Respect: Envy, Anger, Grudges

by Ron Potter

We’re continuing our series on building great teams.  Great teams happen when we have

We’re still working our way through the Respect series with the final set of circumstances of Envy, Anger, and Grudges.  No, great teams don’t possess these attributes, great teams avoid these attributes. Envy, Anger, and Grudges are team weaknesses that can be lethal to your team’s well-being.

Envy

Envy is the first of the team weaknesses we’ll discuss. Great teams snuff out envy whenever it rears its ugly head.  Here are some attributes of Envy:

  • Discontented or resentful by someone else’s possessions, qualities, luck, or accomplishments, style or attribute.
  • An emotion which occurs when a person lacks another’s superior quality or achievement.
  • Desires to deprive another of what they have.
  • Delights in degrading those who are more deserving.

Envy occurs when someone feels inferior to others and will do what they can to undermine or chop down those who possess more or achieve more than themselves.

At its roots, this is a comparison issue.  Always comparing yourself to others is a losing battle.  Jordan Peterson in his book 12 Rules of Life: An antidote to chaos states in rule number 4 “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.”  Comparing yourself to who you were yesterday puts you on the path of growth.

I once had a pastor who was fond of talking about the little boy pushing his wagon up a hill.  As soon as he sat down in the wagon to rest, he found himself at the bottom of the hill.  Never stop growing!  Never stop learning!  As soon as you give up on your own growth and development, envy creeps in.   You begin to be resentful of what others have or what others have become.

Envy is destructive.  Its first target is yourself.  Its second target is those around you.  As Jordan Peterson says, an antidote to chaos is to continue growing.

Anger

As the second of the team weaknesses, Anger that is directed at circumstances or failures can be healthy if it is channeled properly.  Eruptions of anger are seldom positive.  Expressing anger and disappointment in a safe environment can help everyone deal with the loss and adversity.

I’ve often run exercises with teams that have experienced great loss and disappointment.  Working in small groups I allow each person to express their emotions by writing them on flip charts.  No holds barred.  Get it all out.  Once the teams have exhausted the extent of their anger, we take the flip charts that were created, post them on the wall, share them with each other and then hand every chart out to members of the team.  They are then instructed to tear the flip charts into as many pieces as possible, throw the pieces into the middle of the floor (expressing as much anger as they can while doing so) and then we all jump on the pile of pieces and stomp on them as viciously as possible.  By the time the stomping has slowed to a stop I always witness a moment of somber quiet.  But then someone breaks out in a big grin.  Another joins them.  It soon turns to laughter and people start expressing how cathartic the exercise was.  In one form or another people shout out “Wow, I haven’t felt this good in a long time!”  The anger dissipates.  Calm heads return.  And a new determination emerges in the room to move on, work hard, figure out how to overcome and get better.

All too often the anger remains covert.  People assume they must hold their head up high, don’t complain and keep going.  When things remain covert it’s almost impossible to deal with them.  Once we brought out the anger in an overt but healthy way, new energy emerges from the team and it makes it possible to move forward.

Grudges

The third and most subtle of the team weaknesses, Grudges can be caused be either envy or anger but they just keep resurfacing over time.  It’s probably because it remains overt until that moment when it erupts once again.

One of my teams referred to the practices as “replaying old tapes.”  Something would happen on the team that didn’t seem to make sense to me and finally, someone else would explain, “Oh, they’re just replaying old tapes from what happened a few years ago.”  A few years ago?  Are you kidding me?  People are still holding and expressing grudges after a few years and no one has dealt with it yet?  Amazing.

Leaders and teams must call out grudges and put a stop to them.  Maybe it will take a team exercise like the anger one described above.  Maybe it will take some one-on-one discussions with the leader or a coach.  Maybe a leader needs to decide to help a team member move on if they can’t get past old issues.  Grudges can be like deep infections.  They continue to resurface.  Sometimes a mild antibiotic will heal an infection.  I dealt with one of those antibiotic-resistant infections a few years ago.  It took a direct injection of the most powerful antibiotic every three hours for six weeks.

Infections can be tough to deal with.  Grudges can be just as tough because they pop to the surface periodically.  You must get to the root of them and deal with them to have healthy teams.

In this post, we’ve talked about the team weaknesses you should avoid to build great teams.  In the previous post, we talked about the positive things that need to be present to develop great Respect within teams.  We’ll wrap up Respect with our next post to pull it all together with focus.

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