees constantly look over their shoulders and try to avoid blame and humiliation, even when they know how to help the organization. W. Edwards Deming noted employees devote energy to protecting themselves, not to helping the organization improve. There is evidence that when people work for cold and mean-spirited jerks, employees steal from their companies to even the score.
Delusions of effectiveness
Sutton lists seven points in his list ‘Are you suffering from delusions of effectiveness?’ I’ve covered four. The other three are
• Your organization is effective despite rather than because you are a demeaning jerk.
• You are being charged taxes: people are willing to work for you only if you pay them premium rates.
• Your enemies are silent for now.
Facing the truth
A workplace atmosphere stifles growth if you can’t use research and entertain open discussion. It’s untruthful. I think of a phrase I’ve encountered several times recently, the emperor has no clothes. The allusion is to Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale ‘The Emperor's New Clothes’. The term is often used for an obvious truth denied by the majority despite the evidence they see.
When I finished Sutton’s book, my overall feeling was depression. Somehow I feel it would be cowardly and dishonest to not share and mull over some of his writing just because I’m depressed by the content. It is heavy with references to research. We all need to face the truth even when we don’t like it, which is indeed the essence of this post. Don’t shoot the messenger.