There are some people that are really good at calling others out. They masterfully slay their opponents with clever comebacks and pointed wit. It’s also popular. A subreddit called r/murderedbywords has over 2.5 million members where users share their best putdowns and callouts.
The rise of calling people out isn’t given to just those with keyboard courage either. Look at the rise in popularity of the “Karen” videos; ladies that lose their cool while trying to belittle or call someone out.
The problem with calling people out in leadership is that it serves no positive purpose in the end. The sense of winning, or dopamine hit, quickly wanes, and you are left with a relationship that is fractured.
Calling people out isn’t always aggressive
Excluding others in our communication is not always done with intention. Sometimes it can be done through colloquials, jokes, or passing comments. I’ve interacted with leaders that felt that bringing attention to what they feel are light-hearted comments was unfair and overly sensitive.
“Now we have to walk on eggshells all the time?” was a response I received once when I shared this idea. It’s not that you have to walk on eggshells and not have any fun at work, it’s more focused on being mindful of the words you say and how they impact others.
Instead of calling people out and excluding them, you’d be better served to call people in and include them not only to build a better team but also to lift up and inspire people on a personal level.
Call them in with benevolence
A benevolent person is one that truly wishes others well and shows a high level of kindness with those that they interact with. Take that same approach in your conversations with others. Show respect and kindness to others as you communicate formally and informally while holding true to the company’s standards and values.
When people don’t feel psychologically safe, they throw up barriers and remain guarded and disconnected. By taking a benevolent approach, you help the person feel safe and as a result, are more open to feedback. Create a climate that makes people feel ok to be vulnerable, and builds mutual respect and care with each other. You certainly don’t model aspirational leadership qualities when you don’t care what the other person feels or thinks about what you have to say.
Call them in with understanding
Empathy. It’s a trait that is easier talked about than put into action. To be empathic, you have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and in order to do that you’ve got to have a solid understanding of the facts of the situation and the feelings/values of the person involved. Put all of your efforts into listening to the person and the situation. It’s one thing to know that your words hurt or have a negative impact on someone, but it’s entirely different to understand why those words hurt. You can’t fully grow in empathy until your build a true understanding.
Call them in with curiosity and learning
It can be easy to pre-judge someone and come into a conversation with a predetermined disposition or destination that you think the conversation is going to go. You may even be correct whether it’s true or not! You can unknowingly lead a conversation in a way that guides it to your own bias, or it can stop you from being fully open to hearing what the other person has to say.
Take a curiosity-driven approach instead. Lead with the what and how and learn all you can about the person, or situation and discover the root cause.
You can also learn a lot from how others interact with you. When someone calls you out (because someone will inevitably will) first, react in a positive way; don’t return fire, instead thank them for their feedback. Second, end the conversation in the best way possible. Third, decide how you are going to take the feedback and interaction. Should you apply what they said, dismiss the feedback or pull out certain parts that may be the most relevant?
Call them in with action
Actions really do speak louder than words. Once you’ve got grown in your learning and understanding, it’s up to you to put your new knowledge to use. Slow down and show others how you’ve grown as a leader and person by being respectful, accurate, and clear in your communication. Your actions will be a behavior that others will model and it also solidifies what you expect in others.
Be a person that calls people in. People will be drawn to you and your leadership. The change will be easier to navigate, team building moves more quickly and your results will only get better. There are no downsides to being intentional about including everyone that is in your personal and professional life.
Make a better tomorrow.