A great leader creates a positive work culture with empathy, humility, teamwork, and the idea that empowering employees not only shows them respect but also encourages productivity. It’s building people versus power-tripping people, looking out for the organization and the team versus one’s ego.
When a manager isn’t a leader, the entitled power-tripping can play out in such ways as:
- Pulling rank
- Ignoring issues that matter to employees
- Positioning themselves above grunt work
- Denying employees opportunities without explanation
When the boss isn’t the power-tripper
When the power-tripper is a co-worker, often he or she will just take the power. I call this move the “power grab,” and I’ve witnessed it so many times both on the job and in my volunteer work. Someone on your level (or in the case of volunteer work, any level) simply starts acting like he or she can boss you around. It’s a gross move that sets up a hierarchy and often sets the stage for bullying. When you stand up to it, your self-respect is often met with gaslighting, as the power-tripper tries to excuse the behavior by acting like you’re crazy.
So how do we deal with it? First, remember that you aren’t the problem. Second, you can set boundaries by sending back a clear message that you’re neither intimidated nor confused, according to UK Psychologist Aryanne Oade. This process involves:
- Recognizing the bullying behavior.
- Being clear that it’s bullying by feeling confused and asking the right questions.
- Protecting your boundaries in response to the aggression and intimidation.
- Remaining assertive against the grooming instead of remaining silent or submissive.
Here are the steps to set boundaries with a bully:
- Be confused. If you’re confused in the moment, you’re being groomed.
- Choose to speak up. Don’t miss the moment. “The very fact of articulating a clear and relaxed response will change the dynamic evolving between the target and the bully and send a message to the bully that the target knows what they are doing and knows how to protect themselves,” says Oade.
- Ask for clarification or directly disagree with the bully. It’s not enough to simply say something. What you say is also important. You want to give the bully consequences to deal with in the moment instead of staying confused and anxious.
If the bully is indirect, ask him what he means. Let him explain himself.
If the bully is direct, directly disagree with him to show you have your own mind.
I’ve seen choosing power and control versus teamwork all too often, even among those who support healthy workplaces. It’s important we remind bullies of any kind how we are to be treated to reinforce what healthy relationships look like.