The Dangers of Cynicism

Cynicism can wreak havoc on an organization.  It can do more harm to brands and companies than negative reviews via social media.  What is an example of things that make people cynical. “A good example is when a team member has a great idea or has a big issue with a customer experience and no one responds, no one even acknowledges it, no one gets back to them. The idea festers, problems continue to mount, no one listens. How does that person not become cynical? That’s a recipe for cynicism. So you can’t just say, don’t be cynical.”

Another cell of cynicism is when you feel a company is not actually living out its core values. And finally, just a lack of overall communication can cause problems. Leaders can have the greatest of intentions and their senior team may feel completely bought into the vision. But if people on the front lines don’t know what’s going on in the company, or don’t know what’s in the heads of the senior leadership team or me, you might have a seed of cynicism that can grow, and that is a recipe for disaster.

There is a lot of debate within the business community on just how much managers need to reach out to employees and improve the channels of communication.  To be there is no debate: without good clear and precise communication your organization is going to suffer and with it your customers, prospects and shareholders.

So what can be done to dig up the seeds of cynicism ?

(1) Open communication - This has broad implications.  One of the worst bosses I ever had would play people off one another by telling one person something and changing around while talking with another.  Open communication means “tell me when I am wrong” but it also means mentoring, coaching and acknowledging to your team that there are no secrets.

(2) Encourage innovation - How many times has someone had a really great idea and taken it to their manager only to be told to do a series of Power Points and schedule meetings with others.  That is death by meeting and Power Point.  Encourage employees to think outside the box but more importantly encourage them to implement and question processes that slow and stifle innovation.

(3) Reward your best and brightest - I still believe that an earnest “thank you” can go a long way but a lot of managers forget to say these words.  Sure a Starbucks or AMEX gift card is nice but letting people know that they really made a difference can install a sense of loyalty and make people proud of the work they do.

(4) Talk the talk: then walk the walk – We hear it all the time in company values “respect for others” yet most employees can give you a lot of examples of being disrespected to the point they became cynics.  We are all busy and have time compressed schedules but that does not give anyone the right to run rough shot over someone.

You can read this and say “who cares, nothing is going to change and my company feels that there are 50 people out there ready to take my job if I leave.  If that’s the case than you’re already walking down the path of cynicism.  You can either chose to try and change things or continue on the path which has no end except that it eventually strips you of your will to work, innovate and takes a career and changes it into a job.

2 thoughts on “The Dangers of Cynicism

  1. The tips that you share about fighting cynicism in the workplace are so valuable. My challenge is this: I remember exactly what it was like to work in corporate America, and sharing feelings about a negative work environment would have led to an eventual firing. What do you say to people who are concerned about the effects of telling the truth in the workplace? No one wants to risk reaction from unscrupulous management.

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