The Smiling Assassin

smiling assassin

 We can’t ignore a Smiling Assassin

With every coming week there’s a new article speaking of the importance of employee engagement, creating a solid company culture and keeping everyone happy at work. At surface level this is absolutely what we need and we should strive to achieve and maintain this. What isn’t being mentioned however is what actually prevents teams from working in harmony.

Many measures that are taken to improve the working environment are encouraging on paper; after the aims and objectives of a team building day have been outlined and the time and effort everyone has agreed to invest in it, there is a sense that it really will be worthwhile.

There is the question however; can team culture be changed or does that only happen by changing the people? This is rarely brought to attention and efforts instead are placed solely on methodologies to bring teams closer together. Instead, I believe we should choose to look alongside that with what stops teams working together effectively and tackle those issues too. A big taboo in the corporate world seems to be acknowledging work place bullies. Whether it’s a petty tyrant or smiling assassin, there seems to be a reluctance to address this – “oh, we know s/he can be bit awkward and grumpy, it’s just the way s/he is” –  and the bullies continue to rise above those that they are putting down.

Authenticity is the most important part of a successful team yet it is often the most absent quality. I remember a while ago, working with a team of directors in the city. A successful company with strong ethics and high people-focus, it turned out that the trusting board members had been unconsciously ‘feeding’ an enemy within – one of their own team. She put herself forward as a key support to the team. She was the ‘go-to’ person who had her finger on the pulse of the business. Yet within a couple of short sessions, it became clear she had actually been covertly pitting team members against each other; deliberately dismissing the leadership and spreading lies to the workforce: “Well, nothing changes here. The MD is a coward. I’m the only one who cares here, but the board won’t take any action. I put lots of solutions forward, but my colleagues will not change. I’m truly at my wits end.”

Part of our human problem is that when somebody does something wrong or inappropriate, we often have the response of “oh it must be me” and we therefore stifle the niggling feeling, telling ourselves not to make a fuss. After all, it’s better to see the good in everyone right? This “nice” behaviour is exactly what deliberately manipulative people latch on to, and use to fragment teams and individuals to suit their needs.
Our work is based on the ethos of trusting your own judgement, tapping in to your gut instinct, and having the courage to speak up when something doesn’t feel right – instead of just brushing it under the carpet.

This was how the eight-strong team of authentic board members were suddenly very quickly able to see the truth of the situation – a situation to which they had been oblivious for a number of years. They realised how much this one individual was responsible for destabilising their teams and the business, and how much she also damaged customer relations. Suddenly a whole raft of issues and problems became clear. The result? The team pulled together and worked a plan to rectify the situation – which meant continuing the business without her.

By empowering people we can ultimately put an end to corporate bullying and manipulation. Through DeNA Light-Up, bad behaviours show themselves to be as they are, and people understand they do have a right (in fact a responsibility) to stand up, speak out and question things that don’t make sense. Bad behaviours can no longer hide, and will not be tolerated by people who are authentic in the business. The implication of this for the corporate world is huge; it’s tackling what is rarely dealt with – not by tarring and feathering the bullies, but instead by empowering others to trust themselves.

By ignoring a smiling assassin we are failing to recognise that situations like the above will continue to block us from our true potential and ability to work the way we desire. As the saying goes, “what we allow will continue”.

As far as we are concerned, it’s time for people to learn how to shine brightly in their own power. It’s time to shine past the corporate masks, the politics and the double-speak. It’s time to wake up, embrace authentic courage, take back our power and thereby create environments where bullies can no longer exist.

Impossible? Absolutely not. This is a day-to-day reality that is critical to bring in to our workplaces – not maybe, not sometime, but now. Let’s wake up, light up and show we mean business!

Mel Carnegie
Leadership development coach, speaker, author and creator of the DeNA Intensive Light-Up experience for the Conscious Leader. Re-connect and lead from the inside out!
Mel Carnegie
Mel Carnegie
Mel Carnegie

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