Have you ever worked with a leader who was always inviting chaos or a boss who constantly had to create drama?
The most effective leaders work to create an environment that will stimulate, motivate and develop people—who in turn will bring their best to work.
But many otherwise qualified bosses and leaders share a need to create chaotic cultures that keep everyone in a heightened state of anxiety.
They may believe that calm cultures mean a lack of activity or purpose—that stress and chaos lead to greater drive and energy.
Research may tell us that people are better motivated by accomplishment than stress, and that they can accomplish much more when they are at ease in a peaceful and secure environment, but what can you do if your workplace is governed by stress, chaos and drama?
You may not be able to change the culture, but here are some steps you can take to help yourself:
Know yourself. Before you can be an advocate for the processes that help you work most effectively, you have to know what they are. Think about specifics—everything from the noise level to workloads to the way project details are communicated.
Draw a line in the sand. Determine your bottom line in regard to what you can and can’t handle. Everyone needs to be able to tolerate some degree of stress and drama, but everyone has limits. When you know where your boundaries lie, you know when you have to speak up—or even walk.
Resist micromanagement. Except for leaders who are actually incompetent, most workplace chaos stems from micromanagement. It usually originates with tremendous pressure to produce results, so if you want to shield yourself and advocate for an alternate work style, stay focused on results. There’s no more compelling argument you can make than “this works better.
Don’t let yourself be squelched. Leaders who tend to dismiss ideas with a “but” create not only chaos but also confusion and apathy. Eventually the bad feelings grow into dissent among employees and disregard for the leader. Learn to keep speaking up and speaking out, and find solutions to every “but,” one at a time.
Look for the best. Chaotic leaders invite us to see the cup as half empty instead of half full. Negative leadership leads to more negativity. Difficult as it may be, work to stay on the side of positivity. Try to always find something good to point out and something positive to contribute.
Be a role model. Lead by example and set a standard in light of unreasonable expectations. Maintain healthy boundaries for yourself: “I accept phone calls and emails only up to 7pm.” The more you give, the higher the expectation becomes. Step off the vicious cycle; create a balanced life for yourself and kept to it.
Acknowledge your own worth. Chaotic leaders tend to share a common trait: they’re quick to point out mistakes and shortcomings but slow to acknowledge even extraordinary effort or accomplishment. It’s not only devaluing but it’s the worst kind of leadership. Counteract it by acknowledging your own work and bringing attention to your (and your teammates’) contributions.
A chaotic culture is a disruptive culture—and not in a good way. Do what you have to do to survive a chaotic leader. Above all, don’t allow yourself to believe that it’s an acceptable way to live or lead.
Lead From Within: As with any challenge, do what you have to do. Rise above the dysfunction of existing leadership and be an example of the leadership that can work.
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Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness is being released by Portfolio May 2017.