I had been in management now for about 8 years when things started to get ugly for me. At the time I was blaming the low moral on upper managment. The Company had gone through a huge compression study and many of us were affected. In addition, many departments had to reduce staff so many of my coworkers were furloughed. Trying to maintain moral in this type of environment was very challenging. Soon, the negative behaviors from many including myself became more and more apparent. I became bitter and it started to show ALOT in how I treated people and the way I worked. I was the "loud mouth" supervisor so no on ever challenged me regardless of what I did or said. I still ran the operation without any "operational" issues but how I treated people was becoming more and more obnoxious and disrespectful. At the time, I didn't care. I was so unhappy with my employer because I really felt unappreciated and unvalued so I did to my team what I felt my Company was doing to me.
I finally took a 2 week vacation just to get away from the toxic environment that I later realized I had a huge part in creating. I usually take a trip when I took vacation days off but this time I just needed to get away from work so no trip was planned. Taking this time away from work really gave me the opportunity to reflect on on just how unhappy I was at work but I still had not taken ownership of how I was treating others. Not yet anyway...
About a week into my vacation, I received a phone call from a co-worker in another department. She called to let me know that there was a job opening for a Quality Assurance Supervisor in her department and she really felt I would be a good fit for it. I have never worked in a Contact Center before so I couldn't see myself fitting very well. But, she stayed on the phone with me until she convinced me to at least think about it. And think about it I did! When Frank got home from work, we talked about it a lot and he knew I wasn't happy in my current position so he encouraged me to apply for this one and have a fresh start in my career. I finally applied for the position on the last day of the job opening, had an interview a couple of weeks later and was offered the job.
I was super excited and finally started to think positive about my career. I knew I had a lot of learning to do including getting to know my team. From what I had heard, this environment I was about to enter was VERY different from the one I had come from including the people and their personalities.
My first week into the job I wanted to just be a sponge and learn how everything worked but most importantly, I wanted to get to know everyone. One by one, I called the employees into my office so we can get to know each other. As I spoke to more and more of them, I was getting the impression that they were a quiet group compared to my last team. I was finding t challenging to have a two-way conversation as they all seemed very timid or shy.
Then I had the one employee that finally had the courage to speak up and gave me the rude awakening that I needed. She initially stood at the door until I invited her to come in. I think I even had to invite her to sit down. At first I did most of the talking. I could tell that she was studying me. When I was done telling her about myself and how I excited I was to be a part of their team she said things that shocked me to the point that I was speechless.
She said that they all asked my former team about me to get an idea of what kind of leader they were going to have. They were told I was tough so they needed to watch their back. They were told that I was nick named " The Hammer" because I was the one supervisor that never hesitated to put employees on a step of discipline. They were told that I was loud and would embarrass them if they made a mistake. Then she said, "they got it all wrong. You don't seem like that at all. You're really nice." And then she walked out probably leaving me with my mouth open!
I sat for the rest of the day thinking about that last conversation. I did not call anyone else in as I needed to do a lot of self-reflection. The truth is, I was heart broken. I knew I was a tough supervisor but I honestly was proud of that trait. But I never realized that I took my toughness to a level of treating people bad and that made me extremely sad. For the record, I never intentionally meant to do that. I guess I just thought people took it because that's what was needed in the tough hustle and bustle of the operation I ran.
I learned a big lesson that day and I will be forever grateful to my co-worker that had the courage to be honest with me. From that moment on, I changed my leadership style dramatically. I definitely treated people with respect and no longer talked down to them. I learned how to be a better listener and a more compassionate leader. I also learned that my behavior is my behavior alone and that I can't blame my leaders or anyone else for how I act or react.
Today, self-reflection is a daily routine. I also seek feedback from all angles because I know I'm not perfect but I am always working to be the best version of myself.