Why ghosting may be the most unforgivable professional sin

There are professional ways to end a relationship, and silent indifference is not one of them.

Geoff Wilson

I was amused (appalled?) yesterday by a trend on LinkedIn that noted how the supply/demand balance had shifted so much in talent markets that people are resorting to “ghosting” at work.

Ghosting, a dating term that means ending a relationship by suddenly and without notice ending all communications, manifests itself in the workplace by people quitting without giving notice, or not showing up on their scheduled first day of work, or no-showing for interviews.  And it’s certainly a direct reflection on any candidate’s professionalism when they stop communicating or simply don’t show up.

Which brings to mind a thought for those of us in the professional realm: Ghosting is never the right way to end things.  No matter how busy you are, how important you are, or how indifferent you are to the other person or company, it’s always professional to invest a moment of your time in achieving closure.

I spend a portion of my time, as does anyone with a firm like mine, developing relationships and ideas for service; I usually do this alongside a very busy executive who has a need for help. The process of developing ideas and investing in new relationships is a significant investment of time and mind share, but it’s part of the trade.  In the years I have been doing this, four instances of ghosting stand out; these are the executives who go through the motions of scoping and idea generation, solicit a proposal, and then drop off the face of the earth. They are the cultivators of free information and free options for service. It bears saying that I am not referring to lost proposals: You win some and you lose some.  I am referring to proposals that have gone into a black hole, never to be acknowledged as residing in this universe.

Invariably, the ghosting executives wonder why people don’t enjoy working with them.  And, when there is some future outreach, there is always the “I was so busy” trope.  This usually comes from a busy executive who doesn’t stop to think that perhaps those around him who are responding to his requests are equally busy.  That excuse is chuckle-worthy.

Now, I must say that I write this as someone who values closure.  I especially value it when there has been mutual investment around a topic–no matter the context.  I once sat through a lunch discussion with the most dishonest person I ever met after a being a part of a series of negotiations with her; and I did it just to close things out–I can still taste the bile from that one.  Yeah, I’d say I enjoy closing the book…ending the discussion…getting to “yes” or “no” as the case may be.

So, why the moment on ghosting? Because life is longer than we like to admit.  You’re too busy to say “no” to that proposal, or to politely decline that next phone call, or to ensure that you have cancelled your attendance at that next interview?  Just remember that lapses in professionalism have a nasty habit of coming home to roost, and lapses that result in wasted time and lost value are among the worst. Ghosting may, in fact, be the most unforgivable professional sin.

What do you think?  Have you been ghosted in a professional setting?  


Trump: A demonstration of how executive mandates fail

Your leadership mandate fails when people start to believe it has.

Geoff Wilson

“I did nothing wrong.” So many failed executives begin there to explain unsuccessful stints as leaders. But I’m here to tell you that it’s the appearance of failure that precedes executive failure, not actual failure.

President Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort’s home was raided by the FBI this week in ongoing investigations of whether the Trump campaign had improper contacts with Russia. This follows months upon months of speculation about improprieties involving Russia.

The cynics and opposition already believe Trump is unethical. Trump’s defenders claim there isn’t evidence of the accused impropriety, and that extreme political attacks from the opposition are leading to mass insinuation regarding collusion with Russia.

But when the campaign chair is raided by the FBI, even the defenders have to pause and think. It looks like the apolitical investigators believe Trump’s closest advisors can’t be trusted to be forthcoming. And that is where an executive’s mandate gets crushed. Trump’s defenders will, perhaps rightly, say that no wrongdoing was done. And they miss the point. Because it’s the appearance of impropriety that destroys your mandate, eventually.

If you’re an executive, you don’t have to engage in acts of conspiracy to defraud your shareholders to be removed from office for conspiring to defraud your shareholders. And you don’t have to sleep with your subordinate to be removed for inappropriate workplace relationships. You just need enough people to believe that the accusations are possible.

If people believe an accusation is possible, you’ve already lost. And when numbers and facts start to back it up, it becomes easier to believe. How many times did you inappropriately round those numbers in that financial report? How often did you take overnight trips alone with that one subordinate? How many meetings did your organization have with Russian organizations. These elements of appearance quickly become perceived evidence of impropriety.

So what?

You want to keep your mandate? Appear and act like you should.

Here is one of the most useful aphorisms in life and work: We judge ourselves on our intentions, and we judge others on their actions. Remember that you’re being judged on your actions—even the appearance of your actions—no matter your intentions (or even the private facts).

What do you think?  

Take the right strategic steps to confront mistakes at minimal cost

Facing our managerial miscues is painful. Properly rectifying missteps is paramount.

Geoff Wilson

“That’s too much savings!” The manager looked at the spreadsheet that showed he had been overspending by more than 50 percent on a particular service under a sweetheart deal he thought he had. He was clearly mortified by what the math displayed. “Too much savings” meant a long history of too much spending, and he was the one responsible.

The phrase resonates to this day. A team member of mine who was on the aforementioned project alongside me still occasionally drops me the question via text or email: “Are you still getting too much savings these days?” It’s a delightful “How ya doin’?” But that episode, while humorous to consider in isolation, actually illustrates a good lesson about confronting reality as business leaders.

At some point, we all must face the unpleasant fact that we’ve made mistakes. We’ve hired the wrong people, bought and sold at ill-timed prices, or invested in the wrong markets. It happens to every one of us who actually make decisions. We try to be perfect, but we’re simply not.

My overspending manager, however, compounded his imperfection by trying to sidestep the inevitable pain of confronting a mistake. He popped the infamous “too much savings” comment not to state that we were going to cut costs too far, but rather to convey “I can’t give this to my boss because it will show I’ve made a big mistake.”

And that’s the problem. Analyzing our decisions sometimes reveals that we’ve made bad ones. And correcting poor decisions often means facing the proverbial music—the dirge of our defeat. We must admit it and move forward. And that’s hard.

If we examine a bad investment we’ve made and choose not to write it off but to instead double down on it because, well, doing the right thing would be too painful, we’ve ultimately determined that doing the right thing is wrong because of the optics or our insecure need to save face. Such decisions may be human nature, but they’re also cowardly, selfish, and detrimental to personal and organizational growth.

If you find yourself in a situation where the answer is so right that it’s wrong, ask yourself why. The correct strategic shift often comes with a cost, but the price of inaction is typically not less than your own job.

After all, if you won’t make the right decision, the person who replaces you probably will. And he or she will look like a hero doing it.

What do you think?

United Airlines and Only Following Orders

Only following policy only hurts your business.

By now, you’ve doubtless seen the sturm und drang surrounding United Airlines’s escalation of an unreasonable passenger’s behavior to forcible police action against the passenger.

If not, here’s one link to give you some background.

United’s CEO Oscar Munoz then, and now famously, backed his employees for following the rules and doing the right thing.   He called the passenger “disruptive” and “belligerent” and emphatically stood behind his employees.

Now, a lot has already been written about how United took the most painful route to resolution with this situation (not this passenger, more on that later).  The company could have simply continued to raise the offer of compensation to passengers who would leave the plane until “somebody” felt it was worth it to leave.  Investor’s Business Daily had a decent article on this.  It’s here.  

But, that article, while precisely right, probably ignores a reality of large company “policy and procedure.”  And, I’m just guessing here.  But, what we have likely seen is the result of a company policy that prevents gate agents from offering more than “X” dollars compensation for re-accommodation.  In other words, the gate agents, in escalating this circumstance to (1) random selection of passengers and (2) calling in the police were merely “following orders” or “complying with policy.”

Having a large number of people in a large organization adhere to policy is good for business as a rule.  But it’s awful for business during a true hard case.  And, it appears that this is a true hard case.

As many of you have probably experienced in sales and retail environments, someone sticking “policy” in your face as a means to resolving customer service rarely makes you a more loyal, understanding customer.

And this is where United’s CEO got this one wrong.  Munoz has been attacked from the perspective of his communications being awful for public relations; but I’ll go so far as to say his words are probably bad for business.

What he said to his employees in an internal email was “I emphatically stand behind all of you.”

That’s an admirable statement from a CEO, and not an easy one to make in a crisis like this. But it is a callous response to the brutality of events precipitated by United’s escalation to the police.

What he should have said was probably something like “I stand behind you, but in a truly hard circumstance like the one we just experienced, you have the discretion to choose a better way.” And, he ought to ensure policy allows for it.

Now, on the passenger:  It’s quite possible that this particular passenger would have stayed on the airplane no matter what.  He appears to be a truly unreasonable fellow. At the end of his ordeal, he wasn’t dealing with flight attendants, but with the police.  When you are non-compliant with a sworn law enforcement officer, you are making your own bed.

But this situation isn’t about that guy.  That guy exists on every flight in America. Forget him. He’s a screaming lunatic who put himself and his travel plans above dozens of other people’s (before he was forcibly removed, then walked back on the plane).  That’s true no matter whether he was “technically” right just as it’s true that Oscar Munoz’s comments were wrong even if “technically” right.

This is about the other dozens of passengers, at least one of whom might have left for a higher price. I’m always surprised when we fail to look at circumstances like this one and forget that there wasn’t just one option available to United…there were dozens of other options, many of whom were probably closer to leaving than the guy who ultimately was dragged off the flight.  People have already forgotten that the unruly passenger wasn’t the only one selected against his will.

There were three others.

The other three left peacfully, probably with some compensation and a hotel room for the night (and no doubt with a bad taste in their mouth about United).  Sure, that may make them “sheep” with no respect for their “rights,” but it left them with choices, too.

While responsibility for the escalation resides with United and “policy,” I think it’s fair to say to United employees that they will encounter another jerk in the future.  Their option is to blacklist that jerk from ever flying United again if he chooses to take this flight at this time against the company’s wishes and policy, and select another passenger.

It’s the jerk’s choice at that point.

So, bad things all around.  The CEO’s “right” but callous focus on company policy is a bad thing for business.  The passenger’s “right” but idiotic stand ultimately got him entangled with the police.

Sometimes, a little discretion is all it takes.  Only following policy only hurts business.

What do you think?



They Believe in Good Ethics, Too!

Just because leaders believe in ethical behavior doesn’t mean they partake. 

“You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this…” James 2:19 (NLT)

“We have a pool and a pond…the pond would be good for you.” – Ty Webb, Caddyshack

It’s not every day I get to mix a Caddyshack quote with a bible verse. But, hey, it’s Sunday.

Do you believe in a high ethical standard?

Good for you!

Did you know that the biggest espousers of ethical cultures are sometimes the biggest violators of the ethics they espouse?

Sounds dark and cynical, doesn’t it?

Stay with me. There’s perhaps some light at the other end of the tunnel that will save you from being run over by a train one day.

Ethical behaviors or any of its similar corporate recruiting poster cousins like “values” and “principles” are important. And, shockingly, ethical culture can grow up around an unethical individual, even if that individual is in a leadership position.

Why? Because for some unethical predators, having a roomful of highly predictable ethical brethren is a useful thing. And, as long as nobody’s really looking, the unethical leader can be on the take for years…

…all the while leading an ethical company or organization.

Just as patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, I’d propose that ethical cultures are the best hiding places for the unethical.

In some of the most ethical environments exist leaders who trade on inside information; discriminate based on race, gender, and age; make choices that destroy the environment and families; break non disclosure agreements; talk freely of petty felonies; and warm the books for personal gain in ways that leaders in less sterling environments could never get away with.

They cheat and steal when they can, usually under the cover of plausible deniability.

They may fall to the lowest legal standard when the ethical standard is much, much higher. They may fall far below the legal standard when they know nobody will suspect them.

Probably worse, and perhaps much worse, they stand by while others do these things–knowing that it’s suicidal to try to poke the bear.

I’m embarrassed to know that these are facts.

The point of this post is that we, as leaders with an enlightened code, have to know one thing:  even unethical leaders recognize the value and actively espouse the growth of ethical cultures, for such cultures are dense cover, and fertile hunting grounds.

I am not likely the world’s most ethical person. I know that, and that knowledge fuels a desire to watch out for dents.

Like James from the verse above, I find it important to know that just because I or someone else believe in something (one God or an ethical standard of behavior) doesn’t mean that I or they are on the good side of that belief.

Demons believe in one God, too.  Unethical executives love the cloak of an ethical culture.

They believe in ethics, too.

They just believe in ethics like Ty Webb believed in sharing his pool with Spackler. The pond will be just fine for the little people.

Be on guard when it comes to the espousers of ethical cultures, especially those who wear badges to signify their “success” at building one.

Some of them are unethical predators that depend on a herd of ethical animals.

What do you think?

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

Strategy without stretch will leave you stranded.


Quick one here: Name one company that is simply living to die; I can probably think of a few, but they tend to have massive regulatory overhang (tobacco companies come to mind).  Now think for a second:  What if your own company’s executive leaders told you that their strategy was to just play out the string?

Play not to get hurt?

Play prevent defense?

Focus only on risk management, not risk taking?

Collect salary and bonus instead of earning it?

What would you think?

Ok, ok, ok, for those of you who said, “I’d think I work for a bank,” I’ll give you style points.

But for the rest of you, I’d bet you’d think that there has to be something more, that there has to be more to a strategy than mere existence.  Right?

If there’s something I learned from a few years playing sports, it’s that playing not to get hurt…playing just to get through it, is in fact a great way to get hurt, and it’s also a great way to hurt those around you. Tentative players on a sports field create injuries.

Weird, isn’t it?

I’ll tell you this as well:  tentative strategies create injured companies. They also create injured careers.

I get to hear executives balance many reasons for being tentative, and they are often very good ones…in isolation. But what shouldn’t happen, can’t happen, is for a strategy to be a roll-up of tentative plans. Sure, you’ll have capabilities that aren’t ready for prime time, and you’ll hold back, but you can’t hold back everywhere all the time. I rarely see a truly tentative strategy, but when I do, it has one common theme:


Yep, that’s right…fear–leaders who are afraid to stretch themselves or their people, who are afraid to try something new.  This is either due to a cultural norm that was hammered into them or a fear of messing up a high-paying perch, but in either case, setting strategy without stretch is essentially betting on the status quo.

The world moves too fast for that; people demand too much more from their careers to stay with you while stagnating.  Your customers won’t even respect your own low expectations for yourself.

So, don’t succumb to the soft bigotry of low expectations in your professional career.

Build some stretch into your strategy.

How about you?  What do you think?  

When Engagement Won’t Save You

Engagement is important, but it can’t solve everything…


In the world of enlightened strategic leadership, the topic of employee engagement comes up.

A lot.

But, like so many good ideas in the world ranging from fried foods to financial derivatives, it has to be taken in moderation and in context with other good things.  Why?

Well, employee engagement is, at some level, a luxury.  Sure, there’s a base level of dignified square dealing that a company has to provide to maintain its employee base.  But, the actions that go toward fostering an engaged workforce or an engaged team can be dangerous in the wrong circumstances.

What circumstances are those?

First of all, it’s very, very tough to engage yourself out of a hole. Hard situations require hard decisions made by small groups.  The best Scandinavian consensus driven managers know that when hard times hit, engagement has to take a back seat. Deciders have to decide.  If your company is failing and you are surveying your employees, maybe you aren’t focused on the right things.

Second of all, engagement activities won’t work for you if you are disingenuous about them.  You can have all the free lunches and free snack bars you want, but if people think they are being played, your engagement strategies won’t make you Google…ever!  If you are offering a free t-shirt to your employees and they are spun up about your corporate jet and ten-thousand dollar watch, engagement strategies can backfire.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, focusing on engagement as a way of ignoring your strategic elephants is a bad thing. If you go rah rah when everybody else knows you should be hunkered down, you will look like the fool.  Good work forces appreciate honesty.

And perhaps that the point here.  Employee engagement is absolutely strategic, but it won’t “win” for you any more that a fantastic marketing campaign can win without a fantastic product.  In fact, just like marketing, it can backfire on you.

If your employee engagement plan is merely a topical salve or the business equivalent of whistling past the graveyard, re-think it!

You can’t engage yourself or your company out of a hole.

Say Hello To Integrity Guy

Here’s to Integrity Guy.  He has integrity.  Just ask him.


This one is simple.

Integrity is important. Talking about it?  Not so much.

Let me introduce you to “Integrity Guy.” You probably know him.  Hey, he might be you.

Who is “Integrity Guy”? He’s the guy who espouses integrity in everything he does.  He has it; just ask him.

He’s the one who will be sure to say things like “we never lie or cheat.” And “act with integrity.” And “those guys have no integrity.” And the always imploring, “we have to have integrity.”

In every easy instance, he holds out his integrity as impeccable.  When the chips are down, he especially  holds out his integrity as impeccable. But you’ll never be able to tell by looking at his actions.

Have you found him yet?  He’s probably working not far from you.

Integrity Guy.

He wears integrity pants to work every day, he drives an integrity car, and he sits at an integrity desk.

And what’s wrong with that? Well, nothing… Except let me tell you a little secret about Integrity Guy:  The more he lauds his own integrity, the less he’s aware that he actually lacks it.

Yep, you got it.  “I only act with integrity” is actually a risky mantra. Why?  Because cognitive dissonance being what it is, our minds are great at twisting our desires, deeds, and deductions to fit our own view of integrity.

In other words, if Integrity Guy goes around convincing himself of his integrity (or ethics, or good looks, or any other laudable quality) by repeating it to himself, he becomes blind to the times when he falls short of his lofty self image.

I stabbed my boss in the back?  Nah, I was just telling the truth to those other folks.  I have integrity, remember?

I sold out my friend?  No, no, no, personal gain had nothing to do with it.  You forget that I have integrity.

I’m not a team player?  Well, you’d better look at the rest of the team–they don’t deserve my integrity-laden presence.

I lied to close that deal? No, it wasn’t a lie; I just knew more than the other guy.  I have integrity, don’t you know?

Integrity Guy–all he needs is a trademark.

He often sits right next to I-Never-Lie-Guy and around the corner from I-Only-Do-The-Right-Thing Guy.   His desk is adjacent to the desk of Ethics Guy as well.

When we espouse Integrity, Ethics, doing the right thing, or any other categorical imperative, we can only do so with a heart that allows us to go home each night and ask ourselves if we really lived up to our own standard.

So now let me introduce you to I-Really-Want-To-Have-Integrity-Every-Day-But-Sometimes-Fail Guy.

He’s a good friend and businessperson, and you will know him by his actions.

How To Salvage Sunken Trust

You can salvage trust that is sunk. But some kinds of trust sink deeper than others.

Have you ever faced the need to recover from breaking trust?

Most of us have, and the ones who haven’t just haven’t admitted it. All of life is a web of trust, and arguably the more trust you build, the better off you are.

The author L. Frank Baum wrote in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that “A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.”

Trust likewise ought to be judged not by how trustworthy those around you are, but by how trustworthy you are.

If you think about trust as a ship at sea, then it’s easy to envision how breaking trust essentially sinks the ship.

But, not all breaches of trust are the same. How far must you go to salvage it?

There are four depths that breaches of trust sink to, and our ability to salvage trust depends on how deep it’s sunk.

The Trust Equation

I’ll start with an illustration that is not my own, but provides a useful context for the discussion. The “Trust Equation” is a very interesting piece from author, advisor, and trust guru Charles Green, founder of Trusted Advisor Associates.

Green, working with co-authors David Maister and Robert Galford in the book The Trusted Advisor, outlines an equation for trust that looks like this:

That is to say, trust derives from how we view others’ credibility (our assessment of what they know)…

…Reliability (Our view of how reliably they deliver)…

…Intimacy (Our level of emotional and intellectual comfort with them) and…

…their Self-Orientation (how selfish we think they or their actions are).

The really cool part of the “equation” structure is the insight that all the “good” aspects of trust are additive, but that self orientation undermines it all. The more selfish you are (or even appear), the more you undermine any trust and goodwill that exists.

Self-oriented people are not trustworthy, regardless of their positive attributes.

I’m going to use the four component parts here to outline the four depths of trust recovery.

The Four Depths of Trust Recovery

Recovery of sunken trust is a lot like recovery of a sunken vessel. It depends on the type of vessel as well as the depth of the water. That said, here are four depths of recovery, and some explanation of what it takes to get there and to salvage it.

1. The shoals of trust:

The shallowest form of trust breach to recover from is related to abuses of reliability. Because it is the most visible, reliability is also the easiest to demonstrate and therefore recover from.

Recovery from the shoals of trust (that is to say, the shallow water) can be as simple as improving on clarity and communication of deadlines. Trust sunk through reliability can be recovered relatively quickly because it’s a shallow recovery. People can see you becoming more reliable.

The shoals are where breaches of trust–like missed deadlines or partially completed work–reside. To be clear, they are a breach of trust. But the individual can regain this sort of trust by changing behavior.

Reliability trust is usually the most flexible of trust types out there.

2. The shallow seas:

The next depth of recovery relates to abuses of credibility. When a person is trusted for what they know and chooses to abuse that trust through posing as something they are not, they abuse trust.

In the professional services arena, we see this sort of abuse far too often. “Experts” in one area might represent themselves as expert in another area. They “fake it until they make it.” This is a sort of trust abuse that can only sometimes be surfaced, and then often too late.

Even though the shallow seas are where trust is frequently sunk, it’s a relatively recoverable area. Most of us respect people who stretch their capabilities and expertise. Most of us are willing to offer a person the benefit of the doubt when it comes to testing their boundaries.

Credibility trust is thus relatively flexible. If it is bent, it can be caused to go back into shape with demonstration of more credibility. Brands do this all the time through credibility-stretching brand extensions (remember chocolate Jello gelatin? How about Dr Pepper Marinade? Yep).

Recovery from this sort of trust abuse means just sticking to or falling back on what works to rebuild credibility. It’s not easy, but it is straightforward.

3. Open ocean:

The open ocean of trust abuse–areas where shipwrecks often stay put–is in abuses of trust related to self-orientation. Loss of trust due to selfishness gets into an area that is far less transparent than reliability or credibility, and that makes recovery from a breach of this sort far less likely.

Once someone abuses trust for personal gain, people tend to be wary of working with them again.

Salvaging trust sunk in the open ocean is very tough and takes a lot of time. The magnitude of the breach certainly matters; however, once a person is viewed as self-oriented, trust tends to be extremely hard to build.

There’s a reason that self-orientation undermines all else in the trust equation above.

The open ocean is where shirkers, self-dealers, executives with hidden incentives, and embezzlers reside.

On the lighter side, it’s the realm of the me-monster at your conference table and the credit hog on your team.

4. The Mariana Trench:

The deepest depth of trust recovery–one where recovery is usually impossible–is where breaches of trust that relate to abuse of intimacy lie. This is, and should be, the most brittle type of trust that there is. It is a deal killer, particularly when combined with an abundance of self-interest by the abuser.

Witness the trusted colleague or leader who exercises a highly cynical abuse of an “intimate” professional relationship to manipulate others for personal gain and prestige, and you’ll know how deep the Mariana Trench can be.

The Mariana Trench is the deepest, darkest part of the ocean. Things sunk there are lost.

This is the depth where lie the ravages of trust in cheating spouses and con artists in the long game.

It is the realm of the corporate sociopath revealed only too late.

Breaches of trust which abuse intimacy often take time. They rely on the most basic aspects of human relationships: friendship, common cause, and warmth. As such, the average person may disbelieve when a close friend is abusing intimate trust until it is far too late.

Thus, this type of sunken trust is very tough to salvage.

Intimate trust is like a diamond: extremely hard, often forged through pressure, sometimes exotically beautiful, but brittle…

…once bent, it breaks.

I don’t see a way to recover this sort of trust, but I am open to suggestions.

So what?

Why does this stuff matter?

Because we deal in trust as a currency every day of our lives. We do it in personal and professional relationships. We do it through our brands and our corporations.

I illustrate these four depths only to provide the reader with a perspective on how damaging the breaches of different kinds of trust can be.

If you haven’t noticed it yet, let me put this last: Breaches of trust related to what is knowable and transparent–reliability, for instance–are much easier to recover from than those related to what is concealed and largely unknowable–the selfish or cynical disposition of an individual or a company.

Don’t sink trust, and know when trust is sunk too deep.

I’d enjoy your thoughts and reflections on this topic.

Pardon the Manterruption

Interrupting is just…plain…rude.

A couple of weeks ago at the SXSW conference, an interesting thing happened.


Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Aspen Institute CEO (and author) Walt Isaacson were called out for repeatedly interrupting Megan Smith, the U.S. government’s Chief Technology Officer.

The real stinger for Schmidt is that the person who did the calling out was none other than Google’s own Judith Williams, head of global diversity and talent programs and by some accounts head of Google’s “Unconscious Bias Program.”

From the article:

“The incident was a classic example of what Jessica Bennett, writing in Time magazine earlier this year, has dubbed ‘manterrupting’, or the ‘unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man’.”

While I doubt the real usefulness of the word “manterrupting” beyond being an interesting mashup–“interrupting” suffices nicely for all genders–I do think that there is a real lesson here in watching out for known biases.

Not to mention the lesson of watching out for simply rude behavior.  This is especially true for “smart” people or people who believe their position of power affords them the right to interrupt.

Most interruptors (like me at times) might say they do so out of excitement or passion or a “strong personality.”  (By the way, anyone who uses the term “strong personality” without their tongue firmly in cheek is probably somebody watch out for).

The truth is, it’s just rude and impatient.  And, it’s often just a blind spot for those of us who have or do suffer from the urge to interrupt.

The extent of such a blind spot can be shocking. For instance, after a frustrating set of interruptions, I once tested the mettle of a particularly egregious senior executive interruptor to see how far the arrogance of the interruption would extend.

While speaking, I grew to know the interruption was coming, so I chose–once–to just keep talking through it.

I made it about twice the length of this sentence while this person just kept talking before I, finally, relented. It seems that my upbringing wouldn’t allow me to sustain talking over someone for that long–even from the proverbial high ground.

Imagine a full 10 seconds of two grown people talking over one another, and you’ll get a sense of the ridiculousness of the situation. I’m sure the others in the room saw it.

Though I never tested it again, the person’s ability to interrupt and continue interrupting when room wasn’t ceded was a striking exercise of arrogance and impatience.

Don’t be that person!

On this Saturday morning, consider the need to let others speak.

Especially watch out for cultural or gender differences in assertiveness.

As I’ve posted previously (link here), this sensitivity can make your team better, not to mention make you (and me) a better person to work with.

To all those I’ve interrupted:  I’m sorry. I was rude.

Pardon the manterruption.