Home' HR Monthly : June 2016 Contents 6
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 hyper-competitive,
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 hyper-competitive ones are perhaps the easiest to deal
with. Broker a conversation over coffee and probe the person's
motivations and energetic directions. Try and probe the roots
of any problem between the two of you, and position yourself
as an ally in this, and not a threat. You may need to build and
invoke alliances with others to combat the energy flowing into
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 probe 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 in doing that.
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 take the bait yourself. Sometimes you
will need to go toe-to-toe with the bully, and call them out on
their behaviour, preferably with a witness present, who will
back you up from their own experiences.
You will often need to ignore the bully's questions, or draw
attention to what they are attempting 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 an objective of bullying
behaviour is to intimidate you out of what you are doing.
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 co-operate with them (at least in part),
or develop different relationships at a more senior level to
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 it is because
of your mistrust. Then it's better to state that
these aren't good 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
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
conflict constructively, and to build
dynamic individual and group
networks in order to achieve, but
also to mitigate any risks related to
that. Including your job.
How to recognise, and deal with, challenging behaviour in the workplace.
BY PETER WILSONAM, AHRI CHAIRMAN
To read past Perspective columns by
Peter Wilson, visit hrmonline.com.au
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