The Bully Leader is exactly what it sounds like. That aggressive jerk who pushes people into the locker just to make themselves look cool. They have some power and they will use it. They will use it to destroy the self-esteem and self-worth of others. Why? Who knows? Because they were bullied once. Because they’re really insecure. Because they take some sick, twisted pleasure in hurting others. It really shouldn’t matter why. It matters what they’re doing to your organization and leadership culture
The Bullies come in all colors and stripes and organizations seem to have a lot of tolerance for them. They must because there may not be many they are so damaging that no one understands why they are still there. Bullies in leadership roles have employees focus slavishly on anything but the organizational objectives, then reprimand them for not meeting the organizational objective. When you work overtime and weekends to finally meet the organizational objective they scream about something ridiculous because they are filled with anger and resentment, the tie that double binds.
Most organizations have a handful of Bullies who, for some unknown reason, are protected as sacred characters. Some Bullies don’t even have any official organizational authority. Sometimes they swoop in and take other people’s work. “No, that’s mine!”. They literally steal other people’s work just to have it for themselves. They just have a knack for getting in the way of good work and demanding that everyone do what they say. And people do!! Not sure why, though in fact, some organizations will punish anyone who stands up to the Bully. As big a mystery as it is, Bullies are often protected in organizations. We suspect it’s some mis-assessment of Bully behavior as strong behavior. Anyway, why not just put the Bully role on the Org Chart? If nothing else it would make for an interesting recruitment campaign--Wanted: ”high school graduate with 20-years’ experience creating difficulty for others.
The successful candidate will be charged with thwarting success of others, getting in the way of progress, and disrupting meetings. Making life miserable for clients and customers is also de- sired. Prefer someone with a severe personality disorder who can function independently of the organization’s mission. Must thrive on being hated. Will consider younger trainees with proven success in messing up their families”.
The thing with bullies is that there are all sorts of bullies. Here’s just a few subtypes:
1. The Aggressive Bully: You know them as the downright assholes who treat other people poorly. Really poorly. People are afraid of these bullies. These are the people that steal your lunch money, shove you into a locker, make you endure relentless torment and instill fear. Your fear is their power.
I worked with a woman that everyone even called “The Bully”. She would stomp and storm around the office. Was loud, rude and had no idea what personal space was. That was one of her tactics. She would even bullied her boss. She would slap her hands down on desks and hover over people physically and wouldn’t let up until she got her way. That’s all it was about, getting her way. Ahhhh.. why was she allowed to stay. Excuse #2 and #3 combined. She got shit done and had some technical skill. For the record, there are good leaders who can executive and have good knowledge and skills. They don’t spit and spatter over others or walk people backwards until they reach the wall and are stuck listening to their mean and degrading wrath.
Aggressive bullies act like they own the people on their team. They can be identified by the over-use of the phrase my people as in, hey, nobody talks to MY people; Fred tried to steal one of MY people for HIS team; I look out for MY people but they don’t appreciate me. Trust us, they’re not using the “my people” phrase out of a sense of pride, affection, and kinship. They actually think that people are property, inden- tured servants, or slaves of the leader and that’s how they deserve to be treated. Work-life balance is that people can go home at the end of the day and work there, too. They may even tell their employees every day that they should feel lucky to even have a job. And, by the way, since the job pays for the employees’ home, the home belongs to the company. So, MY people better plug their computer in at home because I will need something from MY people on Sunday morning. The Aggressive Bully advocates that employee retention is about making sure employees are too busy and too tired to even look for another job; and, furthermore, if we can beat them into submission, and erode their self-worth they won’t think they could work anywhere else anyway. That’s the way to keep people working hard forever.
2. The Passive Aggressive Bully. These bullies are also mean and degrading but unlike the aggressive bully they hide it with fake niceness. These bullies are very dangerous because they are the “snarky”, snappy and bitter but can smile and say something nice right after they slice your throat with a passive put down. It’s abusive because they wrap their toxic aggression in backhanded compliments and at times can appear like they care about you. You are never quite sure what hit you, you just know you got hurt.
3.The Frenemy Bully - These bullies have a more passive exterior but are motivated with the same aggressions as the Aggressive Bully and the Passive Aggressive Bully. These bullies appear to be nice and can even make you believe they have your back. They may even act like your friend or ally but it’s really just about control. They are using the alliance to control you and what you do. They are using the friendship to keep you close so they can make sure you are not a threat to them.