Most people do not want to work with bullies. Rather, they gravitate to people they like. It is easy to discount a bully. They make you tense, frightened, and angry. Why bother with the hassle? Surprisingly, people who engage in bullying behavior are generally more capable than others realize. Nevertheless, it is easy to overlook them because of their aggressive nature.
When dealing with bullies, a contrarian frame of reference is helpful. Once you understand their bullying behavioral nuances, you can choose to rise above the emotionality in the moment, which tends to diffuse bullies’ attack modalities.
Often, bullies are:
- Interpersonally very adaptive – they effectively use persuasive and/or manipulative tactics to intimidate diverse personalities into submission.
- Exceedingly charming and charismatic – when they want to close a sale, secure monies for a pet project, or convince a colleague to do something against his/her better judgment.
- Vehemently outspoken – and typically overly aggressive. They are especially jealous and are hyper-critical of inspiring leaders who are transparent, confident, and motivate others to achieve extraordinary results.
- Politically savvy – as they have successfully weathered a number of senior executive changes because they have extensive knowledge of the company, the industry, and customers. Bottom line – if bullies are unable or unwilling to change, invite them to wreak havoc on your competitors!
As you can see, bullies have a number of enviable competencies, though tragically they pervert them so others do their bidding or leave them alone. The challenge and opportunity is to understand their “beneath the surface” intentions to do well and to engage them in non-defensive behavior. No organization wants its employees to be fearful of or refuse to work with bullies.
The question for CEO’s might be – what are you doing to draw out the positive traits of bullies in your organization?