Leaders know that there is always a reason why people act the way the do. Past experiences, learned behaviours, lack of sleep, undue stress, covid fatigue … the explanations go on and on. 

What leaders also realize is this:

An explanation is not an excuse.

Explaining one’s perspective doesn’t give license or justification to that person to behave in a hateful and disrespectful way. 

Explanations are useful.

Explaining why a certain behaviour took place may build understanding and perhaps ultimately bridges to forgiveness. 

However, explanations never excuse inappropriate behaviour.

Interestingly, a telltale sign of trouble is when the person behaving inappropriately assumes zero responsibility for the results of their actions. They may adopt a machiavellian approach and think their ends justify their means of any sort. They don’t.

Whether it’s in the playground or the boardroom, disrespectful, violent, hateful, bully behaviour is never appropriate. Just because someone shouts louder and draws attention doesn’t make that person right.

In these situations, it’s often a very small minority that is very vocal. Perhaps they had a legitimate concern at one point but the way in which they present their concern is so destructive their message is lost. All anyone remembers is the violent vehicle in which the message was delivered.

I had a boss like that once.

Years ago, I had a boss who would go into rages during boardroom meetings, managing by intimidation and ridicule. Sometimes he had very good messages to convey but they were lost in the delivery. All anyone knew was how disruptive his behaviour was. It did nothing to win him support. In fact, quite to the contrary as this person was facing several lawsuits from employees.

During a flight to a meeting we had a few precious hours alone when we could talk and I grabbed the opportunity to acknowledge that his messages were what everyone wanted and needed to know, but all they remembered was the bombastic way in which they were conveyed. He looked at me silently and I think, just maybe, a little piece of that sunk in. I later saw him earnestly keeping his anger issues thinly contained beneath a veil of social etiquette. 

He was never a good boss, though I do believe my insight, coupled with the obvious counselling sessions he was receiving, helped him understand how he appeared to others. He may have had reasons for the anger and frustration but that never justified his dysfunctional behaviour.

What to do as leaders?

There is a lot of covid fatigue out there. Your colleagues, employees, bosses, and clients are feeling the crunch of the past two years. There is reason for a gamut of emotion. There is no reason for disrespectful behaviours. Ever. 

If you find yourself on edge, take responsibility for your emotions before they manifest themselves in a negative way. Take actions that will make you, and everyone who knows you, proud. Do it all with respect and dignity and you improve the chances that your message will be heard.

If others are behaving poorly, and the silent majority is saying nothing, counter that negativity with positivity. Shine your light on what people are doing right. Hold firm to your values. Draw boundaries on how you allow others to communicate with you those of your community. Speak up when someone crosses that line to condemn that behaviour. Silence will be misunderstood as tacit approval. 

Final reminder: An explanation is no excuse. 

During stressful times, experiencing extreme emotions is normal. How you express those emotions is what distinguishes productive leaders from destructive destroyers.

Communicate constructively, listen attentively, and lead with kindness and respect. That is what true leaders do

©2021 Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Until next time, here’s to …
Better communication, Better business, Better life,
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
Sign up for  “Marion’s Communication Tips” at www.MarionSpeaks.com

Post your comments and reactions below. There are no right or wrong responses, just honest, respectful ones. I’d love to hear your opinion. What about this article resonated with YOU?

Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.

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