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Karin’s Leadership Articles

5 Reasons Your Peers Are Getting Snarky

by | Dec 9, 2013 | By Karin Hurt, Career & Learning, Results & Execution |

He’s driven, ambitious and successful. His boss loves him and he’s on the fast track. His peers are getting snarky, but he doesn’t have time to worry about that crap. They’re just jealous.

  • “They’re not as serious about performance as I am.”
  • “I’ve got a job to do, I don’t have time to make friends.”
  • “I don’t care if they like me, this is business.”
  • “My boss thinks I’m doing a great job, that’s what counts.”
  • “Just look at the scoreboard.”

Plus, snarky is childish. One more reason to assume it’s not his problem. Snarky peers are a leading indicator of short-sighted leadership.

5 Behaviors that Tick Off Your Peers

Peers impact your performance more than your boss. Your boss is one person. Your peers are an army of potential support, with diverse skills and talent. They’ve got resources and best practices that can save vital time. They’re facing similar challenges. Some of them are working together with beautiful synergy.

Good intentions sabotage relationships. The highest performers I know unknowingly fall into these traps. I learned this list the hard way.

If you’re in a vacuum, you’re the one at a disadvantage. I’ll start with 5, please add to the list.

  1. Never Ask For Help – You’re not cocky, just busy. You know they’re busy too. But your lack of reaching out is easily viewed as arrogance. You’re sending signs you’re “too busy”, so your peers don’t bother. Ask for advice now and then. Be sure to really listen to the response. When you do get help, publicly express your gratitude. If you doubt they have much to offer, I can’t help you. Prepare for an extra dose of snarky.
  2. Challenge them in front of the boss – Your peer feels belittled and bruised as he climbs from under the bus you didn’t even know you were driving. You didn’t mean to be a jerk. It’s just you weren’t paying attention until now. The first time you expressed your concerns was in front of the boss (or worse yet, the boss and others). The boss agrees and once again praises your quick thinking. Peer feedback is best given off-line. Give your input early, and then you can nod in full support of the enhanced plan.
  3. Withhold Best Practices – You’re trying some wild and crazy ideas, and you don’t want to share before you know they’ll work. Or you got busy and forgot to share. I know you’d never purposely withhold your great ideas, but your peers may not have the same interpretation. Let folks know what you’re up to. If it’s half-baked, describe the batter and promise updates. Peers trust peers who share what they’re doing.
  4. Take the Credit – When the praise is coming your way, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion. At your level you did not do this alone. Pause, consider, and deflect the praise. Your peers will appreciate the gesture, and all will respect your confident, humility.
  5. React Poorly to Feedback – The surest way to lose friends and alienate people is to reject their feedback. If you stop hearing, they’ll stop talking (well, at least to your face). Be gracious and open to what they have to say. Pause to consider. If it’s stupid, shake it off. But always take the high-road and thank them for their input.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

20 Comments

  1. Alli Polin

    Great list, Karin! I’d add… never develop relationships. Everyone on the team goes out for a drink on Friday, but not you. Division BBQ and you’re nowhere to be seen. Afternoon coffee-run to Starbucks and you’re MIA every single time. At some point you need to develop relationships with people – it takes more to be a success than just cranking out great work.

    Reply
  2. letsgrowleaders

    Alli, Terrific add. It’s easy to say you’re too busy. The truth is relationship building is an important part of the work.

    Reply
  3. Tracy Shroyer, PhD

    Many years ago I worked with a lady that withheld information from me when she was training me on my new position. It was a difficult situation, but definitely one that helped me grow into a better person in how I dealt with the whole thing. Agree with Alli on developing relationships. Sad to see a person that does great work, but does not seem to be interested in building those relationships. People eventually stop asking after being told ‘no’ so many times, and then the opportunity is lost.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Tracy, So great to have you join the conversation. Wow, that’s a crazy story. It’s great that you can see the growth as the upside. Yeah, you’re right… once peers stop asking, it’s hard to rebuild from there.

      Reply
  4. Steve Borek

    Rainmakers can show they’re great leaders by helping out someone struggling with their number.

    They can take the initiative to bring someone under their wing. Intentional Mentor.

    It’s rare when you see this happen. When you do, you know it’s special.

    True leadership in action.

    Reply
  5. letsgrowleaders

    Steve, oh yes… that’s the very best way to build peer relationships. Excellent addition.

    Reply
  6. Dave Tumbarello

    Another one would be pointing fingers and being confident that the root of a problem is found with individuals (blame) rather than systems (asking why). The way to turn this behavior is to have a long term perceptive and desire to fix the root of the problem. Often the problem is in communication, or patterns that do not follow best practices, or relying on the wrong tool. It is impossible to get to the root of the problem if you practice finger pointing.

    Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      Dave, such good ones… thanks. Yes, finger pointing makes everyone crazy. Great add.

      Reply
  7. Jon Mertz

    Another on that will tick off peers is not accepting responsibility for mistakes made. Not holding oneself accountable will alienate peers. Taking this list will be a good sanity check, Karin!

    Thanks. Jon

    Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      Jon, oh yes…. thanks for expanding the conversation.

      Reply
  8. Bill Benoist

    I would add acting superior in front of your colleagues. Always looking for the spotlight. I’ve witnessed this over the years when managers get together. There always seems to be one who over-compensates due to a lack of self-confidence.

    Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      Bill, oh yes, so important… and I see that all too often.

      Reply
  9. Anonymous

    I agree this is a great list. I also think that the boss should be aware and know who the “snarky” employee is on the team. I have always believed that having strong peer connections and creating a mutual level of respect is critical for the growth of the team and the individual. It’s hard when the boss continues to allow the snarky employees to continue with that behavior. There are far too many people in corporate worrying about what others are doing instead of helping or being a mentor and realizing that positive behavior helps the organization in so many ways including performance most of all. Lastly, everyone has a responsibility to themselves and their company….there isn’t room for extra drama or jealousy…strive to take the higher road if you can.

    Reply
  10. Bev k

    I agree this is a great list. I also think that the boss should be aware and know who the “snarky” employee is on the team. I have always believed that having strong peer connections and creating a mutual level of respect is critical for the growth of the team and the individual. It’s hard when the boss continues to allow the snarky employees to continue with that behavior. There are far too many people in corporate worrying about what others are doing instead of helping or being a mentor and realizing that positive behavior helps the organization in so many ways including performance most of all. Lastly, everyone has a responsibility to themselves and their company….there isn’t room for extra drama or jealousy…strive to take the higher road if you can.

    Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      Bev, Fantastic to have you in the community and enhancing the conversation. You raise such an important point… the leader must be aware of the dynamics and work to improve them. Drama wastes energy.

      Reply
  11. LaRae Quy

    Great post, Karin.

    This is my favorite: “If you stop hearing, they’ll stop talking (well, at least to your face).”

    When communication stops, relationships end. And that’s when “the talking” starts…and talk can go either positive or negative. The more input we have into the conversations around us, the more input we will have on whether they build us up or break us down.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      LaRae, Love that… the more input we have into the conversations around us…. indeed. Thanks, as always, for your insights.

      Reply
  12. Terri Klass

    Terrific list, Karin and I love the one: withhold best practices. I see this all the time and then the person withholding the information spits it out and everyone around gets so upset. Why didn’t they just share it initially?
    I would also add pinning one person against the other. Divide and conquer. This is so prevalent when a colleague plays two people’s ideas against the other in order to create conflict and friction. The person should instead be trying to find ways to integrate and validate all the input.

    Loved the post, Karin!

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Terri, Thanks so much. I see that too. They end up sharing anyway but only after the damage is done.

      Reply
  13. belaine

    Be the person who always has something to say about someone the minute they leave your presence. That will insure that you never develop relationships because everyone knows that as soon as they are leaving your presence, you are most assuredly commenting and gossiping about them as well.

    Reply

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