Thoughts on Stopping Bullies Rising to the Top

Producer Harvey Weinstein (L), actress Cameron Diaz, actor Leonardo Di Caprio, director Martin Scorsese

The BBC recently posted a blog by one of my favourite authors Jeffrey Pfeffer Stopping bullies rising to the top.  In the blog Pfeffer tries to answer the question: if the data on the effects of workplace abuse are so clear, why do so many companies hire and promote manipulative and selfish people?

The key finding of his research was that when your own rewards depend on what others do, you evaluate and judge the people you work with more strongly on their competence rather than sociability and warmth.  One reason people downplay interpersonal warmth and interpersonal skills at work is because they instead choose to analyse the ability of others to do the job.  Another issue is that people often presume warmth and competence are negatively correlated—in part because if people are nice, it is presumed it is because they have to be.  The feeling that if they were any good, they wouldn’t need to be as kind and supportive to others.  According to Pfeffer the problem is not just that people downplay the importance of warmth and good behaviour at work when their earnings depend on the performance of others, they often equate “bad behaviour” with higher levels of ability.

While I agree in part with Pfeffer’s hypothesis I think there is another key issue and that is the temperament of the manager/leader.  The temperament model I teach in my workshops is the seven factor 7MTF/Humm.  The five most common factors match the Big Five model but it is other two factors that distinguish the manager/leader.

The first of these two factors is the Politician.  This person is dominated by the drive to win and has a strength and a determination that some of the other people may find difficult to deal with.  These people are assertive, opinionated and direct and love making decisions.

The second key factor is the GoGetter/Hustler.  This person is dominated by a drive for material success. They enjoy making money and the things that money will buy. They are shrewd, entrepreneurial, and charming.  They are very loyal to their own families and team. But mostly they’re loyal to themselves and they will work hard to make sure they get what they believe they’re entitled to.

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 low they will exhibit the behaviour of the corporate bully or corporate psychopath or indeed both.  If it is high they will have will become a popular leader or successful business person.

Pfeffer argues we should be looking for leaders with emotional intelligence.  I agree but define it further.  We should be looking for people with above average levels of Politician or 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.

This blog first published on LinkedIn 16 August 2018



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