Why Do People Harass and Bully?
Brinkman and Kirshner (2003: 7) argue that depending upon goals and intentions of people in an organisation for example certain personality characteristics and behaviours emerge depending upon what a task may entail. They claim that there are 4 intentions that people use in their lives in order to function in undertaking tasks. They include:
- Get it done
- Get it right
- Get along, and the most powerful of all
- Get appreciated.
Most people know how to balance these intentions to derive success or to reduce their stress levels. However some people in their drive to succeed twist these intentions and adopt personalities and behaviours that are threatening and controlling over others. Brinkman and Kirshner (2003: 15-16) further identified what could happen if any of those intents were threatened, and the table below reflects their contentions:
Threat to Intent: May not get it done
Associated Behaviour: Controlling. Will take over and push ahead.
Threat to Intent: May get it wrong
Associated Behaviour: ‘Perfectionist’. They will see every flaw and potential error.
Threat to Intent: Want to get along with others but fear they will be left out.
Associated Behaviour: Approval seeking. They sacrifice to please others.
Threat to Intent: Fear of not being appreciated.
Associated Behaviour: Attention getting. The person becomes difficult to ignore.
It is possible to see from Brinkman’s and Kirshner’s (2003) contentions here that that this is a way to understand how a bullying person may develop their thoughts and behaviours. For example most people are keen to get their work done or ensure that the work of others’ is done as they like it to be done. Brinkman and Kirshner identified three problem personalities and 3 associated difficult controlling behaviours that are exhibited respectively by each when the need to get things done is required.
“The Tank. On a mission to get things done, the Tank is unable to slow down and may push you around or run right over you in the process. The Tank has no inhibitions about ripping you apart personally, yet its nothing personal: you just happened to get in the way? Tank behaviour (sic.) ranges from mild pushiness to outright aggression.
The Sniper. When things aren’t getting done to his or her satisfaction, the sniper attempts to control you through embarrassment or humiliation. Most people live in fear of public embarrassment — a fact that snipers use to their advantage, by making loaded statements and sarcastic comments at times when you are most vulnerable.
The Know-It-All. The Know-It-All controls people and events by dominating the conversation with lengthy, imperious arguments and eliminates opposition by finding flaws and weaknesses to discredit other points of view. Because Know-It-Alls are actually knowledgeable and competent, most people are quickly worn down by their strategy, and finally just give up.”
Do you recognise these sorts of characteristics in people you work with? Do you have some of those characteristics yourself? People may have some hybrid version — a combination of these characteristic behaviours as well.
Brinkman and Kirshner (2003: 7-8) argue that in the process in which some people just want to get things done, their controlling behaviours increase. The more obsessively they want things done the more the controlling behaviours increase either by adopting a Tank, a Sniper or a Know-It-All personality.