You probably have worked with or known someone whom you would, in your opinion, describe as two-faced.
This is an insulting description of someone who presents themselves in one way to some people and in another, completely different, way to others.
When such people are in positions of power or influence, they can do tremendous damage to the name of the company, party, organisation – or family – they represent. Should you confront them about this (don’t try this at home – it’s really not a good idea), you will be surprised to discover that they actually think of themselves as very good, upright people and will probably be highly offended that you dared to question their “integrity” and “sound values”.
The explanation for this unexpected reaction is that all people generally think of themselves in a way that suits themselves, and this means that they usually think of themselves as good, honest people. This applies to business leaders as much as it does to the convicted murderers, rapists and thieves populating our prisons.
The reality however is that people learn how to play different roles as it suits them. An extreme case could serve as a simple example. Take the wife beater who appears charming and likeable to all outside the home yet, behind closed doors, his wife and children live in terror. The charming behaviour he displays to others results in everybody else, unaware of his conduct at home, understandably thinking the man is a jolly good fellow and he is well liked and popular. His wife, of course, thinks that there must be something wrong with her to cause him to behave toward her differently and she spends a lot of time and energy trying to win his approval and justifying, mostly to herself, her children and her friends, why her husband and their father is like he is.
“Daddy’s under a lot of pressure at work,” she may tell the children. “We mustn’t upset him.”
Actually, daddy’s pressure at work has got nothing to do with his behaviour. Daddy is simply being a selfish, malicious, two-faced person. He knows that if other people found out the truth about what he’s really like, it would be career limiting – he wouldn’t get that promotion and wouldn’t get that increase that would enable him to spend more money on himself (to the detriment of his family).
While this may seem a rather harsh description, sadly, it’s all too common in many companies and many homes.
If you’re a leader in the workplace, could I ask you: who is the REAL you? Are you someone who has a genuine interest in the happiness of others and who is consistent in how you treat those at work and those at home? Do you treat all people with respect, humility and compassion, despite whether you like them or not, or do you allow your darker side to influence the way you treat people?
You may think of yourself as a generous person, but everybody else thinks of you as mean spirited and small minded. Don’t go around talking about how generous you are. Rather BE generous and let others say you’re a generous person.
Left to our own devices, many of us might be tempted to behave selfishly and spitefully. It requires courage, strength and maturity to overcome our selfish desires and live a life that puts the interests of others before ours.
So, if your children have been complaining lately that you’re just a grumpy old person, or your partner has made a few unflattering comments about your behaviour, don’t dismiss their comments with a, “Rubbish! I’m not like that,” and carry on thinking that they’ve got it all wrong and that you’re actually a great person – in your opinion, of course.
Listen to and consider carefully what they’re saying and try to understand why they are saying what they’re saying. It’s very possible that they might have spotted something that’s in your blind spot. There’s a good chance they’re probably right and you haven’t realised that you’ve allowed some undesirable habits to creep into your life and work.
Only you know what needs to be done to correct things. Be honest with yourself. If you realise that they’ve spotted something that needs to be addressed, how about displaying that courage you think you have and effecting some changes in who you are and how you treat others.
You will be surprised what something like this will do for your spirit, for your career and for your happiness, not to mention for the happiness of those close to you!
Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag. He is a recognised authority on leadership skills for the future and teaches business leaders and managers of all generations how to lead with integrity, purpose and agility. He was named by US-based web site Disruptordaily.com as one of the "Top 25 Future of Work Influencers to Follow on Twitter".