What is an ultimatum? According to Oxford Languages, an ultimatum by definition:
a final demand or statement of terms, the rejection of which will result in retaliation or a
breakdown in relations.
When I read this definition, there is no part of the definition that is positive. Think about the negativity in it:
- Final demand
- Breakdown in relations
All of these things have a negative connotation.
I recently experienced someone being given an ultimatum. Do it or I am gone. It has been bothering me since I heard it. Let me start by saying, I get there may be a situation when an ultimatum is necessary ie: raising kids perhaps? However, in business relationships, it is a method of control and it is not going to drive a team or team member towards results. I am not a fan of using threats to get people to change. There is a better way.
I cannot imagine giving others an ultimatum. To me, it seems arrogant. Who am I to tell anyone else how to live or behave? I don’t know about you guys but I do not manage my relationships based on ultimatums. In fact, I don’t manage my relationships at all. I work on them and develop them. Relationships, business and personal, are about conversation and compromise.
Have you ever been given an ultimatum? If so, how did you handle it? Did you succumb to the pressure of the ultimatum? Studies show that ultimatums are rarely effective. An ultimatum is a method of control. Giving an ultimatum is a toxic behavior. It is as unhealthy as the behavior you are trying to change.
I will start by saying that ultimatums are a horrible way to lead people. They are an ineffective method of developing and growing relationships. They are an awful way to show support and show you care about your team member’s success. It will not bring your team together.
How can leaders do better? Effective leaders that want to see change understand that they must:
- Listen to understand
- Identify the issue
- Fully understand the issue
- Develop a path for success
- Set goals
- Follow through
- Provide support
- Celebrate successful milestones
- Coach through the challenges
Let’s get rid of ultimatums. Let’s bring listening and effective communication to the forefront of leadership.