Corporate Bullies vs Corporate Psychopaths.

In my last blog I began by commenting on an ABC podcast published by Lisa Leong which was about corporate psychopaths.  At the end of her podcast Lisa suggested listening to another

“I lost sleep; I’d vomit before going to work.” The human cost of bullying in the workplace.

Forty-five years of marriage have turned me into an obedient husband so I have just listened to the podcast.  The promo for blog says that workplace bullying is a complex and insidious problem that one in 10 of us in Australia experience at some stage in our careers.  I would say this estimate is far too low and the figure would be much higher.

In the podcast Professor Michelle Tuckey argues that corporate bullying is not interpersonal but a result of organisational structure and culture.  Her argument would carry greater weight if two of the victims interviewed, Jessica and Neil, cited their own cases as interpersonal rather than structural bullying.  While I am to first admit some industries are more prone than others toxic leaders are pervasive.

Also I think Lisa is making a common mistake; she is conflating bullies and psychopaths.  Bullies are egotistical: they are boastful, vain and opinionated.  They suffer from I-strain.  They talk a lot about themselves and their achievements.  If they think someone is weak they just bulldoze them.

Psychopaths are egocentric and only listen to one radio station WIIFM: What’s In It For Me.  These people are often Machiavellian, sadistic, and narcissistic.  They lack compassion for their fellow man.  However, they do spend a lot of time trying to work out what makes someone tick.  They imagine walking in their shoes.  They see themselves as playing a game and working out how to gain an advantage over someone or use them.  People often think that empathy means sympathy.  It doesn’t.

One of the great strengths of the 7MTF profiling system is that it separates out the psychopaths and the bullies.

When these two factors are combined you have someone who is both charming and assertive.  Is it any surprise that they climb the corporate ladder?  What then determines their leadership style is the level of Regulator/Normal in their temperament.  If it is weak, they will exhibit the behaviour of the corporate bully or corporate psychopath or indeed both.  If it is strong, they will have will become a popular leader or successful business person.

Organisations should be looking for potential managers with above average levels of Politician or GoGetter/Hustler but importantly giving them training to recognise first the weaknesses of these two components and secondly to lift their level of self-control by teaching what are habits they can adopt.  This is what I do in my workshops and coaching sessions.

The core emotion every manager needs is the desire to win. If this desire is strong, you will have a manager who is a self-confident, decisive leader, who can defend his or her ideas vigorously. Unfortunately, along with these traits you will also have someone who is arrogant, insensitive, domineering, prejudiced and dogmatic. Learning to moderate these negative traits is stage II of Emotional Intelligence; unfortunately, few people receive the training that is necessary and end up being perceived and acting as corporate bullies.

This blog was first published on LinkedIn on 6 April 2022



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