WFC Stock – Your Words Can Do Great Harm
Melinda Fouts, Ph.D., of Success Starts With You, is author of Cognitive Enlightenment and an international executive coach.
Putting up with bad behavior will affect the entire organization. As we all know, one drop of poison in a glass of water contaminates the entire glass. Within the vast array of bad leadership behaviors that exist, there is one behavior that can be extra demoralizing: Your words. They can be wielded like weapons and the end result is that your words can injure someone’s psyche just as if they’d pierced their skin.
We all know the commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” However, have you considered the meaning may extend to more than just living beings? There are larger implications here, and I invite you to reflect on this commandment as its meaning can extend beyond just living beings. There are other elements of a human being — their spirit, their drive or their dedication — that can also be greatly injured. And this is where the story begins.
A Personal Tale
HR recommended a C-Suite level client to me. As is often the case, bad behavior can be pointed out to someone, but changing that behavior is more of a challenge than just being told about it. With this individual, his words were harsh and biting to those he encountered.
When I conducted a 360-degree review, the feedback was consistent in how the individuals felt from his treatment of them. It was always his words, tone and body language. His cutting remarks, his words, were killing key aspects beyond character. He was killing their spirit, their motivation, their ideas, their morals, their self-confidence and their self-esteem.
His demoralizing words were harming their desire to perform well, and they felt, “What’s the point? He is going to shoot it down and make me feel awful about myself.” We all know the childhood saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” There is no truth in this saying, and in fact, the reality is just the opposite. We may never remember the pain of breaking an arm, but we can recall immediately and often intensely the pain we felt from the words someone spoke to us.
You may be thinking this guy is just a bully, but it is, in fact, far worse. Being demeaning to the point where someone begins to think their efforts are worthless and/or they are worthless is verbally, mentally and emotionally abusive.
When this occurs, the person may become confused about their decisions, and confusion begins to cloud judgment. They begin to question themselves, wondering if they really are worthless. No workplace needs clouded judgment from their employees. Organizations need clear thoughtfulness when decisions are being made.
A Tale Of Two Companies
Let’s look at some severe examples of how words can kill. In my article, The Dark Side of Leadership, I mentioned the ramifications of how words can kill as in the example of a French telecom company being convicted of “moral harassment.” The end result? Nineteen employees committed suicide because of the treatment they received. In the same article, there is a reference to the treatment of employees at Wells Fargo suffering from intimidation and humiliation. These are some of the most severe cases I have researched.
As I began my work with the demoralizing client, my internal burning question was, “What was he to gain with this behavior? What was the point?” Having a Ph.D. in psychology and working as a psychotherapist for over 20 years, I wondered what was driving this behavior? What was beneath the persona he presented that caused him to act in this manner? Unlike the French telecom and Wells Fargo examples, which were driven by greed, this case was different. There had to be a different motivation. As a coach in addressing behavioral issues, this is where I begin.
Take Control Of Your Narrative
If I can guide an individual to a greater self-understanding of the underlying cause of these abusive behaviors, there is a greater outcome the behavior can change. My philosophy is, if the person is aware of the underlying cause and has the intention to change the behavior, it will eventually change.
My formula is: Awareness + Intention = Change
Thus, the hard work begins as we both embark on this journey of self-discovery and self-mastery. Part of this mastery, as I mentioned, is self-awareness as to the underlying causes. The second part is learning how to pause, stop, remain silent and give space to respond in a different manner, rather than reacting immediately. This is the biggest challenge for most of my clients and the remedy is a mindfulness practice like meditation.
We only have about a quarter of a second to choose a different response. Meditation increases that quarter of a second — giving us time to remain calm, focused and choose a different response. What’s the outcome? If you want to make changes in your behavior and respond differently, it could prevent you from saying something that wounds a person to their core. Remember, you don’t have to physically injure someone to wound them.
Fintech Zoom Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?
WFC Stock – Your Words Can Do Great Harm
Tags: WFC Stock