When it comes to the social side of corporate life, most of us are familiar with certain personality types and behaviors that spell trouble: people who gossip or flirt a lot; people who spend lots of time stirring up drama. But are there any dangers on the other end of the spectrum — for people who stay out of all that and just focus on completing tasks? Actually, yes. I call this professional blind spot No Crying in Baseball syndrome.
You may have seen the movie, A League of Their Own, about a professional women’s baseball team. Tom Hanks played the disgruntled coach who — upon seeing tears on the face of a player he’d just lambasted — exclaimed in horror, “There’s no crying in baseball!” Some people have that same attitude about work: the office is clearly an emotion-free zone. Their professional demeanor never seems to change. They seem completely unflappable. When crises arise and others panic, they calmly tackle the problem and resolve it. In many ways, they’re like heroes.
So why do many people with No Crying in Baseball syndrome find their career paths blocked? The problem is, while they calmly manage and delegate tasks, they’ve neglected to learn how to interact successfully with people. After all, an organization is made up of people who have emotions, who have lives outside the office, and who must cooperate to reach shared goals. The best leaders understand that concept and work effectively within that context. They know how to connect.
For a variety of reasons, people with No Crying in Baseball syndrome can’t or choose not to connect with the people around them. What they intend as calm competency is perceived by coworkers as coldness, aloofness. Upper management does not perceive them as potential leaders who can motivate and inspire others or create opportunities for productive collaboration. So they aren’t promoted, and the frustration level builds rapidly. Essentially, their emotional Botox has frozen their careers.
Fortunately, there are strategies for overcoming No Crying in Baseball syndrome.
• Balance your focus among people, processes and tasks. Engage your colleagues to scope out not just facts, but concerns and thoughts.
• Remember not to start every conversation with an inquiry about a project, deadline or meeting.
• Learn a little something about a personal interest of a colleague you can discuss, such as a favorite sport or hobby.
As with every change, you don’t want to swing too far in the other direction. Your career won’t benefit by sobbing in every staff meeting. Just take steps to treat your co-workers as people with multi-dimensional lives. Are there people in your office who appear to have No Crying in Baseball syndrome? In what ways has that demeanor hurt or helped their careers? I’d love to hear your feedback.
To learn more about No Crying in Baseball syndrome and other professional blind spots, please check out my new book: You -– According to Them: Uncovering the blind spots that impact your reputation and your career. (www.YouAccordingToThem.com)