I hate confrontation, it makes me uncomfortable
My brain goes hazy, racin', when I get vulnerable
It's a lose-lose situation Communication Just makes it worse I wish I could just say it straight away Oh, I hate bein' this way, learnt it from such a young age My needs and wants ain't important anyway
When you say something's wrong, I just wanna make it better Oh, but I've realized that you just wanted me to listen But listen when I see you cry, I can't stand what I feel inside Oh, I just wanna fix you
Guess I'm what they call a people, people, people pleaser, plеaser, pleaser
- Cat Burns, People Pleaser, 2022
It was the year I lost my sister, had a rebound of epilepsy, and lost my job.
I walked out of my job.
But it wasn’t for the reasons you might expect.
I worked with the CEO of a small independent chain of health shops scattered across towns in Southwest of England. But one day, I had had enough.
The CEO was not a bad person.
On the contrary, he was a very nice man. Polite. Professional. Kind.
He was honest, a fantastic father, a great husband, and a pillar of his community.
And there was something I remember distinctly about him. His smile.
He seemed to care, and we got on well.
But there was a huge paradox.
There seemed to be a steady stream of employees leaving the organisation as far back as I could remember – and they all left bitter, twisted, and hurt. Everyone who left the organisation had nothing good to say about him. And I mean everyone.
And I’m talking about scores of employees representing different backgrounds, professions, genders, and ages.
At first, I could not reconcile my impressions of him with this mass departure. It seemed like an oxymoron, a paradox.
But it came to me years later when I joined that exodus.
His former employees were frustrated, bitter and angry, not because of him as a person, but because of his failure to personally act when tough decision had to be made. Instead of grabbing the bull by the horns and making the tough call when tough calls had to be made, he hid behind WhatsApp messages, texts, emails, and ‘delegation’ to deliver bad news.
Of course, he was the first to show up and smile when there was good news.
The paradox was that the same smile that attracted people to work for him was the same smile that drove them away.
He smiled employees in, and he smiled employees out.
This CEO had a lack of courage.
He saw the problems. They were staring him right in the face.
He knew the solutions. They were staring him right in the face.
He just lacked the inner courage to go and do them.
To put it bluntly, he was a coward.
So, the exodus continued, and still does to this day. The businesses continue to suffer, and people continue to leave.
And he continues to smile.
A few years prior to that job, I also worked as an employee in a high street chain of pharmacies.
There was a middle manager whom I’ll call Peter. His fiery temper, loud voice, constant swearing, and bullying left a wake of destruction wherever he left.
He was so vindictive, such a bully and so intimidating, that employees literally used to cower in fear when he turned up.
Employees were beginning to leave in droves.
But his bullying caught up with him.
He was eventually fired when reams and reams of complaints were filed against him, and when the wake of destruction and broken relationships became too great to ignore.
But the paradox. He was doing the very things he accused his subordinates of. Rudeness, Unprofessionalism. Personal failures. Bad results.
This manager was a hypocrite.
The thing about business?
You are either giving it or taking it. There is no middle ground. It’s a price you will have to pay whether you choose to or not. How you choose to pay it is entirely up to you.
On one end of the spectrum is the coward who tries to dodge confrontation and please everyone.
On the other end of the spectrum is the hypocrite who, like a bull in a China shop, enjoys confrontation, treats every tool with a hammer and upsets everyone.
The truth is we are all prone either being a hypocrite or a coward.
The perfect way to confront, depending on the situation, is dynamically somewhere in the middle.
I lean towards being a coward, I’m ashamed to admit. My first instinct is to dodge confrontation, smooth over differences and cause everyone to smile.
But sooner or later, like the former CEO, tough calls must be made. And that’s where my fear instincts kick in and my blood pressure begins to rise, and everything in me wants to make a speedy exit. I’m learning to confront more.
On the contrary, the hypocrite needs to empathise more and confront less.
Pleasing everyone is hard, and you end up pleasing no one.
And pleasing no one is hard, and you end up pleasing no one.
For both the hypocrite and the coward, the outcome is the same.
So as leaders, the balance between cowardice and hypocrisy is vital.
And that balance needs to be dynamic, depending on the situation, the. Person and our personality.
So, are you a coward, or a hypocrite?
A tough question, and food for thought.
Three things to share:
I’m rooting for you,