Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Abuse of Power

Sometimes we don't realize what is happening at first.  An odd series of events, strange new voices suddenly "speaking out," or just that awkward feeling in the pit of our stomach.  Then we understand.  A more orchestrated set of actions is underway that were previously unknown.

And that is precisely when we need to do something about it.

Who Are They Kidding
Often times the sudden flurry of activity is hidden behind pressure for change.  Perhaps employees are being held accountable for their behavior and don't like it, and are consequently attempting to undermine their leader.  Maybe necessary organizational changes are being implemented and small numbers of staff would prefer to stay trapped in a "good ole days" mindset.  Or sometimes it is simply about power - who has it, and who wants it.  Regardless of the reasons, caving in to these behaviors is the death knell for leaders.

A Twist
Of course work is never clean-cut or straightforward.  What if the manipulation that you've discovered has a kernel of truth to it?  What if that work unit truly does have issues that need to be reacted to?  What if that leader is struggling?  What should you do?

Do not get soft.  Do not "wait and see."  Do not become a victim of analysis-paralysis.  Too many leaders are so worried about confrontation, that often times no action is taken.  The end result is that the people involved in the manipulation win.  They take the leader's power away and abuse it.  If that happens, it is not only the offending person's fault, it is also the leader's for allowing it to happen.

Be Bold 
Making the right decisions under normal circumstances is difficult.  Having the courage to step up in times of stress and pressure to do what must be done is extremely difficult; particularly when there are political forces at play.  Do not be intimidated.  You are the leader.  You are allowed to intervene, ask questions, and expose those with a "hidden" agenda for what they are actually doing.

How About You
When have you discovered an attempt to abuse power?  Did you jump in and expose the offenders for what they were truly attempting to do?  Did you hold them accountable and demonstrate to the team that you are not willing to accept that behavior?  Or, did you trust that the "adults would work this out" so you didn't get involved?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of everyjoe


  1. OMG, Jay - this is exactly what I'm presently experiencing with a client. Just got back to the office after a series of very dispirited focus group sessions and sat down to catch up...and there was your post. Don't know if its the heat or what that causing people to be off kilter in behavior. Anyway, thanks for the confirmatiaon that we all need to be accountable for the decisions we make - or worse yet, the decisions we shoudl make, but don't.

  2. Heather - Thanks for your feedback. Good luck with your client...it sounds like you have your hands full!

  3. Sounds exactly like the symptoms often seen in a union organizing campaign, Jay. (but you know that!)