Anger is always a choice: Kunal Jeswani, Ogilvy
Guest Column: You cannot achieve anything on your own, you are dependent on many other people being fantastic at their jobs, says Chief Executive of Ogilvy India
No matter how old you are, no matter what organisation you work for, no matter how sh** or how fantastic your colleagues, bosses, clients or partners are; in the course of your working days you will find yourself feeling, thinking and emotionally responding to this defining idea: I am better than everyone around me.
Right about now, your brain is already agreeing that this is a potential problem. Everyone thinks that they are better than everyone else but that cannot possibly be true, not for everyone. However, your brain will also tell you that, in your case, it is actually true. Most other people are idiots. You are better than everyone else. To make room for a little modesty, your brain will add the word ‘almost’ to the statement. You are better than almost everyone around you. That sounds about right, doesn’t it?
This single idea, that you are better than almost everyone around you, will under different circumstances manifest itself in the form of questions like these:
Why does no one listen to me?
Why did no one consult me on this?
Why is that guy being such an ass-hole?
Why can’t people be more efficient?
Why can’t people be more responsible?
Why can’t people be more considerate?
Why am I being left out of this?
Why am I not leading this?
Why are people questioning my leadership?
As these questions pile up over time, your brain reinforces the idea that the world is not right. That things are not the way they should be. Anger then becomes a way of setting things right. It feels appropriate. It feels like it is getting people in line, correcting faults in the system, shaping the world the way it should be. And the more we see leaders around us use anger to correct others, to shape things the way they expect them to be, the more it becomes mainstream and acceptable.
Anger feels right because it comes from a place of power and reinforces the idea that you are better than everyone else. Anger reaffirms that people need to be shouted at, that they deserve it, that it is the only way they will get the message, that it is a means of helping them improve. These are false affirmations. They do not hold up in our personal lives and they do not hold up in the workplace.
Anger is always a choice. And it’s a pretty sh** choice.
I have seen outcomes of anger in the workplace and they are never positive. People at the receiving end either grow up to be broken leaders with low self-esteem, eager to please everyone around them, incapable of taking hard decisions, constantly questioning themselves; or they turn into monsters, with little heart, who believe anger is a legitimate part of ‘management’ behavior, that people need to be whipped into shape. Neither is a pretty sight.
There is another way. And it is harder.
It starts with the realization that you cannot achieve anything on your own, that you are dependent on many other people being fantastic at their jobs, that the specific people around you actually want to be fantastic at their jobs, and that they are actually capable of being fantastic at their jobs.
Let me put your brain at ease for a minute. You do not have to believe that anyone is better than you. You can continue to tell yourself that you are better than almost everyone else. You just have to believe that everyone else wants to be fantastic at their jobs, and that they are capable of being fantastic at their jobs.
People often ask me what the alternative to anger is. What do you do when you see something that obviously isn’t right? What do you say to someone who is being inefficient or irresponsible or just plain idiotic?
This is my answer.
Be clear and be supportive. Be clear about what you think is wrong. Be clear about why you think it is wrong. Be clear about what you expect to change. Work out what support they need to be really fantastic and give it to them. This is your job as a leader in that moment.
Build a culture of courageous, fantastic individuals who treat each other with mutual respect. A culture where people have the courage to follow their gut and speak up when they have a point of view. A culture of fantastic individuals who chase audacious goals. A culture where people are treated with respect, even in the toughest situations.
You will never achieve this. But it is your job as a leader to work towards it every day. Every time you act with anger, you take a step away from it. Every time you act with the belief that everyone wants to be fantastic, and is capable of being fantastic, you take a step towards it.
(The author is Chief Executive, India, Ogilvy)
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com.
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