Don’t Be An Abrasive Leader

Home » Podcast » Don’t Be An Abrasive Leader

What do you do if you’ve been told you’re an abrasive leader? How do you become less abrasive over time?

Today’s Leader Feeder is part two of a series. The first one dealt with abrasive people that you interact with. But what happens when you’re the abrasive leader yourself?

Abrasive behaviours will usually come to your attention because either your manager or the HR team has let you know people have been complaining about your abrasiveness in the way you’re dealing with them. At first, you will probably get a little defensive because you think that other people are just being overly sensitive when all you really wanted to do was get the work done.

What if there’s something to this abrasiveness? That’s something that you might need to deal with.

Let’s assume for a moment there is a basis of truth in the fact that you’re more abrasive than you need to be. The good news is you, as a leader, can work on your triggers, the things that cause you to act abrasively, and also change the way you deal with people to be more effective. It isn’t going soft to be less abrasive, it’s just becoming more constructive. Generally, by being more constructive, you’re going to improve your relationships with people at work. And quite frankly, probably outside of work as well.

I’ve got a few tips for you if you’re an abrasive leader.

The number one tip is to be prepared to explain yourself fully. Abrasive people tend to be very short and abrupt in their communication strategies. I know because even under pressure, I can get that way, and I’m not always as expressive as I should be. Being super-efficient with your words might seem to be good for productivity, but it’s not great for relationships. People cannot read your mind to understand what you are thinking, and they need you to explain things a bit more to them and perhaps be a little bit more tactful as well while you’re doing that.

When you’re told that you can be abrasive it’s not too late to fix it. Share on X

The second tip  is to watch your tone. Communication is partly the words you use, but a lot of it has to do with your tone and body language. If you are abrasive, there is a tendency for you to be very abrupt in your tone. You might be clipped or almost to the point where you are demeaning in with the way you say things. If you could be more aware of this, you could learn to be more conversational and not accusational in your commentary. Remember, your goal is not so much to accuse people or to make them feel bad. It is to get people to do the things you want them to do in the way that you would like them to do them. You do this by being conversational, not by being punitive and negative towards them.

Angrydirector in shirt and tie and with helmet on head shouting while having unpleasant conversation

The third tip is going to be expressing gratitude. Expressing gratitude in general means that instead of being ticked off, you go into gratitude mode. This means you start thinking of all the good things that are going on in the workplace. Even if it is not quite up to your standards of expectation, you know that, generally, what you are trying to do is move people forward. You should be celebrating those gains as people are making improvements. Why not begin in gratitude? Be thankful for the things people do and for the improvements that they make. This will yield great results in your work life, and also in your personal life.

When you are seen as less abrasive, you will see how much it positively impacts the work relationships you have with others. It could even affect your colleagues, your relationship with your manager and definitely the relationship with your team members.