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Why Leaders Can’t Have a Bad Day at Work

Women in the Workforce- ibuildcompanies by Jeanne Heydecker

I once worked for a company that was known to be run by an a**hole. When I first gave my notice to join the company, I had a number of people in my industry share this information and telling me it was a bad idea, but confident that I could handle him, I accepted the job anyway. I think I regretted the decision within the first week. I quickly learned about the “Bruce-Barometer” — a calling tree in the office that alerted staff on whether Bruce was in a good mood or not, warning people when Bruce was in the office or “on a warpath”.

One week after a particularly brutal episode having to do with him insisting on printing great work on newsprint and him not satisfied with the results, he called me into his sauna. Yes, he had a sauna in his office. Yes, I was wearing a heavy wool suit as this was the middle of winter in Burlington, Massachusetts. I think I lost five pounds while he berated me on my incompetence and asked why he ever hired me.

As you can imagine, this soul-crushing episode was the last straw in a number of episodes where his unprofessional interaction with me caused me to go into “transactional mode”. I stopped caring about the work. I did only what I was told, even though it meant doing very poor quality work. I became depressed as I felt my contribution was unappreciated and I hated what my work had become. I took no pride in what I did. I isolated myself and kept my head down to keep from being yelled at again and again and again. When I finally left the company, it felt like I had been freed. It took me quite a bit of time to get back to being “me” again, confident in my abilities and skills.

Has this happened to you? Think about the worst boss you ever had and compare them with the best boss you ever had. Which one would you prefer to work for again? How does your behavior at work compare? Closer to which? How would the people you lead describe you?

When you’re leading, you do not have the option of having a bad day. As soon as you walk in the door, your team members will notice the look on your face. They will hear the tone of your voice. They will see your body language. How you interact with them, your daily conduct, what you take pride in and value in your team members, will be remembered and shared with others.

You have to be excited about what’s happening before others have the propensity to feel the same. If you are not enthusiastic about a new project introduced by senior management, your team will feel likewise. If you denigrate your management team, your staff will be convinced to think the same way. Your leadership, your attitude, and your interactions all set the tone for the day for your department. Don’t squander this opportunity to make this day great. 🙂

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