Leadership Pet Peeve: Self-Serving Voicemails

I have a 15 year-old pet peeve.  I hate when leaders use voicemail messages to promote themselves.  This pet peeve should be older.  Unfortunately it is a habit I had to break myself before it became a pet peeve.

At some point I realized I was sending messages to my team that included information that did nothing for them.  They would often start:

“It’s 6:00 AM and I am on my way to the airport…”  or

“It’s 7:30 PM and I am 30 minutes from home…”


Why would I say that in my message?

Because it made ME feel good about ME!  The meat of my message was intended to be useful to those I was leading.  It is really too bad I had to add extra verbiage for my own benefit.

I am not going to attempt to speak for everyone who sends these messages.  I will speak based on what I saw in my heart.  Unfortunately if there are good reasons for adding these useless nuggets to a voicemail, I doubt my team or your team realizes it.

The biggest reason was my insecurity as a leader.  I wanted my team to know I was working hard.  It made me feel good that they knew I was up early or getting home late.

I could rationalize it away.  I could make myself believe that letting people know what time I left the house or what time I was getting home was setting an example for them.  But, as I matured as a leader, I realized guilt is a lousy leadership tactic.

I also realized that leaders who set the example do not need to pound their chest and say, “Look at me!  I am setting the example over here!”

Besides what time I leave the house or get home from work does not predict how productive I am.  Busy and productive are not the same thing. 

Tangent Pet Peeve

A related pet peeve may be emails that come from bosses in the middle of the night.  I sent them for the same reasons I sent those voicemails.  They were self serving.

If I chose to work in the middle of the night, that is my decision.  I was the one managing my home life.  Sometimes I couldn’t sleep.  Therefore, I worked.

However, I set an unofficial expectation for my team when I did that.  My people would see those emails at strange times and think that was what I wanted from them.

Or worse.  They thought that is what a leader had to do to stay ahead in the company.  As a result, many high potential people chose not to post for leadership positions due to the impact they thought it would have on their home lives.

To rectify this, I set my computer to post the emails after 7:30 AM.  I may have typed it at midnight.  But, I lost nothing by setting it to post in the morning.   No one would see it until then anyway.  I got my work done and my message out without placing unintended expectations on my team.

The Bottom Line:

Who benefits from my messages?  If the message I am about to send helps me look good, then I should rethink the message.  My goal with a voicemail message or an email message is to be sure it is informative and without a lot of extras.

My people get enough superfluous information throughout the day without me adding to it.

What do I want from a boss?

Give me a productive boss with a quality home life versus a busy, time-waster who isn’t leading at home!  I don’t need to be convinced of my boss’s hard work or hear them convince themselves they are working hard.

If I promote myself or use guilt to get others to work harder, I need to look in the mirror and reevaluate myself as a leader. 


What leadership pet peeves do you have?

4 Responses to “Leadership Pet Peeve: Self-Serving Voicemails”

  1. Jenny July 20, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    Nice post. I like your perspective. It can be tempting to do those things when I feel unappreciated at work or when hard work goes unnoticed. A co-worker reminded me recently that we don’t do what we do for praise or attention. There is a much bigger picture. And I agree that it’s more important to manage time well and complete tasks efficiently rather than having to take work home. Thanks for the post!


    • Dave Anderson July 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

      I agree. If I do what I do for appreciation of others, I will never be satisfied. Thanks Jenny!

  2. sreesh July 26, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

    Thanks for the nice introspective post. Most of us if not all are guilty of this pet peeve at one time or the other. Even though we probably roll our eyes for an email/voicemail like this from our bosses, we dont think twice to use the same tactic on our people.

    • Dave Anderson July 27, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

      I agree. If I just continue to say to myself, “Who is this for?”

Leave a Reply:

Gravatar Image