When Leaders Can't Distinguish Their Employees From Themselves

Greylag Geese Flying
Photo by Nathan Goddard via Flickr

This morning my mother reminded me of a story I would rather forget.

"Do you remember when you wore Bubbie's bathrobe to shul (synagogue) thinking it was a dress?"

Oh G-d Mom just bring up all the dirty laundry why don't you!

"And how mad she got?"

Yes, yes.

My Bubbie had such beautiful clothes. To my childlike eyes I couldn't tell the difference.

(Though kids are wearing pajamas to school nowadays, so...)

Since her clothes were all fancy, from a certain perspective you could take the mis-wearing of the robe as a compliment.

But Bubbie didn't see it that way. In her world, children were an extension of parents. Grandchildren an extension of grandparents.

Everyone reflected everyone else.

I know why my Bubbie thought that way. For the culture to survive, true members of the Hasidic sect we belonged to had to be marked. And each family had its own reputation to protect. Its image. Its brand.

Nevermind that I had nothing to do with Bubbie, most of the time. On alternate Passovers I was hers.

Especially at synagogue.

Some leaders treat their employees this way.

They act as if the organization exists only as an extension of themselves.

Every corner, crack and crevice must bear their mark.

Every employee must think, feel, act, believe as they do.

And they are flustered and angry when confronted with evidence that says otherwise.

If you don't believe me look at studies on diversity. People tend to hire, value and promote other people who look think, walk, talk and dress just like them.

It isn't something they do consciously. It just feels familiar. And right.

This is a special problem in family businesses. Because there, the lines are blurry from the start.

When you run a business, remember that your staff IS NOT YOU. And be glad for that.

Conversely, as an employee be mindful that your employer sees your actions as reflecting on them.

In the end it's instinctive for birds of a feather to flock together. The problem is when a pigeon can't see the value of an eagle.

Good luck!

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