Home' HR Monthly : July 2015 Contents PERSPECTIVE
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DIFFICULT BOSSES ARE HARD ENOUGH, BUT SOME OF
your colleagues can seem more like the enemy than members of
the same team.
The four most common workplace peers to generate unnecessary
difficulties are those who are hypercompetitive, the bullies, those
who try and freeze you out of what’s going on, and those who seek
to gain recognition and credit for work you have done.
The hypercompetitive ones are perhaps the easiest to deal
with. Broker a conversation over coffee and probe the person’s
motivations and energetic directions. Try and gauge the roots of
any problem between the two of you, and position yourself as an
ally, and not a threat. You may need to build and invoke alliances
with others to combat the energy flowing in unproductive
directions – because if this behaviour is disturbing you, chances
are it’s impacting others too. If you are the target of a peer’s
competitiveness, you will need to try and demobilise them with
some public charm offensives, and not let yourself experience
anxiety by suffering in silence. Rather, you need to speak up in
your own defence, and best interests.
Bullies are tough to deal with, notwithstanding that there is now
greater legislative protection under our federal workplace laws.
Bullying generally occurs because of feelings of inferiority, or fears
related to that, or a desire to control you for their benefit. One
early option is to uncover the person’s motivations and objectives,
and see if it’s possible to realign your objectives with theirs. You
may also need to garner support elsewhere, and seek out the
bully’s other targets. It’s worth observing whether the bully’s
disruptive tactics fit a predictable pattern, and whether techniques
to break those patterns can be developed. Also avoid rising to
the bait yourself. Sometimes you will need to go toe-to-toe with
the bully, and expose their behaviour, preferably with a witness
present who will back you up from their own experiences.
Further, you will often need to ignore the bully’s questions,
call them out on their attempt to disrupt, and then make it clear
you are pressing on with what you were doing, and why. That is
likely to disarm and deflate them by discounting the relevance of
their actions, because one objective of bullying behaviour is to
intimidate and prevent you from doing something.
Clique formers and credit thieves can also be tough characters
to manage. A clique is often a syndicated form of bullying,
so you may need to enlist different coalitions of your own.
Their objective is to win the hearts and minds of the bosses
to get either the best work, and/or employment conditions.
You need to assess what they are targeting, and their relative
skills and culture, so that you can determine whether you need
to cooperate with them (at least in part), or develop different
relationships at a more senior level to combat them.
Credit thieves can be dealt with more directly. They will
usually aim to keep close relationships with you and then select
tactical opportunities to claim credit for what you are doing,
as and when results are emerging. You will need to make them
aware you know what they are up to, but also discontinue the
blood flow of information to them, and tell them so, because of
It’s better to state that these aren’t operable ground rules
of engagement and seek to end the behaviour
before it percolates too far, as it is something
that can wound all parties if left unchecked.
With globalisation and the more
intensive competition arising, HR
practitioners often find themselves in the
firing line. Whether you are dealing with
difficult bosses or colleagues, there is a new
and higher obligation to articulate what you
are doing and why, show a preparedness to
accept and drive change, manage
conf lict constructively, and to
build dynamic individual and
group net works in order to
achieve, but also to mitigate any
risks related to that. Including
WORKMATES FROM HELL
There are four types of difficult colleagues. Learn to identify, understand and neutralise
them – and work life could become easier
BY Peter wilson am, AHRI CHAIRMAN
To read past Perspective
columns by Peter Wilson, visit
18/06/2015 2:12 pm
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