“You may have heard that I’m a bit of an a**hole, and I’m not denying it!” (Quote from a new general manager being introduced)
This term is used often nowadays, both in lighthearted contexts and as a source of pride for people who suffer from ‘contemptible behaviour’. (Source: English Language & Usage) I like that term, it seems to sum up the experience of dealing with such a person almost as satisfactorily. Many people use the term to describe someone who simply disagrees with them. Usually it fits with a person who holds a position of authority. In that instance, it replaces the old standard of SOB.
Before I go any further, if you would like some help in dealing with this affliction in your own life as a leader, I really appreciated this article on the matter: How to Address Workplace Incivility
Now back to my take on it. I grew up with the term a**hole used broadly to describe
people who just seemed to make it their purpose in life to make others stumble on theirs. That definition seems to be a good fit. The initial quote is from a young adult who was getting to know his new manager, and shared that this was his reputation. There is at least one generational divide to recognize here, but that is hardly the point. He gloried in the fact that he had made the lives of others miserable, specifically those who relied on him for good leadership. 20 to 30 years ago I could name more than a few people who would glory in this tag and live up to it.
I know that in less than glorious moments in my own life, especially as a leader, I lived up to the moniker.
The change in tide, the way this young adult took the introduction, and the way the leader meant to use it, was well represented in of all places as the NHL. There was a commentator in the early 2000’s who actually made mention of the fact that new players were different now than before. An ‘old school’ coach could not get away with strong arming and belittling; his players would silently shut him out, become unproductive, or request a move. At some levels, we could call it ‘bullying’, and at others, we would just say ‘I can do better where I am respected’. I believe today you would be hard-pressed to find a coach in the NHL that berates a player and earns the trust of his team.
Another conversation we could get into here is the difference between a leader and a manager. A manager is often defined by the ability to create an environment of consistent, replicated results, and sustain them with the least input of resources. A leader could be said to seek the best and greater for all levels of a system, where new heights of mission are reached without destroying the important aspects of the system.
This may be why the new manager sought a low bar for better understanding; he did not understand his impact as a leader. Personality and behaviour are not isolated; you own them both.
So, if you are struggling with ‘contemptible behaviour’, there is hope! You can be true to your personality, your role, and your relationships, without being an a**hole. Contact me if you would like to find a way 🙂