If any of you have seen the movie Remember the Titans, Julius said to Gary (after a quick lecture by Gary), that attitude reflected leadership. When I saw this scene, I was in my first year in college in the year 2000 and had borrowed the DVD from my Resident Assistant. It sounded profound, but honestly I had no context to how this actually felt.
Flash forward 12 years later – this scene had come to life in my workplace. If a CEO, CIO, or CFO (any of those C-suite guys) has a bad attitude, I’d say it’s actually expected and many workers at the lower levels of the corporate food chain won’t take it too close to heart, since especially those folks are so far disconnected from us for it to really matter. But when it’s your own manager, or one level of management up, their attitudes do directly affect us. And when the attitude has persisted for so long, it has a lasting effect on all the team members that becomes nearly impossible to reverse.
In some ways, I couldn’t really blame the guy, but he did manage to single handily demoralize his entire team. We rarely saw him, and communication became scarce. I recall the only emails I ever received from him were organizational changes (which were already sent to us to begin with by the corporate HR person, so it essentially just became spam) and reminders to complete required training so that his metrics would not look bad. His only motivation was to stay out of trouble and nothing more. But again, how can you really blame the guy? Not long prior he was stripped of his executive title and demoted. His 20+ years of service to the company that included successful enterprise wide projects and employee mentoring all of a sudden became irrelevant to his direct leaders. His own manager gave him no motivation to do his job.
So it never really started with him: it started at the highest level down to him, and eventually trickled to the guy that had to share his cubicle with another guy.
Eventually I had to leave and never regretted doing so. I wanted to find inspiration and motivation to do work. It felt like night and day when I started at a new company where I could see the passion lit in the CEO’s eyes. But ultimately the reason I accepted his offer over others is because I could tell he sincerely believed in the work he was doing. If anyone reading this happens to manage employees, think long and hard about the actions and words that come from you. Treat your employees well and reward them accordingly, because then they’ll resist any outside temptation to leave. Even a higher salary will rarely make a dent. But if you do otherwise, there will be many pre-paid taxis waiting outside along the sidewalk to scoop them away.