When you write career articles, you find yourself the recipient of many great books from some of the world’s best publishers. Given the volume of published works in a given month (let alone a year), it is rare that any of these titles will actually pique your interest, so when one does, you find inspiration to further pontificate on the matter. Of course, it helps when the authors of the work are as well esteemed as the writers of Bullies, Tyrants & Impossible People: How To Beat Them Without Joining Them.
The book, written by Ronald M. Shapiro and Mark A. Jankowski, offers a neat four-point plan for resolving conflicts and defusing trouble in your life. Essentially, the four points are:
- Neutralize your emotions
- Identify the type of bully you are facing
- Control the encounter
- Explore your options
- I refer to the four-point plan as a neat one because it spells out NICE — a fitting acronym. For while this plan seems intuitive and interesting in theory, it puts the victim on the defensive more than anything else. Alas, Shapiro’s system works in theory, but, upon examining his case studies and examples, one has to wonder if his strategy actually begets more conflicts.In other words, Bullies, Tyrants & Impossible People teaches people how to manage being bullied, instead of teaching them how to change the dynamics of their personality to avoid being bullied in the first place.Allow me to preface my rationale with the following observation: Mr. Shapiro [I presume the practical one of the two] is called “one of baseball’s most respected agent-attorneys;” Mr. Jankowski [I presume the theoretical one of the two] has lectured at both Johns Hopkins University and the venerable Wharton School, and boasts a track record of consulting gigs with some of the top Fortune 500 companies.
The best defense is a good offense
So both men have likely worked in the kinds of sports and business situations that require a team to go on the offensive to win and destroy the competition. Yes, I know, defense wins championships. But to strike at an enemy, you need a sound offensive game plan. Realistically, when someone attacks you, you should not be interested in minimizing the damage they inflict. You need to develop a strategy to attack back, weaken them considerably and ensure that they understand the heavy toll they will risk by preying on you. That is how defenses win championships. They already know the counterpunch they will strike their opponent with.There are those with inherent power, and those who derive power from their position…
I’m certainly not advising anyone to probe an attack dog. But what I am about to point you to is a system to recognize that bullies are probably not the feared pit bulls they like to project themselves as. In fact, in business particularly, bullies are usually bullies as natural extensions of their personalities (in that they have something they are self-conscious about or lack confidence about), but they get away with bullying by virtue of their Power (note the capital P).
As a result, it is imperative to analyze and assess the source of Power first and foremost.
Different types of power
Power can be embedded in one’s Personal disposition, or it can be attributed to one’s Position
Without expanding on all its forms just yet, it’s useful to note that Position Power can be broken into at least four sub-categories:
- Legitimate Position Power
- Reward Position Power
- Coercive Position Power
- Information Position Power
- Forms of Personal Power can be similarly broken down into:
- Rational Personal Power
- Expert Personal Power
- Referent Personal Power
- Charisma Personal Power
- If the person you are in conflict with is fair, honest and reasonable to begin with, then you will undeniably have a hard time coming out on top. Of course, this article deals mainly with bullies; in other words, people who are not necessarily fair, honest or reasonable.When someone has Personal Power, it is very hard to beat them in a conflict. After all, if someone has Rational Personal Power, they can out-argue you. If someone has Expert Personal Power and knows more than you about a particular topic, they will beat you with facts. If someone has Referent Personal Power, they are (fairly or unfairly) well-liked, and will always get others to side with them. Finally, if someone has Charisma Personal Power and you are in conflict with them, then once again, you will be out of luck.Ideally, you will be the one with Personal Power, conflicting with someone with Position Power. In this scenario, their power can be taken away from them, as it might be hard for them to gain Personal Power.If the bully you face is in possession of Position Power, then you can weaken and defeat him. After all, the president of a country has Legitimate Power by virtue of his position, but if there are grounds for censure or impeachment, he will be weakened and will have less basis to bully his subordinates. If someone has the means to bribe you, he might have Reward Power, but as his wealth diminishes, his power will wane. Parents have Coercive Power in that they can punish a child. But over time, the child grows into an adult and a parent loses power over him. Finally, some have Information Power, but in the day of the Internet where a wealth of information is at one’s fingertips, that source of power is useless in the long run.
Personal power trumps position power
Consequently, the goal in life is to gain Personal Power, not Position Power.Now, some of you might stop me in my tracks and ask: What if the person who is bullying you has Personal Power?
Over the course of history, people with Personal Power have rarely proven to be bullies. Such people — due to or despite their ambition, tenacity, drive, determination, and perseverance — have proven to be fair, honest, honorable, reasonable, and, above all else, leaders.
If you find yourself in conflict with such a person, then in all likelihood, the conflict is healthy — neither one is a bully. These are people that you should associate and align yourself with in order to defeat those who merely have power as a source of their position.
E-mail of the week
When do you know it is time to leave your job?
I would love to pontificate on this one, but the best answer I could give you would be to paraphrase something that Steve Jobs mentioned in the commencement speech he gave at Stanford University. He essentially told students to treat everyday as if it were the last one of their lives. By doing so, you force yourself to do something you enjoy. I’m not telling you to be unreasonably impatient with your career, but if you were about to live the last day of your life, wouldn’t you want to be content with what you do? If you are unhappy and believe that you are wasting your talents or that your employer is not recognizing your value, then it might be time to consider your options.
Ash Karbasfrooshan is also the author of Course To Success, available at www.CourseToSuccess.com. His new book, The Confessions of Alexander The Great: 33 Lessons in Greatness, is available at www.AlexanderTheBook.com.