Did you ever wonder what it means to work with insecure leaders? Let’s first start off with a quote from internationally known thought leader Britt Andreatta who writes, “Exclusion lights up the same regions of the brain as physical pain.”
I read Andreatta’s words repeatedly, eventually going from confusion to frustration after realizing her meaning and its applicability to my life. After all the years of managers and supervisors telling me that exclusion is not personal it’s just business, one short sentence forever vindicates me of my inner feelings towards the subject.
In other words, if I’m wondering why exclusion sometimes feels so unbearable in the workplace, that’s because science reveals that our brains associate that feeling with physical pain – which we all know can impair us and be challenging to manage and overcome.
So those of us who are deeply offended when exclusion comes around know that we’re not overly sensitive at all, but instead, it’s just how the human brain operates.
Exclusion in the workplace is not always intentional. Sometimes, a colleague will drop by your office for a quick question, which ultimately leads into a separate conversation others should very well have been a part of if not for the spontaneity of the interaction.
But often, internal competition and the need to authenticate one’s talents and position can breed exclusion most deliberately and dismissively. During such occasions, Andreatta’s statement hits home as the brain processes the emotion, moving from being offended to being in pain.
Such deliberate exclusion is prevalent in the workplace because it enables the dominant party to better control the narrative in their favor. To cast themselves in a more prudential light with executive team members while silencing the creativity, ingenuity, and industriousness of colleagues who might otherwise undermine their credibility.
What we’re really identifying here are insecure leaders.
In a Forbes.com article entitled How To Mitigate The Destructive Force Of Insecure Leaders, they state, “Insecure leaders often undermine cohesion by isolating high performers within the team, and this leads to a significant uptick in attrition of high performers.”
Insecure leaders avoid seeking the perspective or feedback of other team members, often excluding them entirely from the process by not providing status updates on projects, refusing to have regular one-on-one meetings to limit being questioned, and focusing the team’s energy on unimportant projects that lack rationale.
Forbes goes on to say, “The insecure leader’s need to be the “savior” has them believing they have all the answers and prevents them from openly sharing information with the team so the team can address issues on their own. This creates a level of distrust among the team members and adds layers and bottlenecks to every decision.”
What’s often the driver of an insecure leader is chronic fear, and many times it can be debilitating not only for the leader but also to their team and the organization as a whole. They constantly struggle with the possibility of failing to meet the expectations outlined by the executive team, which could expose their inexperience and weaknesses in the position.
Exclusion helps hide their inexperience and weaknesses, but often at a far greater cost than one might account for, namely a reduction in employee morale, effectiveness, and their eventual departure from the organization.
So what can you do if you find yourself under the leadership of an insecure leader who believes exclusion is the answer to their leadership woes?
Unfortunately, not much. Most leaders prefer to avoid being analyzed, let alone discuss how their actions negatively impact their employees’ well-being. However, if you try, be prepared to deal with defensiveness and deflection as they attempt to convince you that you’re the problem, not them.
In the end, such a confrontation will only lead to a deterioration of your mental health and work ethic – causing you to question your overall worth to the organization.
Sadly, one insecure leader can limit an employee’s contributions to the organization, and their role in your resignation is often only felt after you’re gone.
Resigning is not always a clear-cut solution to an insecure leader, so here are a few things to remember and remind yourself daily if you are in a such circumstance. While the points below won’t necessarily solve your problem, they will provide insights into coping.
- Never allow anyone in the organization to question your ability based on their inability to see your worth.
- Talk to co-workers for emotional support. You might be surprised to learn you’re not alone in your feelings.
- Keep in mind that everything is temporary, and the longer you remain with an organization, the more you will learn and can apply to another position in the future.
American politician, statesman, diplomat, and United States Army officer Colin Powell once said, “Leadership is about solving problems. The day employees stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or conclude you do not care. Either case is a failure on leadership.”
Here’s hoping your professional journey is filled with an abundance of leaders who care more about you than they do about themselves.