Their demeanor and tone is certainly no surprise, but what’s really behind this behavior may blow your mind. No one likes to work with someone who seems snotty or arrogant and yet, the number of times I’ve heard this comment just this past week, tells me this perception is on the rise. Employees report their boss seems aloof, judgmental, or even just plain stuck up, but when I asked their managers about their view, the reality was opposite what employees believed. Both parties were feeling beaten up and this is what managers said was the real truth:
Stuck Up is a Cover Up
One manager said “The company culture here is one that dictates I have to be tough. I can’t afford to let down my guard and be who I really am or these employees will take advantage of that and we’ll have much bigger problems on our hands.” Could this be true? And more importantly, could this be happening to you? If your company culture is such that being friends with those you lead is forbidden or if there is a history of tenured employees running over the new boss, then this could be causing employee problems with a much higher cost. There is a big difference between keeping your distance as the boss and letting them believe their departure would be no loss to you or the company. If you’re keeping your distance from employees, communicate why.
Low Self Esteem Can Appear Uppity
Another senior leader shared this surprising truth: “I know I’m good at what I do, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I still question whether others see me in that way. So I wait for someone to say I’ve done a good job. Sometimes that means I wait a long time and in the meantime I have to keep up appearances that I’m confident when the reality is I get no recognition and if no one invites me to lead or ask me questions, I end up assuming they don’t believe I’m the leader I need to be.” What a conundrum! It’s one many leaders face and no matter the level of leadership, everyone could use a kind word about the job they’re doing. In the course of achieving or completing three million things, many a driven, successful leader moves to the next item faster than they think and truly believes they don’t need anyone to say “great job”. Pom poms and a parade may not be necessary, but a kind word or two can go a long way to reinforcing a bit more humanity in your workplace. We all question if what we do, from time to time, is working and if anyone notices the efforts we make. If you’ve asked yourself that question, but only shown others the brave face, be aware that it may be giving employees a very different impression.
Arrogance is a Perception Based on Your Circumstance
Employees are also subject to doubts about their own performance. The greater this lack of confidence or self-esteem in their abilities the more harshly they will judge your behavior, because of course, they are taking everything you say far more personally. Bosses, managers, and leaders alike are subject to this same dichotomy. If you are spending time questioning yourself and waiting for outside validation that you’re leading effectively, your tendency to perceive words from your own boss to have more meaning or negativity than they actually do, can be higher than you think. The phrase “perceptions are reality” exists for a reason. What we perceive to be true about ourselves is the filter through which we judge or interpret everyone else. Consider these potential truths before you make assumptions about what your boss believes about you:
- The conditioning many leaders receive for needing ZERO praise is powerful. Once they convince themselves of this, they adopt a strong outer shell behavior to keep their emotions safe.
- A condescending boss is what you may perceive even if the reality is your boss has a strong personality that they are trying to cover with a softer approach.
- A leader’s initial attempt to soften natural intensity and strength can appear as baffling as a Kleenex over a porcupine.
Employees come and go often because of what their leaders know and show. If you’ve received feedback that you’re condescending, these truths may change your approach. If you are the one viewing your boss as arrogant, be careful to consider these secrets as what’s behind the behavior could easily be their attempt to desperately cover a much more vulnerable pretense.