Bob Sutton: Recognize When You’re the Problem

– Let’s go back to this notion that if you’re a jerk, the odds you’re gonna admit it to yourself or others are not high. There’s some good national survey data, it’s not great, but it’s pretty good, by the Workplace Bullying Institute. They do something with Zogby about every year, and if you look at surveys over the last ten years, the general pattern is about 1/2 of 1% of Americans, so that’s 1 out of 2 Americans will admit to doing consistent, on-going bullying. About 50% of Americans say they’ve either experienced it, are experiencing it, or witnessed it firsthand. Those numbers don’t add up, and there’s a whole bunch of other research on self-awareness that suggest the worst person to ask if you want to figure out if somebody’s an asshole, is the asshole him or herself, and that includes you so looking in the mirror actually doesn’t work that well. What the evidence suggests is the best thing to do, and research on self-awareness says this pretty consistently, is having people in your life who can tell you when you’ve been a jerk, a temporary one or a certified one. That’s the best path to awareness. One example of this, it’s June, 1940. Winston Churchill’s in a pretty bad situation. You think about it, they’re losing the war. They’re being bombed like crazy. The US isn’t in the war yet. Dunkirk has happened, or is just about to happen, and it’s just kind of a mess in the UK, and he’s getting grouchy so his wife, Clementine, writes him a letter. “One of the men in your entourage, a devoted friend, “has been to me and told me that there is a danger “of your being generally disliked “by your colleagues and subordinates “because of your rough sarcastic and overbearing manner.” Then, she goes sorta wifely. “My Darling Winston, I must confess that I have noticed “a deterioration in your manner, “and you are not as kind as you used to be.” I think that’s kind of interesting in light of current events, and I’d also add there’s two or three sentences at the end where she sorta lays out a mini theory that treating the people who work for him bad is not just sort of bad because it makes them feel bad, it’s bad because it stifles dissent and drives out the best people. It’s sort of interesting in light of some current events.