Beware the Rationalization Squad

Perceived pressure, perceived opportunity, and rationalization

Beware the Rationalization Squad

One of the first “lab tests” I suggest for clients facing leadership communication problems is the rationalization index. This measures the amount of leeway people give themselves to allow bad behavior. This door doesn’t open by itself. The rationalization door only opens when we open it.  Then the rationalization squad shows up and convinces you that the rules don’t apply to you. Here are some of my favorite cop out rationalizations:

You just don’t understand;  I’m under a lot of pressure. This is a doozy.  If pressure were the excuse for bad behavior then everyone on the planet would be authorized. This is a sign you are not managing stress and has consequences for your reputation, your effectiveness, your example as a leader and the motivation on those around you. Everyone has a bad day once in a while, but if this is your rationalization for your constant short temper, abusive behavior, or acting unethically, you alienate your co-workers and limit communication. And you’ll eventually be fired if you work in a reputable organization.

I’m the boss, that’s why.  Where does it say being the boss entitles you to behaving badly? That is a stereotype from the very darkest ages of leadership. It is an insulting response which puts the boss on the throne and those around them as obsequious underlings. You have much, much bigger problems if you have to remind people you are the boss.

If you don’t like it, leave. Another denigrating put-down that shows the boss’s disdain for you. The not-so-secret message here is: you are not important, valued or needed. Employees will leave, and they won’t be the ones you WANT to leave. It will be the smart ones who have the most to offer and don’t want to put up with demeaning behavior. And who will not speak well of you when asked.

They’ll get over it. They will…somewhere else. People remember bosses who behave badly: especially when there is no apology or change in behavior after an angry outburst. The half-life of bad leadership behavior is long and persistent. Reputations are built on actions, not titles or words on inspirational posters.

They’re too sensitive:  this is business, nothing personal.  While one does need to develop a thick skin to survive in the rough and tumble world of work, people do believe what their bosses say to them is personal. We are persons. It is impossible to separate our work persona from our personhood. We spend most of our waking hours at work. Life is personal no matter where we. Don’t insult your employees by telling them it’s “just business”. They are not machines.

If these phrases define your approach to leadership, no good thing follows. Are you summoning and listening to the rationalization squad?