I once knew a very talented professional who took on extra work at any opportunity. He was ambitious, yes, but he was also good. No task was too menial or mundane; he volunteered for everything and he generally did everything well. He was friendly and engaging, what everyone would call “a really great guy.” He was also helpful and supportive to his colleagues.
He was gradually promoted, assuming greater and greater responsibilities. At some point, he caught the attention of the top executives, and the promotions started happening faster. Then he made it into the executive ranks, one of the youngest ever to do that.
And something happened.
The change was almost immediate. He became suspicious of everyone and everything. His staff couldn’t do anything without advance approval, which slowed everything down and stifled creativity. His people actually began to fear him. People on other teams began to avoid him (and his team) whenever possible. As the criticism increased, his behavior only became more extreme.
Finally, it became so bad that even top management noticed (yes, I phrased that correctly). Interventions were attempted. They’d work for a time, and then the problem would return. While all this was going on, people were damaged. Relationships were destroyed. Work and performance suffered.
Eventually, he was asked, or told, to leave the organization. He was readily hired by other employers, and then let go after less than a year. He couldn’t stop the destructive, and self-destructive, behavior.
Years later, when I asked one of his former supervisors why the behavior was tolerated for so long, he said, “He got the work done.”
“But eventually he didn’t get the work done,” I replied. “Eventually, what he was doing meant the work didn’t get done.”
The former supervisor shrugged. “It’s the way things are here.”
And the way things were was toxic. It still boggles the mind what organizations will tolerate, especially in bad leaders. They seem to forget, or avoid recognizing, that the way work gets done is through the relationships people have with people – colleagues, suppliers, customers. Forget what the purpose of all this is, sacrifice those relationships, and you ultimately sacrifice the work – and the organization.
As John D. Beckett says in Loving Mondays: Succeeding in Business Without Selling Your Soul, “Our lives and what we do with them are important to God. A close relationship with the Lord will bring about a compelling and necessary result. We will find it possible to bring every aspect of our lives, including our work, into alignment with God’s truth and design. This in turn will transform us into people who are not only more effective as human beings and as workers but more pleasing to God.”
(Over at the High Callings Blogs, we’ve been discussing Beckett’s Loving Monday, led by Laura Boggess. This week, we’re focused on the final section of the book, chapters 22 through 24, which bring together the themes and ideas of the book. Check here for last week’s discussion.)
Join this week's discussion at the High Calling Blogs: The Ultimate Goal.
Monica Sharman's Annual Spring Almost-Burnout.
Lyla Lindquist's Loving Monday: Unqualified.
Wonderful story, Glynn. I've so much enjoyed hearing about your experiences throughout this read. You've done it right, friend. You understand the Ultimate Goal.
Wow, Glynn. So much to glean from this story. Very, very well done. I completely agree with Laura.
What Laura said, YES!
Please don't look at my last tweet. I feel reproved that I'm not working harder :)
Oh, and I finally made it over here to follow you!
Great convicting blog - needed to hear it on a monday where I can get roaring off with my own "agenda"
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Do you think some people never grow up on the inside
and reach maturity, even though they have the position/title/power? I love the question you posed to his supervisor.
Comes back around to respecting the worth of the individual, doesn't it? We'll tolerate bad behavior, even when it hurts others, because the person is still being productive. But it takes your perception here to see that the productivity was short-lived. Great insight, Glenn.
Did anyone ask him what happened to the man he was? I wonder if fear of failure as he garnered more attention began to undermine his confidence that he was worthy of the work. I wonder what happened in his personal life -- if he changed there too or if something changed there to cause him to lose himself so desperately.
Interesting story. Thanks Glynn. Very thought-provoking.
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