Robert Cross, a professor of leadership at my alma mater, Babson College was recently quoted in The Wall Street Journal with some great advice on escaping “collaborative overload,” in other words, too many shared projects at work. The projects demand meetings, conference calls and endless emails, but leave little time for actually getting work done. Lauren Weber and Lynn Cook report on Cross’s view of the problem here:
People with deeply rooted identities as high-performing workers are especially susceptible to collaborative overload, says Rob Cross, a professor of leadership at Babson College. But he sees glimmers of hope in the cubiclescape.
In 160 interviews with men and women across 20 organizations—including software firms, manufacturers and government contractors—many workers told him that they had successfully said “enough,” putting up boundaries to reclaim control of their days.
“They did so with great trepidation, only to discover that the negative backlash they’d feared was nowhere to be found,” he says.
One man told Babson researchers that when he started saying “no” more, the reaction shocked him. “People adapted around me immediately. To be honest, it made me wonder why I didn’t do this a year ago,” he said. “It has made a big impact on my happiness.”
Can you really set boundaries with your boss? Dr. Cross says yes, but it can’t be done in the heat of the moment. “You have to do it proactively,” he says, adding that people who build a diverse network of colleagues across an organization tend to possess the confidence to draw the line, while siloed workers frequently feel helpless to stand up for themselves.
“When a person’s whole identification gets built around one area, you get people who are less likely to believe that they can say no,” he says.
Cross also gave the reporters a view on the four things bad bosses do wrong. They write:
Robert Cross, a professor of leadership at Babson College who has been conducting workplace research for 20 years, says there is a right way and a wrong way to manage people. Here are four things that he says bad bosses get wrong.
- Expecting people to know all the answers in the moment. Good managers should hire people who can find the right answer quickly, not browbeat them into over-prepping for meetings by trying to anticipate every question they could ever be asked.
“When that attitude cascades down, it creates huge amounts of churn internally as people try to be ready, with everything at their fingertips, instead of creating a measured, sustainable pace.”
- Not being OK with some ambiguity. Good managers are willing to move ahead without having everything planned out in advance.
“The more people can focus on how-do-we-move-ahead-and-respond-rapidly versus developing a perfected plan up front, the better.”
- Mistakenly believing that everybody has to be in every meeting. Good managers recognize that overcollaboration is real and they do not seek excessive consensus.
“Leaders can get overwhelmed with collaboration and then they’re not sufficiently accessible to others. People who report to an overloaded boss are as much as 200% more likely to leave.”
- Creating a context of fear. Good managers recognize that intimidated employees don’t share emerging—often imperfect—ideas that could turn out to be really great ones.
“People who create a context of fear consume enormous amounts of time because their people feel like they have to bulletproof. They don’t speak up” and they burn out on the command that they be perfect all the time.
Read more here.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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