In the video linked below, Peter Bregman (CEO of a global management consulting firm which advises CEOs and their leadership teams) shares a story about consulting with a company whose staff put a red flag outside the CEO’s office to warn people against going in to his office. He says everyone knew the CEO was difficult, but the CEO didn’t know his reputation was so damaged until Bregman explained the red flag hanging outside his office.
Why is it bad to be the red flag person?
1. You might not get to use the full power of your brain or experience if people don’t want you on their teams.
2. Red flag people cause others to waste time and energy trying to accommodate them or fix their issues.
3. It can be lonely when no one wants to be around you.
4. Being a downer might go against your personal mission or goals.
5. You might get stuck in a spot along your career journey where you don’t want to stay.
6. It is exhausting to be so negative.
As Bregman says, “When we are not aware of the feelings, they take us with them.” We have feelings all day long without thinking about them, and when we don’t pay attention to them, the feelings can cause us to become a negative force in the office. They can cause us to become the Red Flag people.
While I do not want anyone reading this to be a Red Flag person, I also do not want you to repress your feelings. Some “gurus” tell us not to take things personally or to leave our feelings at the door as we arrive at work. But, I don’t think that helps either.
I’ve written and spoken extensively about being all-in. Living and leading all-in means you bring your brain, heart, hands, eyes, and everything about yourself to your life. That includes work. So, contrary to some popular “gurus,” I do think we should take things personally. Work is personal, and companies do better when people have strong feelings about it. However, we can control how we behave in response to our feelings so we don’t become the Red Flag people.
Bregman’s main advice in the video is to recognize how you’re feeling. Here are nine additional tips to help you avoid becoming the Red Flag person on your team:
1. Slow down, breath, pause and get used to your feelings. Understanding your feelings can help you deliberately adapt your behavior. Don’t repress your feelings; identify them.
2. Decide how you need to act to maintain your professional relationships and reputation. You don’t have to address the feelings right away, but you do have to choose your behavior. Unlike a three-year old whose tantrums are cute to onlookers, we can control our behavior.
3. Refrain from over-sharing feelings, especially regarding personal matters that will be highly scrutinized and may be repeatedly discussed.
4. Use support resources like your workplace friends, your manager, your company’s internal coach, or other external support.
5. Honor personal boundaries—your own and others’. Certain topics are not ideal for the workplace and could make colleagues uncomfortable, so be aware of others’ personal boundaries.
6. If you can’t focus, take time off. The best professionals know when they need to take themselves out of the game to recuperate.
7. Respect your colleagues’ time. Your best friends at work have their own work to complete each day, and they have their own personal issues to manage.
8. Respect your job, team, and employer by doing great work. If you’ve decided you can show up for work, then be a stellar teammate while you are there.
9. Once the situation improves, thank the people who supported you through it.
These tips can help you understand and respond to your feelings without repressing them or letting them steer you toward becoming the Red Flag teammate.