Ways to Handle Misfits

Some ways to handle the alpha males, psychopaths, bullies, jerks, narcissists, etc

. Psychometric testing - the use of psychometric testing has the disadvantage of someone filling out a form about themselves. On the other hand, by asking the same questions in a number of different ways can help identify inconsistencies which may indicate that the candidate is not telling the truth.

. Use of high pressure scenario testing where a candidate makes decisions while being observed by a psychologist

. Check with recruitment research firm's network of contacts who can give a more objective assessment of someone's character rather than the friendly, nominated referees.

. Usually the offender is aiming his or her venom at people who are less powerful. They aim to make their target feel depressed, humiliated, de-energised or belittled, etc. The victim can have some of the following "irrational" thoughts

- "I will never get over this"

- "I must have done something wrong for this to happen to me"

- "everybody hates me"

Need to view these thoughts as hypotheses rather than facts and to develop a different, and more optimistic, frame for interpreting these encounters.

Some suggestions for handling these situations and developing a framework that protects mental and physical health, and enhances resilience include

i) confront the nasty person head-on, ie putting the person in his/her place and humiliating him/her. This approach is risky as it can be career changing and/or worsen the situation as it can engender more aggression. If you decide to use this approach, pick the right moment and be willing to take a chance.

ii) limit your exposure by physically escaping from the source of the stress, ie

"...First, by limiting how often and intensely you face their dirty looks and demeaning words, you suffer less direct damage. Second, anything that gains you even tiny bits of control can protect your sense of self, spirit and physical health..."

Robert Sutton, 2007

Using emails and conference calls can help reduce the face-to-face confrontations. On the other hand, this could reduce trust even further and increase mis-understanding.

Find pockets of sanity, such as rooms and/or people, where your exposure to bullying, etc is minimized. Some people form a network of like-minded people who meet regularly to support each other. This gives you a break from unpleasant behaviour. On the other hand, these networks do not have the power to stop the bad behaviour. Sometimes these networks can do more harm than good when they develop into "bitch sessions" as victims complain and feel powerless.

The ultimate escape is to leave the job or organisation, and work somewhere else that is more pleasant.

iii) change your mindset about what is happening to you, such as

- avoiding self-blame (realizing that the other person has a problem, not you; it is not your fault)

- hoping for the best but expecting the worst (need to be careful of unbridled optimism as it can be a recipe for continual disappointment as there is expectation that the attacker will suddenly apologize, or beg forgiveness, or at least start treating you with respect, etc.. Thus you are setting yourself up for repeated disappointment and frustration. It is claimed that if you keep expecting good things to happen but they never do, you will suffer constant unhappiness. The best way to handle this is to keep your expectations low but to continually believe that things will improve. As a result, you are not surprised or upset by your tormentor's nastiness)

- developing indifference and developing emotional detachment (passion can be an overrated virtue in organisational life and indifference is underrated. In many jobs, especially in unpleasant workplaces, survival and ability to provide for their families are top priorities with employees. To handle unpleasant workplaces, many people develop indifference and emotional detachment to their jobs and organisations)

- importance of small victories (the ability to gain control of the seemingly trivial things of your life can have a huge impact on self-esteem for those who work in nasty workplaces. Furthermore, choose your battles. Use a "small wins strategy" to enhance your feeling of control, make you feel better and to chip away at the vicious culture surrounding you)

- learning when and how to simply "don't give a damn"

- view the difficulties as temporary, ie do not allow the nastiness to pervade and ruin the other elements of your life

How to handle narcissistic people

· Don't pick a fight or argue with them, as this will only motivate them to prove you are wrong at all costs.

· Don't make any comments that will be seen as threatening their superior judgement, their inflated view of their expertise or their infinite awareness

· As these people hold grave doubts about their abilities and are often moody, criticism is unlikely ever to be viewed as constructive; an angry, highly defensive response is more likely.

· remember, they will "use and abuse" you as long as you are serving a function; once you are no longer of assistance to them, they will dump you

· They will employ all their charm and energy to manage upwards

· Flattery is the best way to handle narcissists as it disarms them. Tell them how fantastic and smart they are; make them feel special and unique; allow them to steal your ideas

· You need to be proactive and don't allow them to take control

(for more details, see Challenges under Ingredient 1)

(sources: Gardiner Morse, 2004; Fiona Smith, 2005c; Fiona Carruthers, 2005b; Catherine Fox, 2006h; Paul Babiak et al, 2006; Robert Sutton, 2007; Hazel Parry, 2007; John Clarke, 2007; Peter Wells, 2007; Fiona Smith, 2010l; Sally Patten, 2014; Tony Boyd, 2015a)


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