Art of spotting and managing office pests
Illustration: Simon Bosch
IS there a toxic culture in your workplace with the boss or another staff member driving you to distraction?
Discrimination, harassment, bullying, corruption and unethical behaviour can go unchecked if management decides that other redeeming features mean the perpetrator is too valuable to let go.
A new book titled Vulture Cultures by organisational psychologist Leanne Faraday-Brash has identified the personality traits of such characters and how best to tackle them.
The book is targeted primarily at big business and government but the author said the problem was prevalent in all types of organisations.
''In a small organisation, where people are right on top of each other and don't have anywhere else to go and can't ask for a transfer, it means they are even more vulnerable to bad behaviour or poor leadership,'' she said.
''There might be some who think they want to cut the tangled parachute and get rid of this person but there will always be someone, usually more senior, who says that they are the best salesperson or that the principal client absolutely loves them.''
Here are the personality traits and how to confront them:
They believe the world exists for them and protect their perilously inflated egos at all costs. If they decide to like you, hold on to your hat because it's likely to be a wild and exciting ride. Don't ignore them, box them into a corner or attempt to name and shame them publicly as they may lash out.
They know a lot but decide it would weaken their position if they shared their knowledge. They may have been burnt before but the more you acknowledge and appreciate them, the more likely you are to break down their defences - but it may take a while.
The Socialised Psychopath
They are devoid of conscience and have little desire to be liked or fit in. Often highly intelligent, they manipulate with ease. Remain objective and don't get sucked in. If you can work alongside them and remain determinedly unaffected, you may be OK.
They need ego ''strokes'' and recognition all the time. Their behaviour is most florid when sidelined, marginalised or ignored. Don't ignore them, or they will continue to thrust themselves into your orbit.
Telling the bully very early in the piece that the behaviour is unacceptable, is a breach of corporate values, or is personally offensive may nip things in the bud. Be firm and assertive and fake it until you make it. Do not plead or ask: demand, but not aggressively.
These people are dinosaurs and we know what happened to dinosaurs. If they are directly affecting you, remind them that it goes against company values. When a close alpha male colleague pulls up a member of the dinosaur tribe and says the person is being sexist, it may carry a lot more weight.
The Rigid Control Freak
They can be supercritical and authoritarian. You may need to be assertive and respectfully advise the person that you have it covered and that you find their behaviour intrusive. You could suggest seeing the manager and discussing boundaries.
They lose it because they find little or no control when tested. You can say that, if the person doesn't lower their voice and can't discuss more productively (don't say rationally), then you'll come back later. State your point of view when they run out of puff. Resist the temptation to say ''Are you done yet?''
Wears every challenge and stress on their sleeve and face - and destabilises others. Be sympathetic without being sucked into the vortex. If you are cool, calm and collected, they will work out that you are not going to be much fun and move on to others who feed the drama.
The Passive-Aggressive Manipulator
Divide and conquer is their way of life. Less likely to throw large rocks and more likely to blow poison darts. If you can depersonalise the nastiness and not give them a reaction, they may get tired of the sport, but that takes a lot of grace under fire.