Nine tips for surviving a toxic leader – and preventing bullying

Day-to-day bullies often effectively camouflage themselves from those who they are not targeting

Day-to-day bullies often effectively camouflage themselves from those who they are not targeting

Sarah asked me for help when she realised that her leader was a bully with serious interpersonal issues [back-story:http://mwrconsulting.co.uk/?p=8674]. Other people said he was a psychopath. However, Sarah wanted to know if that was likely and whether she could manage being bullied constructively.

It was not good news for Sarah. The bully seemed to show some degree of psychopathic behaviour. From Sarah’s story the traits shown were:

  • Superficial charm, but had a nasty temper
  • Inconsistent, unreliable, untrustworthy
  • Prepared to lie, even when faced with the undeniable
  • Made threats even in public, sometimes with grandstanding performance
  • Was cold and calculating
  • Enjoyed seeing others suffer when dishing out put-downs and making coercive demands
  • Seemed to have some personal habits that bordered on illegal (some people suspected drug taking)
  • Totally self centred and disinterested in other people’s lives

In general, a psychopathic leader tends to be bright and supremely manipulative – or – an intimidating bully.

In the cold light of day it can be hard to understand how someone with psychopathic characteristics survives at work. However, research shows that many are successful. On a day-to-day basis they effectively camouflage themselves by being articulate, with good social skills and by deploying charm. They typically create a positive impression on others, particularly those more senior to them. What makes a psychopath a misery to work for is the ruthless use of powerful manipulation skills with no compunction regarding the cost to others. No charm here! They have a ruthless drive to destroy others reputations by undermining their confidence and competence.

Advice for a bullied team member

Unfortunately there is no silver bullet, here is some of the advice I gave to Sarah to inform her journey [http://mwrconsulting.co.uk/?p=8674]:

  1. Manage your boundaries: this person will use any information you give them about the organisation, other people and about yourself. So don’t provide gossip and salacious tales of organisational behavioural indiscretions
  2. Check out their version of events thoroughly with people you can trust and document discrepancies
  3. Keep a record of what you achieve and refer to it to help you maintain your confidence. Be ready to use it should you need to refute your leader’s manipulative negative performance assertions
  4. When you have the opportunity to interact with other leaders make sure they get the chance to note your performance
  5. Try to avoid one-on-one meetings
  6. Under-react to the emotional tone. Keep your emotions to yourself as much as possible
  7. Document every step you take. Do as Sarah did document everything from the electronic to conversations in a contemporaneous note (and don’t keep them at work)
  8. Get help from a psychologist make sure your management understand this situation
  9. If you make a complaint about the bully keep the above in mind, and don’t rely on confidentiality. At some point the bully will know and is very likely to escalate their behaviour

If you want a reminder of what Sarah did them click here: [http://mwrconsulting.co.uk/?p=8674]

If you need help in dealing with bullying you can reach Marjorie Raymond on 07779 345 499, or by email: m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk

Reach us at 07779 345 499, m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk

Marjorie Raymond

Marjorie Raymond

T: 07779 345 499

E: m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk

We have experience in developing senior managers and their team members – both on an individual and team level – so they can develop practical approaches that encourage positive, constructive behaviour. This, in turn, leads to the development of positive beliefs and values. We are ready work with you, to help you get the best out of your people.

Here are some examples of approaches that can be used and tailored to your individual needs:

  • Support if you are being bullied, or have a member of your organisation who has made a bullying complaint
  • Mediation, to address workplace conflict
  • Personal development activities
  • Individual and group coaching…Coaching – a powerful way of developing people
  • Psychometric assessment, which can identify strengths as well as derailing behaviours and also include 360 degree feedback
  • Structured module for understanding the psychological contracts in your organisation, both at an individual or team level
  • Straight Talking: …Straight Talking create change through conversations
  • Special projects, secondments and assignments

 

Are you blind to toxic behaviours that destroy trust?

Spot toxic leadership

Spot toxic leadership

In my last blog I discussed how inconsistent behaviour destroys trust. Imagine then how it feels if a leader or team member is suffering from a personality disordered or experiencing a period of mental ill-health? Often a toxic environment develops. This is particularly difficult when it is the leaders whose behaviour is problematic.

The work environment may feel unstable, contradictory and ultimately toxic; within an environment like this it is hard to flourish and almost always leads to a feeling of distrust.

A leader with a personality disorder also shows further destructive behaviours within their personal relationships at work. Personality disordered leaders, for example narcissists, often attain promotion in organisations. If you’d like more information have a look at my earlier blog ‘Charming the birds off the trees’. Click here http://mwrconsulting.co.uk/?p=243: .

If you have toxic leadership in your organisation then ensure you act now to get them the help and support that they need.

Things you can do:

  1. Provide a Corporate governance framework and policies that ensure welfare by holding key individuals accountable. Specifically:
      1.  Consider the use of upwards and 360 degree appraisal the performance management process
      2. Implement a whistle-blowing mechanism that provides anonymity for concerned people to call out a problem
  2. Build, motivate and provide direction to leadership teams throughout the organisation
  3. Set clear vision, strategy, objectives and goals
  4. Coach and train and support people:
      1.  Many people experiencing difficult and emotionally draining life experiences when given support and understanding will recover their functioning. Organisations that do this well often find that trust in the organisation, its leaders and within teams may be successfully rebuilt.
      2. However, those people with unhealthy or disordered behaviours are unlikely to believe there is any need for them to be coached. They are unlikely to have the motivation to change. If they do accept the idea, identify a coach with in-depth experience of coaching personality disorders.
  5. Where evidence arises about distrust that seems to point to the dark side of an individual leader, the organisation should be prepared to act.
  6. Some personality disorders can cause such organisational havoc that it is best to avoid employing them in the first place. For more information see my earlier blog here: http://mwrconsulting.co.uk/?p=339

Reach us at 07779 345 499, m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk

Marjorie Raymond

Marjorie Raymond

T: 07779 345 499

E: m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk

We have experience in developing senior managers and their team members – both on an individual and team level – so they can develop practical approaches that encourage positive, constructive behaviour. This, in turn, leads to the development of positive beliefs and values. We are ready work with you, to help you get the best out of your people.

Here are some examples of approaches that can be used and tailored to your individual needs:

  • Special projects, secondments and assignments
  • Mediation, to address workplace conflict
  • Personal development activities
  • Individual and group coaching…Coaching – a powerful way of developing people
  • Psychometric assessment, which can identify strengths as well as derailing behaviours and also include 360 degree feedback
  • Structured module for understanding the psychological contracts in your organisation, both at an individual or team level
  • Straight Talking: …Straight Talking create change through conversations

Can you rebuild trust?

You can regain team confidence ...

You can regain team confidence …

Certainly you can. However, it won’t be easy…..

In fact, it remains the case, of course that is best not to break trust in the first place. However, if you have concerns this article from @Harvard may help you:  http://ow.ly/viNYI

 

Reach us at 07779 345 499, m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk

 

Marjorie Raymond

Marjorie Raymond

T: 07779 345 499

E: m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk

We have experience in developing senior managers and their team members – both on an individual and team level – so they can develop practical approaches that encourage positive, constructive behaviour. This, in turn, leads to the development of positive beliefs and values. We are ready work with you, to help you get the best out of your people.

Here are some examples of approaches that can be used and tailored to your individual needs:

  • Special projects, secondments and assignments
  • Mediation, to address workplace conflict
  • Personal development activities
  • Individual and group coaching…Coaching – a powerful way of developing people
  • Psychometric assessment, which can identify strengths as well as derailing behaviours and also include 360 degree feedback
  • Structured module for understanding the psychological contracts in your organisation, both at an individual or team level
  • Straight Talking: …Straight Talking create change through conversations

 

 

A fortress mentality often makes conflict worse

Castle

When troubles comes knocking many people adopt a fortress mentality, but this often makes conflict worse

Mediation saves time and money.

Mediation helps people consider each other’s interests – and make concessions, so workable solutions can be developed. It is a quick, local solution that doesn’t involve recourse to senior management or formal procedures.

A senior manager once said to me after mediation that the process “felt a cathartic experience… We were able to forgive and move on. Forgetting will take a bit longer. Looking back, we panicked about costs and stopped listening. It felt very personal… I realise now that the conflict reduced my personal effectiveness, just when I needed it most.”

As mediators, we see people change their minds all the time. A mediator nudges those in dispute toward understanding; may help them walk around a problem, lift it up, turn it over, and examine it from all sides.

We see people gather new data, test their assumptions against that data, and go on to reach very different conclusions TO those they initially arrived at.

We also see them admit or address mistakes, make apologies and make necessary course corrections. And we watch how these acts open the door to new possibilities and greater gains.

Read about a real case here: Mediation how to avoid conflict

Reach us at 07779 345 499, m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk

Marjorie Raymond

T: 07779 345 499

E: m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk

We have experience in developing senior managers and their team memebers – both on an individual and team level – so they can develop practical approaches that encourage positive, constructive behaviour. This, in turn, leads to the development of positive beliefs and values. We are ready work with you, to help you get the best out of your people.

Here are some examples of approaches that can be used and tailored to your individual needs:

  • Mediation, to address workplace conflict
  • Individual and group coaching…Coaching – a powerful way of deveopling people
  • Personal development activities
  • Special projects, secondments and assignments
  • Psychometric assessment, which can identify strengths as well as derailing behaviours and also include 360 degree feedback
  • Structured module for understanding the psychological contracts in your organisation, both at an individual or team level
  • Straight Talking: …Straight Talking create change through conversations  

 

Recognising the narcissist in your organisation

Identifying Narcissists

Identifying Narcissists

Since I published my ‘Charming the birds off the trees’ blog post I have received a number of inquiries about how to identify whether there may be a narcissist in your organisation. I hope the thinking below helps.

A distinct aspect of narcissistic behaviour is the need for excessive admiration. The narcissist demands respect from people at all levels in an organisation – and for everything they do. This degree of praising may feel like hard work to those expected to provide it. However, always remember that ‘criticism’ is unwelcome to a narcissist.

Signs to look out for are:

  • They are often keen to change roles before their manager has a chance to notice a systematic pattern.
  • They show immature or inappropriate behaviour, including poor coping skills, gossiping (for example, based on privileged access to personnel files), inappropriate remarks (for example, asking people in a team-building game to consider sexual experiences with others).
  • Some narcissists have performance issues, such as poor results/missed objectives that they usually cover up. Narcissists often explain these poor results as being the result of someone or something else out of their control obstructing them. The sound bite may sound like this: “X did not do their job properly.”
  • Strong narcissistic performers expect others to work as they do. Where this requires co-operation from others there are often complaints about the narcissist being autocratic, micro-managing and being overly demanding of others. This often results in a high turnover of team members. One story I heard was ruefully told. She was ‘made’ to work until midnight to get a task completed, only to discover that the narcissist had taken the next day off and taken all the credit for delivery.
  • Narcissists have difficulty in taking a balanced perspective. For example, I once heard a call centre manager refuse sales training for his people, as it would “simply make my people more attractive and they will leave”.
  • Narcissists are perceived as being insensitive, often shouting in public and deliberately humiliating people. For example, on the death of a team member’s mother – “you’ll get used to it” – said in an abrasive, abusive tone. And there was the demand that an ill colleague continue to work in order to finish a task important to the narcissist.

Charming the birds off the trees

Charming the birds off the trees, or a charming devil?

Charming the birds off the trees, or a charming devil?

‘I start off as a witch, and then get a bit nicer – sometimes’

When does confidence, easy charm and the ability to persuade people to your way of thinking move towards a darker, unhealthy part of personality. More often than you may think, since research in the USA indicates that executive failure owing to personality traits costs $3m annually. Given the relative seniority of such people, these costs may be the tip of the iceberg.

Often people who are charming are successful in organisations. However, organisations are often inept at noticing those with a darkside to charm: narcissism.

Narcissists are unpleasant and destructive to work with, or for. They are self absorbed, have vaulting ambition with inflated and at times, unrealistic opinions about themselves, particularly in relation to others. Examples I have heard are “I can make a profit anywhere”, “I start off as a witch, and then get a bit nicer, sometimes”, “I have made a mistake accepting this new job, it is not big enough for me”. Even just three statements show their sense of entitlement and exemption from standards and norms. In gaining entitlement they can be vicious, deliberately sabotage careers of others, and are good at managing their managers. Significantly, they feel no remorse. Equally, they can be charismatic, dramatic and exciting.

So, if your recruitment and performance management systems can’t tell the difference between someone who can healthily ‘charm the birds off the trees’ and some who is an unhealthy ‘charming devil’ take heed! It is simply not true that devilish individuals won’t rise to important positions. There is evidence that well known and initially respected business leaders, sports people, politicians and religious leaders have been clearly diagnosed as having narcissist personality traits.