Have you noticed how the same issue can turn up simultaneously in various places around you? That happened to me recently and is the inspiration for our attempt to reinvent the term “Managing People”.
Why Do People Accept Abuse in the Workplace?
It started with a young leader in Ghana in the environmental industry contacting me to ask for advice about a workplace dilemma. He explained how he tries to stay calm at work and likes to reach out to subordinates so he can understand where they are coming from and what their needs are. And he wants to create an atmosphere where his people feel appreciated and have a feeling of belonging.
But that kind of leadership is not appreciated by some of his senior leaders, who ridicule and talk down to him like they do to other juniors. He says his bosses enjoy making others feel less and instilling fear instead of teaching and guiding their people. They are rude, insensitive, and hard on them.
What’s surprising to him is how junior people take the abuse and seem to respond positively to the leaders who terrorize them and threaten to fire them. I explained to him that that’s what people do when their jobs and livelihood are threatened. They can’t afford to lose their jobs, so they try to ignore the abuse and pretend they are fine. But deep down, of course, they are not fine. Indeed, they are anything but.
What if Companies Committed to Treating Their People the Way They Want to Be Treated?
That brings me to the second time this topic caught my attention around the same time. My colleague, Mark McCrowley, suggested in one of his Tweets that the Great Resignation (people leaving their jobs because of poor treatment by their superiors) could quickly end if companies committed themselves to managing their people the way they wanted to be managed. I do believe that requires conscious leaders who know who they are, have claimed their personal power, and know how to wield it wisely. Our young leader in Ghana is on the right track and seems to be one of those born-conscious leaders.
I couldn’t resist the opportunity to chime in and suggest to Mark we change the words “Managing People” to “Working with people,” “Engaging people,” “Partnering with people,” “Collaborating with people,” or “Co-creating” with people.”
And I asked, “Who would want to be managed?” I know I certainly don’t.
Mark suggested we add “Coaching people” to the list, which I find an excellent idea.
Shi, a disruptive climate media storyteller on Twitter, shared that she doesn’t want to be managed either. She believes that ‘things’ should be managed and ‘people’ should be led — management versus leadership.
When Conscious Leadership is Ignored and Ridiculed
Our young Ghanaian leader told me that he had started to doubt himself and his leadership style when he saw how the junior people still followed those senior leaders, even though they were treated badly. At the same time, he asked himself, “How could I ever let my nature be changed because of someone else’s toxicity?” This is an excellent question, indicating maturity and a deeper level of consciousness.
The third time the topic of managing people or leading people came up was at the end of a coaching call with one of my new executive coaching clients. When I asked him what his biggest take-away from the session was, he said he wants to shift away from managing his people and learn how to lead his people by cultivating his conscious leadership.
What we are talking about here is the old command-and-control management style based on hierarchy and domination (“Power over”) versus the new type of leadership based on partnership, collaboration, and co-creation (“Power to” and “Power with.”) People want to be seen, heard, respected, valued, empowered, and given autonomy to wield their gifts and talents in service to the vision and success of the company and their own fulfillment. It’s very simple.
What other terms can you come up with to add to our list replacing “Managing People?” Do share. Your voice is important in this conversation.
Rúna Bouius is a former CEO and entrepreneur from Iceland and the founder of the True Power Institute. As a keynote speaker, bestselling author, mentor, and advisor to visionary leaders and progressive entrepreneurs, she is on the vanguard of the new-business-paradigm thinking, creating better workplaces, and developing the emerging leaders. Rúna is a co-author of the bestselling book, “The Successful Mind,” a contributing author to several other books and publishing platforms, and sits on advisory boards. She is a co-founder of several social-impact platforms, including the Conscious Capitalism LA Chapter and Coventina Foundation. She specializes in helping CEOs, and C-Suite leaders accelerate their journey towards greater consciousness and TRUE Power.