Do you want to win, or to change behavior?
This is a question I frequently ask clients when discussing how best to approach someone in a (usually) tough conversation or conflict. As leaders, if we want to “win” the discussion, we simply flash our business card, tell ’em “because I said so” and to get back their butts back to work. Immediately solves the issue at hand.
But what problems does the jerk-boss approach create in its wake? Does it fix enough to overcome the negativity of the process? Does it actually change behavior?
Yeah, no. It certainly doesn’t change behavior. At best, it creates mindless drones, waiting for another direct order to determine what they should do. At worst, it creates a disgruntled malcontent, sowing discord and malice among peers and blindly adhering to your rules, even if they damage the outcome. A behavior I call malicious compliance. You’ve seen it before — it’s when an employee does something they clearly know was wrong, and when asked ‘why,’ quickly responds “Because you told me to.”
We know these people. Bad news, hoss; we likely created them.
If you want to win, you can. Instructions above (jerk). If you want to change behavior, it’s as simple, just a bit more involved. Direct communications are always fine, just remember that if you want someone to change their behavior willingly, you’ll need to communicate in a manner they can accept and internalize. In all likelihood, yelling, screaming and saying “because I said so” are not “…a manner they can accept and internalize.”
Remember, it’s a clear sign of weakness if you must rely solely on your position to get things done. We can pay someone a whole lot less for those same results.
A good manager never has to remind others of his or her position; a good subordinate never has to ask.