As a leader, you’re responsible for the success of your team and/or your organization. However, if you exhibit “disruptive” work behaviors, you can jeopardize that success. Unfortunately, many leaders aren’t even aware that their behaviors or habits fall within this classification.
Keith Barnwell, a leadership development specialist and executive coach who tackled this subject on his blog, “It’s All About Leadership,” says there is no specific definition regarding what constitutes disruptive behavior. “These are behaviors or habits that have a negative effect on those being led or managed.” However, Barnwell adds that like all behaviors, disruptive work behaviors are very subjective because they’re the result of the perceptions of others. As a result, he uses a 360 survey with the leaders that he coaches, so they can see how others view them. Barnwell says disruptive behaviors include:
- Poor direction: Your employees don’t know your goals or your expectations
- Not paying attention: You don’t give your employees your full attention. You’re distracted, don’t maintain eye contact, and don’t fully listen
- Gossip: Since you’re known to engage in rumors and hearsay, your employees don’t trust you
- Poor delegation: You keep the interesting projects for yourself and micromanage the boring projects that you give your employees
- Providing all the answers: You act like a know-it-all and overrule all of your employees’ ideas
- Failing to set the correct example: You preach corporate values but don’t demonstrate them yourself
- Shooting the messenger: You punish employees who are brave enough to speak the truth
- Over-reacting when angry: When you’re upset, you don’t control your emotions
- Bad manners: You fail to treat your employees with courtesy and respect
- Withholding information: You keep secrets from your employees
- Failure to recognize achievements: You don’t acknowledge the accomplishments of your employees
- Procrastination: You refuse to make decisions or you constantly change your mind
- Making excuses: When you make a mistake, you blame everyone but yourself
- Name-dropping and “hero” stories: You constantly drop names and talk about your glorious achievements
- Using limiting words: Whenever you hear a new idea, you respond with “but” or “however”
This is not an exhaustive list, but Barnwell says it represents the most common disruptive habits that he encounters when he is coaching leaders. Barnwell adds that these behaviors or habits, left unchecked, can have a detrimental effect on a leader’s working relationships with employees. “The saying ‘people leave managers, not companies’ is very true and these bad behaviors/habits can leave people so confused or demotivated that they with vote with their feet and leave,” says Barnwell.
Regarding which disruptive behaviors and habits are worse depends on the effects that they have on the people involved. “For some, micromanagement demonstrates a lack of trust while to others it may be comforting in that it removes responsibility from them,” says Barnwell. On the other hand, he says, “Some employees may find ‘procrastination’ in their leader to almost be a benefit as it may give them a chance to step in and make the decision themselves, whereas others will find this inability to set a clear course of action extremely disruptive.”
So, is there a remedy? Can leaders learn how to change their disruptive work behaviors? Barnwell believes it’s important for leaders to be self-aware and understand the direct effect their behaviors have on others. “No leader or manager leads or manages in a vacuum and they need to understand that their actions, or inactions, have consequences on those that they lead.”
Barnwell also recommends his Leader Focus app, which includes his thoughts on disruptive behavior and other leadership issues and tips. The app also enables and helps leaders and managers to set and focus on their priorities.