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I’m sure you’ve been asked this question countless times throughout your life, and for good reason: “Who’s your role model?”
People frequently talk about their role models and describe the journey they’ve taken to follow in their mentors’ footsteps. Advisors, coaches, and teachers have inspired us and taught us how to overcome obstacles. Most importantly, role models can instill key characteristics and values that guide us at home and work.
However, some of the best learning opportunities I’ve experienced have come from having bosses, team members, or friends around me who don’t treat people all that well. I watch and observe how others react to these people and make a constructive lesson of it for myself. Some of you may call them “a-holes,” but I prefer to call them “anti-role models.”
These are the people you swear you’ll never be like, which in turn can affect a positive change in your own life. The self-modification or adjustment you make is because you’re striving to become a better person.
For example, you could have a parent who was an alcoholic and harmful to you. Because of this, you promise yourself that you’ll never have a drink. In the workplace, this toxic person could be the boss who micromanages, belittles employees in front of others, delivers harsh criticism, forces people to work excessively long hours, and commits ethical and legal violations, like sexual harassing employees.
While I definitely wouldn’t want anyone to be subjected to intolerable or abusive bosses, there are definitely lessons you can take away from interactions with these individuals that will make you a better, wiser, and stronger leader.
You learn what not to do or say.
Arguably, when to keep your mouth shut is the most important and influential lesson you’ll learn from an anti-role model. Other noxious examples among the dozens of management no-nos would include:
- Delegating minor tasks and then micromanaging the employee to the point where she’s constantly looking over her shoulder, nervous and afraid.
- Lying or withholding information from your employees.
- Asking employees to do something that’s unethical or illegal.
- Creating new policies any time an employee makes a mistake.
- Demanding that employees complete tasks that are unrealistic or unattainable.
- Using threats, fear, or intimidation to try to motivate employees.
- Forcing employees to choose between work and their families.
- Belittling or using profanity when addressing an employee.
- Throwing employees under the bus or blaming them for your mistakes.
- Refusing to be an employee’s advocate, either by failing to award a raise or by withholding praise and acknowledgment.
You grow thick skin.
I’m actually thankful that one of my former bosses helped me grow thicker skin — it’s helped me learn not to take things too personally. Not being at the mercy of my emotions when I’m receiving feedback on my performance is a great benefit.
Now, I actually enjoy perusing the comments sections of my posts, even when the article hasn’t been accurately perceived by someone. Choosing to feel differently kicked up my performance and productivity. Instead of getting offended, I ignore the negative and learn from both constructive and destructive opinions.
You find your own moral compass and voice.
Whether a personal slight is intentional or said in ignorance, you’re not required to do what the person’s asking. This is especially true if the request doesn’t gel with your ethics. Doing what you feel is right helps you find your own moral compass, aids you in speaking up when needed, and allows you to find your own voice.
You become self-motivated.
I should add that just because a boss is bad doesn’t always mean that she’s some nefarious individual. You may even understand her to some extent, especially if she just hasn’t taken the time for any self-scrutiny.
But don’t make these same errors yourself. Kick it up a notch, and reflect on who you really want to be. Maybe she’s poor at clearly explaining directions and outlining what her expectations involve. This boss or teammate may not be great at providing help, direction, or praise.
While frustrating, these examples from each “anti-role model” can be beacons of light to boost your motivation. You’ll have to learn how to hold yourself accountable and find new ways to remain productive when you’re slammed or not feeling it.
You develop resilience.
Depending on the circumstances, you may not be in a position to give two weeks’ notice every time your boss gets under your skin. Instead of being miserable, you can think about how important resilience is so you can handle these situations like a champ.
As a business owner today, these accounts of negativity could be the most valuable lessons I’ve learned. There are good days and certainly bad days. It’s on the bad days, no matter how much I want to play hooky, that I still show up and give 110 percent.
You learn that you have to overcome your fears.
I strongly believe that the primary reason why bad leaders are well, bad, is that they’re afraid.
They’re afraid to make decisions. They’re afraid of failure and fearful that one of their employees is going to swoop in and take their job. As a result, they may not make rational decisions and may even lash out at employees.
Overcoming your fears is no easy task. But you need to address them and find ways to face them head-on so they don’t consume you and your decisions. I actually embrace fear. For example, instead of being afraid of failure, I look at failure as a learning opportunity so I can grow and not repeat the same mistakes.
You become a great listener.
It takes a lot of patience to listen to someone who is vague and doesn’t explain things as clearly as you would prefer. You also have to learn how to read between the lines and pick up on his body language.
Again, this may be frustrating, but being a great listener is one of the strongest skills you can possess, both at home and in the workplace.
You get to see how others react to them.
I think this is the most underrated perk of opposite modeling: seeing how other employees react to anti-role models. For example, I’ve noticed that employees become masters at sabotaging the efforts of the boss and, even worse, undermining her success. They also have a knack for finding clever ways to frustrate the boss because they’re not loyal or receptive to her.
You learn how to regulate your emotions.
Working with a lousy boss is definitely agitating, but you can’t fly off the handle or lose your cool. You have to remain calm and maintain your composure. Otherwise, you could face some pretty serious repercussions.
This is another priceless skill that you can apply to both your personal and professional life. When one of my kids or employees makes a mistake, I have to take a deep breath and remain calm instead of freaking out. The loss of employee productivity and trust isn’t worth the momentary emotional release for me.
You take the good with the bad.
Just because you have a bad boss doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have any good qualities. For example, she may not have strong communication skills, but she could have a wealth of industry knowledge. Her ability is something you can learn from and gain experience with. Absorb the information she possesses to help develop your own authority in your industry.
Conduct and style can change; in the meantime, don’t allow bad behavior to make you hesitate to observe the good qualities and skills that your boss has and to model those, too.
While working with bad bosses or leaders isn’t ideal, there are ways to make the most of the situation. In fact, they can have a positive influence on your life and career, simply by teaching you what not to do. Along the way, you can find your own management style and develop essential skills that will make you a strong and competent leader
January 13, 2019 at 07:20AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs