You know the type: They use anger and fear to wield power over others. Here's how to diffuse the situation before it escalates.
If there isn't one in your office now, surely you've worked with one before. This particular employee is best described as the office bully--someone who uses anger to torment other employees.
David N. Peck, former COO at Charles Schwab Institutional and now an executive coach, in a recent blog post refers to this type as the "Minor Petty Tyrant."
Author Carlos Castaneda, who coined the phrase, described MPTs like so: "Tormentors who are fearsome and inflict misery, but do not hold any real power over life or death of others."
They may not hold any power, but make no mistake, they can cause a world of hurt if left unchecked. Obviously, if the abuse is serious enough, the person should be fired. But, if it's just a poor attitude then it's all about how you react to them. And that can be a slippery slope.
"At our best with them, we gain strength by practicing boundaries, healthy choices, detachment from ego and empathy for the pain of others," he says. "At our worst, they fuel our distraction, ongoing stress, frustration, anger, fear, dread, loathing, etc."
Below, check out Peck's four tips on how to deal with these "wounded souls."
Empathize with them.
The first thing you need to do is understand the MPT's self image. Peck says it's common for these types to be consumed with self-loathing. "It's helpful to know that in your bones," he writes. "See their pain and empathize with it to the point you are sure their behavior isn't about you; it's about them--and your empathy can lead you to feel more grounded and stable around them."
Leave your ego at the door.
Don't let your temper get away from you. "Escalation with an MPT--responding to their bad behavior with your own--is never a good idea. It depletes your own power and doesn't solve the problem," Peck warns. "Yet it's our ego that wants to play that game. Going toe to toe in a calm, clear way is strength, while escalation is only going to make matters worse. Finding peace with yourself when faced with their stormy bad behavior is a skill worth developing."
This will help you let go of your own feelings. "Get to know their specific behavior patterns that trigger you to become stressed, angry, or fearful, and master your own ability to be aware of those triggers in real time," he writes. "When it happens, you can change the narrative of what you tell yourself to something like, 'They're under my skin (again), but I am not in danger. This feeling is not a fact, and I can let it go.'"
When all else fails, reach out to a neutral third party and lay out all the facts. "When you are at a loss, feel trapped/unable to deal with the situation in a healthy way, you must remember to ask for help from a trusted advisor, coach, mentor, friend, or someone else you think might offer a different perspective and help you make good choices," he writes.
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