Hey Boss: Your Chaos Is Making Me Anxious
February 23, 2017

Hey Boss: Your Chaos Is Making Me Anxious

by Brian de Haaff

Have you ever had a boss who seemed to leave behind a trail of disaster? I have. Too many times. There was the boss who threatened team members when he did not like an answer someone gave. The boss who chased the VP of Sales around the conference table when a major deal was delayed. And my favorite — the boss who was as spineless as a worm.

Looking back, it all seems comical. But it was awful when I was living through it. The work and the team suffered mightily from the lack of consistent leadership.

Some leaders may not realize that this behavior is triggering a perpetual anxiety attack for the team. These chaotic bosses are too busy changing course — “winging it” or following some misguided interpretation of what it means to be “agile.” Whatever the cause, the cyclone of dysfunction leaves people feeling anxious.

Sure, a few impervious souls may find a balancing act during the quiet times. But the anticipation of the next outburst can be a major stressor for most, sapping energy and distracting focus.

This is the opposite of how we try to work at Aha! — we reject drama so that we can concentrate on being our best. It is about providing stability, operating on an even keel, and giving people room to grow. When we make mistakes, it is a comfort to know that the team is there to support each other. That way, it is possible to learn from the stumble and try again.

But unfortunately, chaos at work is all too common. And it often starts at the top, filtering down throughout entire organizations. And at what price?

Well, here is what that chaos is costing you:

Good ideas Everyone wants a work environment where ideas can flourish. But in a chaotic workplace, there is often no reliable leadership to guide those ideas from vision to completion. No traction, the ideas lose steam and completely evaporate. People stop contributing once it becomes clear that even the best ideas are getting lost in the chaos.

Forward momentum You want a sure-footed group who know where the organization is headed. But when everyone is awash in confusion, it makes for halting progress, especially if plans keep changing with no clear objectives or visibility into the organization’s goals. This chaotic guessing game leads to lost confidence and a fast slowdown.

Team spirit Every organization will have its ups and downs. But pervasive uncertainty will dampen the team’s enthusiasm and lead to a thoroughly bummed-out group. And when morale plummets, drama follows. Gossip, infighting, furtive meetings — it all corrodes the team. People will check out and (eventually) leave.

Growth Perpetual crisis mode is not conducive to getting things done. If leaders are too busy being swept up in the pandemonium, how is it possible to steer or help anyone else? Sooner or later, the company’s performance will start reflecting all of that turmoil. And when the storm subsides, stagnation ensues.

Chaos simply cannot prevail for long. It is unsustainable. So if you think you might be contributing to that instability, it is time to change your ways and get back on track.

We are all capable of achieving great things. But to fulfill that potential, people deserve a committed, trustworthy leader who will offer guidance, not confusion — stability, not chaos.

So commit to helping your team reach big milestones. Solve problems instead of constantly pivoting and changing course. It will require effort, no doubt. But then you can all get back to the important work to be done.

How else have you seen leaders create chaos?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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