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How to Deal With a Management Bully

12/22/2014 12:35 EST | Updated 02/21/2015 05:59 EST
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Very angry manager firing one of his young employees

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Does your manager have the traits of a bully?

You may be dealing with a Hirogen Manager, an organization's hunter that sees his or her employees as prey.

Here is the test. Are the following quotes familiar to you?

  1. "Who are you to question my abilities?"
  2. "Actually, they tried to limit our knowledge. They didn't want us to become self-sufficient."
  3. "Never let your prey control the hunt"

These are quotes from a Star Trek Voyager episode on the Hunters known as Hirogens. On Star Trek, the Hirogens are manipulative hunters always in search of prey so that they are rewarded by its trophy. As I was enjoying the reruns, it struck me that I had heard these quotes before and it had nothing to do with space travel. It had everything to do with toxic managers who bullied those around them.

That is when I realized these managers are Hirogen Managers!

Such a manager might say, "Never let your employee control the work!" Right?!

The Hirogen Manager's traits would include the following:

  • Self-centred -- motivated by what makes them look good.
  • Controlling -- enjoys power and readily manipulates those around them to feed this obsession.
  • Politically astute -- cunning and good at hiding their actions from those with authentic power.
  • High regard of own ability -- rarely admits their mistakes and threatened by the success of others.
  • Regularly takes credit [trophies] over others -- has a low regard for the ability of others.
  • Manage by fear -- linked to their affinity for power and manipulation.
  • Believes knowledge is power -- does not readily share information. Only shares the bare minimum creating a dependency of those around them.
  • It is all about the next trophy -- actions are self-serving. They need to win.

Unfortunately, many have experienced working for, or with, such an individual. This individual can easily suck the life out of you and the organization as a whole. They nurture a controlling and toxic environment. The challenge is how do you deal with such an individual?

In an ideal world, a Hirogen Manager and bully would be counselled and/or removed. However, so often, this is not the case. Most organizations are notoriously slow to respond to these situations. So what do you do in the interim?

Here are a few coping tips:

  1. Stay true to your values. Do not make this person's values your own. Keeping true to yourself gives you a level of control and dignity. Don't let someone take that away from you.
  2. Own your performance. When you work for an organization, the products and ideas may end up being owned by the organization and in this case, your manager. However, your performance is yours to own. Be the best you can be. Try to give as little room as possible to fault your performance.
  3. Identify what motivates this individual. By better understanding their motivation and priorities, you can better prepare how to work and relate to this individual.
  4. Keep this individual informed. Updates and communication are key to survival especially as this person sees information as a form of currency.
  5. Document your work and interactions. Documentation keeps it factual and relevant. You may need to draw upon your records, should you want to seek help.
  6. Develop good relationships and networks in the organization. A good network can be very supportive and invaluable. An organization is made up of people. The Hirogen Manager does not have to become the only person in your world, although he or she may want to dominate it. Connect with peers, friends and indirect managers. Keep these relationships healthy to remain "sane" and productive.
  7. Do not ignite emotional public confrontations. Hirogen managers will just go for the kill. When providing direct feedback, you need to be objective, calm and factual.
  8. Use the organization's 360 reviews. If the organization has a 360 review system in place, use it. When the feedback is consistent from enough staff members, the organization should respond appropriately.
  9. Seek help. Use your network and your Human Resource department for support.
  10. Leave. Perhaps not a coping tip but certainly an option. If all of the above fails, the environment may become too stifling for you to grow and operate. You may not have any other choice but to find another job and leave. Do your homework before accepting the next job venture and look for the signs before accepting.

So look out for those Hirogens and prepare yourself.

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Beat Workplace Bullying

What has been your experience? What coping methods have you used?