Making Your Team Work

Practical advice on how you can change your team for the better.

8 Bullies Who are Really Weaklings

Shows of strength sometimes mask real insecurity. Spot the signs.

Bully or weakling?
Sometime the bully is really a wimp

I recently posted a blog about the pitfalls of sarcasm (read it here). Sarcasm is one of those bullying techniques that uses a show of strength to mask weakness.  That got me thinking of all the behaviors I see on teams that intimidate other team members when really they mask poor esteem and lack of confidence. 

Here are a few other signs of weakness you might misinterpret as strength…

  • The One-upper. You worked 12 hours yesterday, well I worked 14!  Not impressive, just a sign that the person is unsure about his contribution.
  • The Know-it-All. The person with an answer for everything, no matter how obscure.  Confident people are comfortable admitting what they don’t know.
  • The Knowledge Hoarder.  The person who protects knowledge and therefore seems to be almighty. The confident person shares knowledge without worrying that a teammate will make more of it than she did.
  • The Incredible Hulk. The person who responds to confrontation with bursts of anger. Even Bruce Banner would admit the Hulk persona is a sign of weakness, not strength.
  • The Guerrilla Warrior.  The teammate who wages war on ideas behind the scenes.  Bullying people one by one might seem intimidating, but it’s a sign the person doesn’t have the strength or courage to fight the battle in the daylight.   
  • The Devil’s Advocate. I’m just playing the devil’s advocate here.  Truly playing the devil’s advocate is great (instructions here). Hiding behind the role of devil’s advocate when you actually disagree with the point is a cop out.  
  • The Multi-Tasker. I’m too important to sit in this meeting without doing other things.  No, you’re just worried about not being important, busy, or relevant.
  • The Controller. The leader who micro manages every piece of minutiae.  This is often a sign that the leader doesn’t know how to add value at the appropriate level.   

Don’t be afraid of these people. They are using basic, animalistic defenses to mask insecurity.  Once you know that, you can get over your intimidation and keep the team moving forward. 

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As an aside, I found some really cool examples of this behavior in nature.  Check out the horned lizard, puffer fish, and pangolin.  Got any of these creatures on your team?

Liane Davey, Ph.D., researches team effectiveness. She is the author of You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done.

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