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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Jul 21, 2023


Cynicism in others can be challenging for a leader. This week we outline some practical steps you can take to deal with cynicism in the workplace.



Hello and welcome to episode 193 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we share practical tips to improve your leadership. Cynicism in others can be challenging for a leader. This week we outline some practical steps you can take to deal with cynicism in the workplace.

Cynicism is a belief that others are only focused on their own interests and are not sincere. At work this might include assuming leaders are just out for themselves, and any initiatives are ultimately going to be bad for people. Cynical behaviour can be discouraging for leaders and colleagues alike. It can decrease trust, creativity and collaboration. As a leader there are some practical steps you can take to deal with cynicism.

  1. Lead by example. Make sure you’re being positive and honest in your communications. Cynicism can breed in environments that lack transparency and trust, so make sure you are role modelling these.
  2. Encourage people to talk about their frustrations, and focus on continuous improvement. Sometimes as leaders we think it’s best to avoid discussing frustrations, but it’s actually helpful and indeed necessary to bring them out to the surface. The key thing is to then focus on improvement.
  3. Bring people together from different areas. It’s difficult to be cynical about someone you know well. More in-person time helps people to see others as real human beings and can reduce cynicism.
  4. Provide direct and timely feedback. It can be tempting to make generalisations about a person’s character or approach when trying to tackle something like cynicism. However, instead of describing someone as cynical, it’s more effective to base your feedback on observed behaviour. What did the cynicism actually look like? What was the impact of that behaviour on you and others? This approach will help the other person to understand and accept the feedback.
  5. Coach people past cynicism. Those who are being cynical are often frustrated by their inability to shape the team and organisation. You can help them to explore what they want to achieve and more effective ways to influence outcomes.

In my experience, with a little bit of effort and empathy, people who have been cynical in the past can often become the biggest agents for change. Why not try some of these approaches in the coming week.


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