I don’t like articles with lists, but this article from Les Mckeown showed up on my Twitter timeline and for some odd reason I clicked on it. It purports to want to help you relinquish an “unhealthy need for being loved” in the workplace and offers sort of awful advice about how to fix this affliction. What it boils down to, is simply a Fiona Apple song. It’s not about love.
For the sake of soothing the irritant that was this post, we’re just going to examine his magic advice and rebut each argument on its face.
First he says that being loved elsewhere can keep you from feeling like you need your people to love you at work. Yes friends, the key to treating your subordinates like the unimportant maggots they are is simply to have someone at home who puts up with your b.s. on a regular basis. Sorry poor single schlubs that haven’t found true love yet, this is where you realize your single ass is never going to reach the fast track.
Next, he tells us to avoid one-on-ones as much as possible. So let me get this straight, the best way to deal with people at work is to avoid interacting with them. Maybe this works as a soulless corporate hegemon, but for the rest of us idiots in real jobs, this just isn’t as possible as our Inc. blogging genius thinks.
The last one I’m going to address, because I’d rather get to the point is his argument that closing the feedback loop by simply never asking for feedback from subordinates is the best way to ensure you never have to find out how you’re really doing.
Look, all of this stuff is great if you want to live in an echo chamber of your own adulation. But if you’re actually interested in change, you won’t embrace an ethos that says caring about others is some kind of character flaw. Yes, there is a problem with being too heavily reliant on being liked; especially in the context of leadership. However, this doesn’t mean you need to trend so far in the other direction so as to close out allies you need within your organization to survive.
Here are a few quick productive ways to ensure that forming good working relationships doesn’t turn into something more sinister and damaging:
1. Treat people fairly. You can’t always treat everyone the same. But you can be fair with people. If you say good morning to one person, it doesn’t hurt to extend that courtesy to someone else you don’t know.
2. Target personal interactions. Maybe you just enjoy talking recipes with someone and enjoy their time. If these kinds of one-on-one interactions impact morale, then stick to using these interactions for a specific purpose and spread the love. If more people feel included and appreciated, it can have a positive effect on the organization as a whole.
3. Remember what leadership is about. Look, your job isn’t always to direct. It’s to find good people who understand the job well enough that if you weren’t available, it’d be done well without you. Identifying and empowering great people is hard work. But it’s worthwhile for you to seek out quality people and train them up to someday take your job.
4. Leadership paint-by-numbers. If you have the good fortune of having paid your dudes before moving up to your role, it can be helpful for junior and mid-career employees from time to time to hear of your own trajectory up the ranks. Sometimes, you see a person who’s seemly been “in charge” for a long time and don’t always realize the journey it took to get there. Having someone demystify those secrets can boost morale and provide a pathway for someone else to someday follow.