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Cynicism in the Ranks! What? How?

Alan Andersen

So we’ve been looking at the tendency for visionary leaders — anyone, really — to harbor unspoken expectations. When they’re not met, it results in the leader feeling a sense of disappointment. But the real devastation is felt elsewhere: in the team that didn’t meet those silent hopes.

What can happen next? I have seen it so many times it breaks my heart.

Cynicism creeps into the organization. People begin to distrust the stated goals and initiatives, thinking (or saying behind the leader’s back), “They are going to change, so why bother?”
Teams begin to avoid healthy debate with the boss, assuming he or she will just do what they want to do anyway. Eventually, people stop dreaming, wanting, and pursuing big goals together, because it’s never enough, it’s never right — and the CEO is never satisfied anyway.

Meanwhile, there’s a good chance the leader hasn’t even noticed that morale is tanking. Instead, the unrealistic disappointment revs up the strategizing. On to the next expectation! All this while oblivious to the damage just inflicted on the team, and to the creeping culture of cynicism.

By the way, now is a good time for me to add that this culture of cynicism can be in your home, your school, and your favorite nonprofit. Cynicism in a partnership is the worst cancer of any relationship.

Have you stopped hoping, dreaming, believing — at work, in the community, at home? Where have you protected your heart against disappointment for so long, you find that part of you is lifeless, with only a dryness as evidence it existed?

In my next post I’ll talk about how a cynical culture can begin to shift. It is simple, really, just not easy, but simple enough to start today! Yay! There’s hope!

Your Coach,

This article previously appeared at True Life Coaching, a subsidiary of Shandel Group. If you enjoyed this post, read Shandel's book, Clarity: Focusing on What Matters.

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