Leadership / Ultimatums / Drama

Leadership Moment — 5 Feb 24

Oh, the drama!

Mark McMillion
3 min readFeb 5, 2024

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Figure from tenor.com.

So I’ve talked about ultimatums before but thought I’d put some ideas in writing especially after witnessing the late-breaking teen drama in my own house.

Ah, teenagers in love. Is there anything else like it? I hope not. I can still remember the agony of ending a relationship with my high school girlfriend after dating for some time. And ending another one. And maybe a few more.

One of my kids went through a break-up recently and make no mistake, my son was hurting emotionally. My wife and I recognized it, acknowledged it, and tried to be as comforting as possible but he was still hurting. Some things you just have to battle through on your own.

The cause? My kid gave an ultimatum. Result? Lose-lose. I wish he’d watched my video linked above.

We’ve all been there. That point in time where the frustration has built up over time and we’re fed up, our patience is exhausted, and we just can’t take it anymore. We’ve had enough! So we issue an ultimatum.

And then things get better? Of course not. I estimate 99% of ultimatums result in the dissolution of the relationship. Maybe, MAYBE, one works once in a while but I suspect your chances of winning the lottery are better.

When you issue an ultimatum, you’re boxing the other person (and yourself!) into a corner and the only way out is your way. They either capitulate to your demands or else.

Let’s suppose they acquiesce. They go along to get along. Have you ever been bullied? Did it ever feel good later? Or did you carry around that kernel of resentment until it emerged under other circumstances? I’m betting the latter.

So you may get some more time from the employee, a few days, a few weeks, but they’re carrying that resentment, that feeling they’ve been coerced the whole time. Do you think you’ll get their best work? I don’t.

The relationship is frayed. It might be reparable but only if you make a conscious, sustained effort. More likely the other person is simply waiting for a time that’s more opportune for them, either personally or to better spite you.

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Mark McMillion

Retired Army officer with two tours in Baghdad, married with four kids. Proud West Virginian and West Point grad. Works available on Amazon.