When facing the Bully, Buffoon or Blowhard… would you be surprised if I suggested you kill them with kindness or maybe just rough them up a little?
Kindness is the long under-rated character trait of many of the most inspiring and admirable people we know. And kindness has always been a powerful tool for those of us who would like to build bridges rather than fences, in the workplace.
Most of my clients have a smattering of colleagues who choose to pursue success with a “divide and conquer” playbook and use one of three tactics to get their way; Bullying, Buffoonery or Blow-harding (not a word, but should be.) Their focus is on winning at all costs and measuring success by keeping others down. But their sheer determination to dominate, only gets them so far. Anyone who has witnessed the rise and fall of these misguided folks knows that they are merely running a sprint instead of finding true success in the marathon.
Though it may seem at times that they are “winning,” take a closer look and you will see that the ‘win” is fleeting – a temporary outpost on a long road of believing that the only way to win is if everyone else loses. They lack the skills to create long lasting success; finding points of agreement, collaboration and building relationships.
So how are you going to survive all 26.2 miles running alongside these naughty sprinters who are trying to trip you up along the way?
One of the best tools in your toolbox is your ability to be kind to anyone.
I know, that’s a hard one, but hear me out – kindness does not mean you should be a doormat or a victim. You can set clear boundaries for behavior and still be kind. And, the power that comes from responding with kindness, is palpable. If you are consistent, you might even convince the sprinter to join the marathon.
Here are some ideas;
The Buffoon: Part of the Buffoon’s tactic is to make you feel that you are not “enough.” He or she will attempt to marginalize you based on age, sex, knowledge base, background or connections. Keeping you wondering about your own shortcomings is the goal, so you will not notice his or her deficits. Assess your strengths and use that as a foundation for confidence. (hint: your strengths may be those characteristics the Buffoon focuses on as shortcomings.) Once you are confident, you will have the band width to respond to buffoonery with kindness.
The Blowhard: Notice what he or she claims to stand for and watch for their actions aligning with those beliefs. Do they claim to love “teamwork” but then cut everyone out when it comes to finalizing the deal? Do they volunteer to help on projects and then try to slough those promises off onto more vulnerable colleagues who feel they cannot say no? These are tell-tale signs that you have a blowhard on your hands. The blowhard is dancing as fast as he or she can and hoping no one notices that they are not grounded in any solid belief system. Can you find compassion for a person who is this far out of his or her league? It may be difficult, but if you can you will gain the power of “taking the high road” and not lowering yourself to his or her standards of behavior.
The Bully: Often these people interrupt, talk over colleagues and generally ignore those that they wish to marginalize. They are great big toddlers. So when you are being interrupted or talked over, imagine your colleague is 2 or 3 years old. Once you have that image, imagine how you would deal with a child if they were engaging in these behaviors. You would be calm, but set your boundaries. You would see the opportunity for growth. You would be firm. You would be compassionate. You would be kind.
Kindness allows for differing point of views without creating division.
Kindness sees people as having a blind spot, as opposed to being blind.
And you can be the leader of the pack using kindness to run the marathon with ease to the finish line.
Please share with me your thoughts and ideas about kindness as a leadership tool. As always, I am focused on helping executives and managers communicate in the workplace.