Leaders, Do Your Pet Peeves Disengage Employees?

by  Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™  |  Leadership Development

Leaders often reflect their values in their leadership. This can be positive especially if the values are in agreement with the purpose and goals of the organization. The same cannot be said when leaders let their pet peeves shape the culture.

When left unchecked, leaders’ pet peeves can disengage employees and create a play-it-safe culture.

They can also skew how they inspire and assess performance.  Leaders’ pet peeves can actually undo the very values and focus that leaders seek.

How does this happen? Pet peeves can masquerade as values giving them hidden power over your leadership style.

As you try to build respect as leaders who engage, serve, and inspire, the employees see through this and view it as self-serving and unfair.

Common Pet Peeves

What do you think of these?

  • An organized desk and workspace is a sign of clear thinking and effectiveness. Pet peeve – “I can’t stand messiness” or value – “Honor the space you work in” ?
  • Needing encouragement is a weakness. Pet peeve – “I don’t like babysitting employees” or value – “We hired you, the best people to perform” ?
    Encouragement isn’t weakness or strength. Encouragement shows employees how their talents are valuable to the organization.
  • Don’t take me where I don’t want to go. Pet peeve – “I don’t like being pushed by my employees” or value – “I set the vision and want engaged employees to create the road map” ?
  • Stop whining. Pet peeve – “I hate to hear complaints” or value – “Negativity can spread like poison” ? The latter is true yet better to Replace the No Whining Rule with these 3 steps.
  • If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist. Pet peeve – “Intuition feels like voodoo” or value – “Some decisions are so critical, I need data to support it” ? Leaders Develop Your Intuition to have both tools ready for the organization’s success.
  • Taking responsibility and apologizing for mistakes too quickly, shows insincerity.Pet peeve – “I am slow to trust others after a mistake” or value – “Ponder your mistakes to learn from them” ?True story: A highly responsible, high achieving employee quit after a leader said this very thing to her. She quickly embraced feedback after a big mistake and was working to fix the problem. The leader railed on that her apology was too quick to be sincere and showed no signs of learning. Before quitting, she said “I learn, you want me to squirm. There’s a difference.”He apologized but ironically, it was too late. She found another position and is valued for her skills, talents, and accountability.

Everyone has pet peeves — it’s normal. When their hidden power holds sway over an organization’s true values and purpose, they can limit success.

3 Tips to Put Pet Peeves in Their Place

To ensure pet peeves don’t inhibit your leadership and your teams …

    1. Bring pet peeves out in the open. A simple pet peeve exercise at an all-hands meeting unearths one pet peeve from each person. It engages everyone to learn more about each other. It’s also a fun engaging way to highlight the difference between pet peeves and values.
    2. When you speak, own your pet peeves. Many leaders are concerned about using the word “I” too much. Yet admitting your own limitations with the word “I”, shows humility that builds respect.
    3. If you are unaware of your pet peeves, get feedback. Ask family and friends what your pet peeves are. Sounds silly yet it is extremely revealing. At work, a 360 degree feedback on your leadership style will also limit the destructive power of your pet peeves.

Engage employees with your spirit and commitment grounded in a healthy self-awareness. You will serve as a model for all to own the impact of their pet peeves and attitudes. It opens the door for productive interactions that will serve everyone well especially in times of great change and high stress.

– What pet peeves have you witnessed that you would add to the list above?
– How have pet peeves impacted your organization?

Grateful for Image by: Myk Martinez via a Creative Commons License.

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About The Author

Articles By kate-nasser
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What People Are Saying

William Powell  |  13 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Great post Kate. I think another pet peeve (more a misconception) for many leaders is viewing innovation and creativity as rebellious/not being a team player/divisive. Too many times I have seen creativity squashed simply because the leader felt threatened by or didn’t like the delivery of the idea.

A very important topic, Kate. Glad you brought it forward for discussion!

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™  |  13 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Hi William,
For many leaders, this is a sleeper issue whose impact surprises them. Yet everything a leader says and does can impact the team and its results.

Your addition of “creativity vs. rebellion” is spot on. I love it. For orgs. looking for both new ideas and a culture of engagement for innovation it is essential.

Many thanks for your contribution to this discussion. Your substantive additions are always welcome!


Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™  |  13 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Hi William,
For many leaders, this topic is a sleeper type issue whose results surprise them. Everything a leader says and does can impact the team and the results.

Love your addition of “rebellion vs. creativity”. Especially in orgs. wanting both new ideas and a new culture of innovation, it is essential.

Many thanks. Your contributions are always on point!

Deborah Costello  |  13 Mar 2012  |  Reply

This is really an interesting post because it is so true that these pet peeves are often cited as good practices. I especially see “If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist,” all the time. Thank you for reminding me that measurement is not everything. Sometimes we “know” what is right, even if the data does not yet exist to support our intuition. And “an ounce or prevention CAN be worth a pound of cure.”

Peggy Fitzpatrick  |  13 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Really interesting thoughts Kate, I think that being aware of and owning your pet peeves is something that leaders should think about.

This is important “When their hidden power holds sway over an organization’s true values and purpose, they can limit success.” Sometimes leaders need to put their personal self in the mix and sometimes it is not appropriate.

Great read!

Dr. Dan Neundorf  |  14 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Great post Kate. I have to agree with William on this – definitely worth noting. Unfortunately insecurities and ego can get in the way of creativity or profitable ideas from other members of the team.

Really enjoyed reading.
Thank you,


Steve Riege  |  14 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Very good, and timely message Kate.

I also see “pet peeves” generating within our increasingly volatile political environment, both nationally and locally.

Bipartisan politics have reached a personal level of attack and defensiveness never seen before, and its taken it’s new battleground to the workplace.

Leaders need to “get over it”, that others may not share their personal views, including politics. Make it about the job, not about perceptions of life away from work. Stop inhibiting success.

Anxious for more from Kate…

Liz Weber  |  15 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Ha! Kate another timely topic! This one could also be entitled, “Is Your Leadership Philosophy and Culture Killing Creativity? I see these types of behaviors and their obvious results too often. Employees – trying to please the boss – fall in line with the seemingly logical sentiments, only to lose part of the “edge” that allows new ideas to come to life and old habits to be challenged. I have to admit, this one made me sit back and think, “Wow, what am I doing to stifle my team?….”
Thanks Kate!

Page Cole  |  15 Mar 2012  |  Reply

When a preacher is preaching a sermon that hits a little too close to home, people sometimes say, “Hey, you’ve left preachin’ & gone to meddlin’!”

Good job meddlin’… we all need it time to time. Thanks Kate!

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