Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago · 4 min. reading time · visibility 0 ·

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Drive-by Shoutings, Bullies, Strong Personalities and Other Workplace Hazards.

Drive-by Shoutings, Bullies, Strong Personalities and Other Workplace Hazards.

You could hear him coming down the hall.

“Ricken, Fracken, Diggun, Ramda, etc., etc., etc. “…

… except that’s not really what he was saying.

I’ll spare your sensitive ears.

Let’s just say he was not happy.

I was on assignment as a consultant at a major medical university, and was sitting in an office updating one of the many documents that are generated as part of any good consulting assignment.

As the first words came echoing down the corridor, the room instantly transformed into an empty space as people dove for cover.

Dr. Blue Streak (not his real name), was no stranger to this administrative floor, neither was his manner of entering the room profanity first.

The real question was who his rage would be directed at that day.

This day, it was me.

Apparently, there was a question about some aspect of the project I was working on at the Leadership Team table, and he had been assigned to get more information.

The project was in good shape, but someone on the Leadership Team came into the project late in the game, and was worried that the project would have an adverse impact on his area of operation (or ‘turf’ to be more specific).

Now a normal person would have picked up the phone, or sent an email, but not Dr. B.S… He was out to get results.

So he would rage.

Dr. B.S. came into the office, stopped outside my door and without so much as a ‘Good day’, went up one side of me and down the other with a tirade that was 90% profanity laced with just enough English that I could figure out what his issue was.

Once he was finished, he left as quickly as he entered, muttering all the way out the door.

I had no time for a response, but then he wasn’t really looking for one.

Once he left, the people in the office re-emerged from their hiding places, eyes darting back and forth and their ears tuned to high sensitivity in case Dr. B.S. had forgotten to yell something.

While I was taken aback, I really had nothing to worry about.  I didn't report to him and he wasn't in a position to terminate me.  Even so, it made me sad to think that not everybody in the office shared the same security I had.

In the silence, I was able to say “Wow, I’ve never seen a Drive by Shouting before.”

While the comment brought some black humor to the situation, Dr. B.S.’s rage did nothing to improve, or clarify the issue he felt needed addressing.

I would like to say that was the only time I’ve witnessed bullying behaviour in an office.

I have a long past as a consultant and employee with many organizations over the years, and there is one consistent thing I have observed that has become almost canonical truth… There is a direct correlation between bullying behavior and low performing teams.

I do want to clarify that there is a world of difference between strong personalities and bullying. 

I had Italian friends and dinner time at their house was intimidating to an outsider like me. It was loud, boisterous, and I was sure I would have to involve the police, but this was normal for them, and each member of the family loved each other deeply, and loudly.

Bullying on the other hand, does not involve much love, or concern for the other person. It does not seek input from others (unless it agrees with the bully’s position), it is generally directed at peers and (I HATE this word) subordinates and is a clear power play.

Bullying has nothing to do with the facts, and everything to do with winning at all costs.

There is NO room for bullying on your team.

As a leader, you cannot ignore this behaviour, and work with HR to deal with it quickly.

But…

… there IS room for people on your team (or in your organization) with Strong Personalities (or SPs).

They can be intimidating, but they can also be managed.

From my experience, while there may be a surplus of passion (and volume), the SP usually wants the same things as the quiet introverts in the room.

There typically is friction since they are action oriented people, and want to see results quickly. They have little patience for behaviour seen as lolly-gagging.

Introverts like to accomplish things, but have been known to over-process things before taking action.

In fact, sometimes it is seen that any behaviour that is not ecstatically supportive is ‘resistance’, which frustrates the SP person further, which cranks the energy up a notch or two – sending the pensive introverts in the room into their best passive aggressive defensive mode.

The result is that nothing gets done, and everybody is frustrated.

But cheer up, there is hope.

When God handed out personalities, he put me deep into the Introvert category.

As such, I am not in the SP camp, but have certainly had great success in working with those wonderful people who are.

The wrong approach is to only put one personality type on the team (unless you are a self-employed, at home worker). The best ideas come from diverse points of view. It is counter-productive for us Introverts to only have people like us at the table (or on the project team).

I have learned a few things over the years that helps me work with SPs.

Firstly - You are dealing with a passionate person. They may say things you would NEVER say to another person. While I am not excusing their behavior, if you take those things personally, you are sunk. It has been my experience that SPs are about results, and their passionate words are usually meant to help their side of the argument, not attack someone.

Secondly, be prepared with your side of the issue, but as an Introvert you will never win an argument with a SP. They will win the argument and mop the floor with you. A better tactic (for me) has always been to reframe and repeat their point (“So what I hear you say is…”), and then offer your counter point (“Can we consider …?”) Your calmness will drive them nuts, but they will respect you for listening to them.

Thirdly, be prepared with an action plan. (“So what we agreed upon is…”) Timeframes for results are very important for SPs.

Fourthly, don’t ignore the quiet people on your team. They need a voice too. Ask questions of them. You can do this because you are leading the meeting. Even if you aren’t the leader, you can ask others (“I’m really interested in hearing what Margaret thinks…”)

I realize that I’m skipping over the high points here, but I hope I’ve been able to shed a bit of light on why having strong personalities on your team is not necessarily a bad thing.

Bullying is bad. It always has been, and always will be.

But someone with a strong personality can be a great resource for you and your team.

Did you find this useful?

Perhaps you are a SP? How do you engage the quiet Introverts on your team?

Use the comment section to add your thoughts.

Now if you excuse me, I must get under my desk. I hear Dr. Blue Streak coming down the hall.

____________________________________________________________

Image: 

About the Author:

9e6cafbe.jpgI’m the Chief Information Officer for Sheridan College, in Oakville, Ontario Canada, where my team is transforming the delivery of education through innovative application of technology. I'm also a beBee Brand Ambassador.

I'm convinced that IT leadership needs to dramatically change how IT is delivered rather than being relegated to a costly overhead department.

In addition to transforming IT in my role as CIO, I look for every opportunity to talk about this... writing, speaking and now blogging on BeBee (www.bebee.com/@kevin-pashuk) , LinkedIn, ITWorld Canada, or at TurningTechInvisible.com.

I also shoot things... with my camera. Check out my photostream at www.flickr.com/photos/kwpashuk 



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Comments

Definitely, I have engaged with all of the above and it is just not worth it. No amount of money can compensate for the stress this cast of characters creates. There is some evidence that prolonged stress at work can increase the risk of cancer in both men and women.

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #21

#26
"Everything in moderation" (with the exception of puns and Dad jokes) is the secret to a long and fruitful life.

Ken Boddie

4 years ago #20

#22
Looking forward to sharing the optimum glass (or two or three) of wine with you one day, Kev. Still on the subject of balance, my mum used to have a liking for the occasional tipple of sherry and took delight in saying "After one glass I'm anybody's, and after two I'm nobody's". Here's to your continued good health. 🍷🍷

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #19

#24
Good points Christine

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #18

#21
I tend to agree with Blaise Pascal, who said... "Too much and too little wine. Give him none, he cannot find truth; give him too much, the same."

Ken Boddie

4 years ago #17

You credit me with more depth of thought than intended, Kev. What's more, I can't say I agree with your interpretation of alcohol reinforcing bonding. I prefer to translate your age old adage as meaning wine can loosen the tongue to the point of things being said that are best unstated. Similarly, looking at the world through beer goggles can result in a rude awakening in the light of sobriety.

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #16

#12
Latin? I'm impressed. You are right in that removing the power differential from bullies does render them benign, but those on the receiving end need an honest and healthy sense of self to understand that much of the power a bully has is that which is provided to him/her by the bullied. (Of course this is a generalization, but in workplace situations, it does stand) In order to better understand oneself, it is most useful to be part of a community that helps this happen. Good friends, affinity groups, etc. can all help. While we are on the subject of Latin, let me add one to the mix that supports the concept of building strong community... "In Vino Veritas" (There is Truth in Wine)

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #15

#10
Thanks Pascal. LI does serve a purpose. Teams do indeed benefit from diverse personalities. I was probably understated in trying to make that point in this post above. Leaders need to manage both the skills mix, and the personality mix of their teams.

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #14

#9
Thanks Ian. My time in working with medical universities has hardened me like tempered steel to not be affected by this type of behaviour. It is indeed unfortunately common (which doesn't make it right.)

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #13

#8
There are always outliers Paul and an Introvert with a Strong Personality is certainly valid. In my experience, I find that people with this combination usually have an 'interesting' background which developed a heightened sense of 'justice' and 'right and wrong', with the resolve to not be an innocent bystander when it comes to dealing with bullies. What I do know for a fact (by reading some of your earlier posts on beBee), that I would never, ever attempt to break into your house, or bully you. (but that's why I like you so much, aside from the fact that you are Canadian and clever, but then, I've just repeated myself).

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #12

#7
Thanks for sharing this post Francine! Check out my comment to Harvey below ( #13 ). This post is more about dealing with people who have strong personalities vs. bullies. I'm saving the bully post for a future writing session.

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #11

#6
Thanks Phil, I haven't encountered that form of bullying recently, but you are accurate. Sheer tenacity (which is not a bad thing) can become bullying when the end game is to get one's own way. The bully's goal is to win at all costs and you find wild inconsistencies in the message or tactics, or obfuscation to the max when dealing with this type. I would tend to put this kind of bully into Hans Rosling's category of 'willfully ignorant'. Don't confuse them with the facts.

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #10

#5
Thanks for commenting Deb. I'm not sure what Dr. Blue Streak's problem was, but if you see Ian's comment below ( #9 ), this type of behaviour is not uncommon in medical education.

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #9

#3
Thanks for commenting Harvey. I want to make sure that our discussion focuses on those with Strong Personalities vs. bullies. There is a world of difference, although those on the receiving end may have trouble differentiating between them. For bullies, it is typically about power, not results. You rarely win an argument with a bully, but you can do a number of things to reduce his/her perceived power over you. People with strong personalities are typically trying to move things along in the best way they know how. You can usually have a vigorous discussion with SP people and come to a workable solution.

Ken Boddie

4 years ago #8

What immediately springs to mind, Kev, is my school latin nonsensicus, which states: "Nil carborundum ilegitimus" i.e. "don't let the bastards grind you down". 🤣 Furthermore, repeat bullies are like sandpaper. With repetition they eventually become useless, while the recipient of their grinding becomes smooth and polished. 🤗

Often times, I read your stuff and my mind screams, "I don't want to know." That's because your depth of knowledge is almost frightening. The fact that you chose to share with us (or take the time to do so) leaves me with no better words than, "Thank you."

Pascal Derrien

4 years ago #6

Interesting that I saw this one because of LI :-) No bullies but we don't want clones or people driven by the fear of being different or assertive in the team either. a fine balance and it requires an empathic leader to maintain the equilibrium :-)

Ian Weinberg

4 years ago #5

Your 'Dr Blue Streak' was unfortunately quite a common phenomenon in our surgical training Kevin Pashuk Unfortunately their teaching value was compromised by the fear factor which resulted from their behavior. This also compromised the efficiency of the team. It was in fact the lower profile and more introverted competents that really provided the mentoring in my experience. Interestingly, many of the 'Blue Streaks' had great difficulty socializing and interacting outside of the work environment - undoubtedly reflecting some underlying psychopathology. Thanks for an excellent and important article.

Those that bully are usually unhappy and insecure souls and unfortunately, have no confidence in themselves. Their way to communicate is to be intimidating and rude. I agree that an action plan and calmness is the best way to react. And yes, the quiet people on the team need a voice too. Including them in the plan of action can be beneficial to everyone.

Phil Friedman

4 years ago #3

Excellent piece, Kevin, as I've come to expect from you. Balanced, as well, since you are at pains to point out that "loudness" and forcefulness in themselves do not constitute bullying. I would like to suggest to you, however, that there are identifiable forms of bullying that do not involve un-soft voices. For example, there is the Purveyor-of-Water-Torture-Tenacity -- the person who goes on and on ad infinitum until he or she has worn down everyone in the room (or on the team), who finally agree with him or her just to get them to STFU. And BTW, a really good technique for bullies who yell is to interrupt their "flow" by dropping a heavy book or other object "accidentally" onto the floor (if hard-surfaced) or desk with a loud bang. Generally, it knocks the angry ranter right off his or her stride. Cheers!

Harvey Lloyd

4 years ago #2

Bullies are something. There piont may be valid along with their needs. But the emotional display somewhat dictates the level of answer they will receive. I like your soft answer turns away wrath. I do think bullies need to be confronted about the bullying aspect. Bullies are always testing boundaries. Saying nothing about the bullying will only expand their territory. My usual response is i hear you but you will need to calm down if you require my help. This meets with a modicum of success. But we do need to blow the horn at the bullying aspect of the exchange. Remind them to join the human race again. Most responses were sorry, i just got broad sided at..........because......, ok let's see if we can pull the dents out then. If the response was threatening i would let them know i was looking for a job when i found this one and if you say so i will be looking for another. I got the ax a couple of times but wasn't long before i was working somewhere else. Good thoughts and reminder that we do need to respond to our corporate culture, we can't hide.

Kevin Pashuk

4 years ago #1

#1
Thanks Don. As a raging Introvert, I agree with your point.

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