Leadership Tip: How to Engage the Petty Tyrant at Work and Win

Today’s leadership tip is about something that I think just about everybody has to find and figure out what to do with at some point in their work life.

What I like to call, the petty tyrant. It’s the person who can make it crazy, because they’d like to steal your ideas and then claim them as their own.  They like to tell you that they can’t get the work done. So, you have to do it and then they come in at the last minute, and they say, “Well, I’m glad that I had that great idea,” and it goes on and on and on.

So, every company I’ve ever worked with has some petty tyrants in there. Petty tyrants use psychology to really make you go wacko and if you get into what they’re saying, you’re going to have some problems.

So, you have to be able to stay far away and look at them. You have to observe what’s going on at first.  I know people like to be helpful and kind and give ideas to someone else, but once you start seeing that the other person is really a grabber not a giver, it’s time for you to speak up and be cool about it. So, here are four tips. I wrote them down, so I won’t forget them.

The first one is to show some empathy why you’re saying they’re absolute jerk. So, why should I show empathy? Well, I want you to know that they’re often in pain and they often live in fear. So, I know your next thought is, so why should I care? Well, it’s okay if you care. It’s okay if you don’t but you have to know about this. So, you know what to do with it.

So, the first thing you do when you have a petty tyrant to work with, is acknowledge them. Acknowledge whatever they’ve done. Often, they’ve worked wherever it is for a much longer time than you have and they feel you may be coming in to usurp their place. So, one of the things to do is acknowledge them for anything. I mean, acknowledge that they’ve done a good job in the past. Acknowledge that they’re created something you can like.

It will begin to limit the amount of fear in the room with them when you talk with them. The next thing and this is the most important is, don’t play their game. Don’t play the “could’ve, should’ve, would’ve.” Don’t play the “but I told you.” Simply say, “What’s going on isn’t working and you begin to look from your perspective. You’re staying very centered in this.”

So, you’re not going to play into their game because they want to suck your power and they want you to be afraid of them. Don’t let it happen. Don’t play their game.

The next thing is, create boundaries.

The next time we go in a meeting and you say to me, “Oh my goodness! Can you help me with this?” Say, “No, I told you that that wouldn’t work for me,” and the fourth is, if everything else fails, get a third party to sit with the two of you. It may be somebody from HR. It may be a colleague. It may be a coach, somebody that the two of you can agree to talk with.

So, how workable is this? I’d say it’s about a 70/30 that you can tame that tyrant and make them become a friend. 70/30 though that you will become stronger in what you’re doing and feel good about yourself because you won’t play their game. You have shown empathy and you’ve created boundaries and worst case is, don’t you be the one to leave. Go and talk with somebody about what’s going on because I’m telling you, you’re probably not the only one that they’re using. They’re really users. So, be careful, be kind, be strong and go for it in your career.

You’re going to find a tyrant somewhere or other make sure that when you do, you can’t tame them.

Thanks so much.  Talk to you soon.

Sylvia Lafair

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