I recently had a client tell me he was tired of “walking on eggshells” around the other members of his team. He felt hampered to express his thoughts and frustrated by what he referred to as his teammates’ “fragility.”
Isn’t walking on eggshells a descriptive idiom? It means being deliberately careful and extra sensitive in order to not offend, anger, or hurt someone else. It means being wary of what you say or do and then maneuvering with caution.
When you are part of team, walking on eggshells can become a tiresome practice that forces you to constantly think about what you say before you speak. Every word you choose is vetted for possible offensiveness. Every action you take is weighed and measured. Walking on eggshells is inconvenient, uncomfortable, and not much fun.
The practice makes you feel like you can never drop your guard and be yourself.
My response to the aforementioned client and anyone else who feels this way is this: Maybe the version of yourself you want to be isn’t the best version of yourself.
Good teammates don’t object to walking on eggshells around the other members of their team because they know the practice isn’t about them; it’s about their teammates.
Walking on eggshells is inconvenient…for you. Walking on eggshells is uncomfortable…for you. Walking on eggshells is not much fun…for you. But being a good teammate isn’t about doing what’s best for you; it’s about doing what’s best for your team.
Good teammates accept the necessity of being inconvenienced, taken out of their comfort zone, and sacrificing their fun for the betterment of their team.
While conveying empathy and being sensitive to your teammates’ feelings is generally what’s best for your team, the necessity to constantly walk on eggshells can be a symptom of a dysfunctional team. Don’t confuse the practice of walking on eggshells with the acceptance of toxic behaviors or the avoidance of confrontation. The practices aren’t exclusive.
You can confront toxicity and still walk on eggshells. Doing so may be inconvenient—for you—but it can be done. Appropriate confrontation requires you to find creative ways to tactfully convey your thoughts and the patience to convey those thoughts at opportune times.
Think of the practice of walking on eggshells as a gift you willingly and freely give to your team.
Bear in mind, however, that your willingness to walk on eggshells does not excuse you to force others to walk on eggshells with you. If you find those around you compelled to behave this way, perhaps you should consider adjusting your “fragility” and not being so sensitive.
Making others feel like that they don’t have to walk on eggshells around you can be just as impactful of a good teammate move as you not objecting to walking on eggshells around them. How others treat you doesn’t have to alter how you treat others.
As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.