Have you ever walked up to a cash register to pay for your Yoo-Hoo and there are two clerks bad-mouthing a manager or another worker?
It doesn’t seem to matter where — banks, convenience stores, doctor’s offices — there always seems to be some grumbling about someone else. This person is the worst human walking the planet, according to these folks. They have transgressions that are as long as the credits for “Avengers: Endgame.”
But what many don’t realize is that as soon as they are out of the room, they become the object of scorn. They are criticized as being the weakest link, as the person who is just awful.
I’m not saying I’m innocent of this myself. Especially in my younger days, I was quick to judge and even quicker to excuse any of my own poor behavior. But as I’ve gotten older — and hopefully wiser — I’ve learned that all of us could do a better job of making improvements at work.
Without being aware of our own weaknesses and transgressions, then we’re just part of the problem. Our team will not thrive because we’re not willing to do the internal work that only we can do. Bottom line: If the team isn’t successful, then the individuals on that team are going to pay the price.
In other words, if you’re on a team that isn’t performing well, then your own career will suffer.
Starting today, try using the energy you use blaming others for various woes and instead work on yourself. Some things to think about:
1. Take an internal temperature check. I was watching the “Apollo 11” documentary recently, and was struck by how mission control monitored the heart rates of the astronauts. While Neil Armstrong sounded cool as a cucumber when trying to find a spot to land on the moon, in reality his heart rate was around that of a rabbit trying to outrun a jaguar. Next time you’re in stressful situation or feeling unhappy at work, try digging deep and finding the cause of your stress. Are you mad because Bryan messed up the PowerPoint? Or are you in reality annoyed with yourself that you didn’t lend him a hand yesterday to ensure it went smoothly? Try tapping into what you’re really feeling and you’ll be better able to deal with the issue effectively instead of just stewing about Bryan and bad-mouthing him to others.
2. Watch others. How do people react when you speak in a meeting? When you casually stop to talk in the halllway? If they exhibit all the friendliness of Alec Baldwin to the paparazzi, then you may have a problem. Or, if they refuse to look you in the eye and seem to be glancing around for an escape path, then you may have a problem. Let me stress, however, that you’re not an FBI body language specialist, so don’t count on this is a full-proof way to gauge how others see you. You may have to just ask for feedback from other team members: “What did I do in the meeting that you found helpful?” or “What did I do on that last project that you found least helpful?” This may not be too much fun, but it will give you a better idea of your impact on the team and help you learn what you can do to boost the team’s performance.
3. Stick with it. Improving yourself takes a lot of hard, consistent work. You may resolve one bad habit, but another may spring up to take it’s place. Or, you may start to feel very self-righteous and start correcting others since you’re now such a gem. You need to not only constantly monitor your own behavior and reactions, but also try to delve deeper into why others may have a poor performance instead of bossing them around. Could it be that Angela is always late because she doesn’t have reliable transportation and not because she’s just lazy? Or, perhaps Ted’s poor communication isn’t because he’s a jerk but because he’s so shy finds it difficult to talk face-to-face or participate in meetings?
The next time you’re quick to blame someone else for your team’s poor performance, stop yourself and see if maybe you’re not part of the problem — and then hopefully part of the solution.