Home > Social Commentary > 6 More Office Politics Personality Types: Bullies in the Workplace

6 More Office Politics Personality Types: Bullies in the Workplace


evil-teganDo you have co-workers who constantly tell you how to do your job? Do they criticize your work while bragging about their performance, which is actually mediocre at best? Do they take credit for your ideas and usurp your authority? If so, you’re probably dealing with a workplace bully.

Romanticize humanity as much as you like, but we share certain characteristics with our furry quadruped counterparts. I have a friend who watches The Dog Whisperer for tips on managing his kids’ behavior instead of reading childcare books and you know what? It works.

We’re pack animals, just like dogs. Office bullies are basically dogs with behavioral problems that have been allowed to run amok. Understanding what’s at play can help you feel better and survive, if not thrive, in the doggy daycare of office politics.

The Basic Office Bully Personality Types

1) The Alpha Dog. One growl and other dogs respectfully back away. If they don’t, they get a set of jaws clamped onto to their necks and assume the submissive position.

Figure out who the alpha dog is in your office. It may not be “the boss.” It could be the assistant or the VP. Determine their ego needs–flattery, reliability, staying late–and give it to them. Although I hate to say it, if you can learn how to fake sincerity with these people, it’ll make your life easier.

2) The Lateral Land Grabber. Ever wonder why organizations have departments? Because different employees have different skills and dog peeingserve different functions? Yes, but there’s more to it.

Dogs are territorial creatures. They pee along the perimeters of their yard, neighborhood fire hydrants, and telephone poles. When other dogs encroach upon their territory, they get pissed.

We’re territorial, too. Do you have co-workers who tell you how to do your job? Do they offer unsolicited advice, even when they’re ignorant on the subject? It’s a lateral land grab. They’re marking your territory.

According to Franke James, inventor of the Office Politics Game, this is normal dog behavior. However, when taken to extremes, it’s an indication of territorial dominance, anxiety, and insecurity. There’s a difference between this highly aggressive bullying behavior and collaborative interdepartmental feedback, although the bully will tell you he’s “just trying to help.”

3) Mr. or Ms. Smoke and Mirrors. This person’s game is distraction through detraction. They trash you and tell you how you should be doing your job in order to draw attention away from their ineptitude and incompetence. This is a common tactic of the workplace bully. You know this is occurring when the facts don’t back up their allegations. Furthermore, when you challenge them with the facts, they make up the craziest BS to refute them.

I once worked with a guy who was a master of this technique. Unfortunately, it was the only thing he’d mastered. He made noisy, unfounded public disparaging pronouncements about my department, meanwhile, every business deal he made cost the company money instead of making it  money. Distraction through detraction.

4) The Control Freak. If you spend all your time worrying about and trying to control others, when do you get your work done? Do you really have that much time on your hands? The answer is, yes, they do have that much time on their hands because they’re not doing their work; they’re too busy telling you how to do your work. By spending every waking moment trying to control people and situations, they give the appearance of being busy without accomplishing anything of their own.

This type believes his or her way is the only way. They try to leave their thumbprint on everything so that they can take credit for everything. It’s another form of bullying that involves domination and micro-management. Eventually, this behavior undermines your confidence and causes physical and psychological symptoms from the stress of being under constant attacks and monitoring.

5) Doggie Wants your Bone. They’re after your job. This happens all the time, hence the expression, “Dog eat dog world.” Enough said.

chien-lunatique6) Mad Dog. They don’t want your job; they want you gone. This person is an uber-territorial, foaming at the mouth, pit bull. Watch your back. They prey on the vulnerable and anyone who isn’t a malleable sycophant. They also go after people who see through the facade that masks their mediocrity and vicious attack behaviors.

Deep down, they’re just the sickly, mewling runt of the litter. This is another bully behavior. Although their attacks and machinations feel personal, you’re just their target du jour. They seek and destroy others, particularly those who are smarter, more talented, more creative and more successful, in order to feel powerful and better about themselves. After, they force you out, they’ll move onto their next target within 2 hours to two weeks. This type always has an “enemy” in the cross hairs.

When an office has infighting, territory disputes, and withholds supplies and information, it’s a clear sign that it’s a workplace in which bullying is rampant and/or is tolerated by management. If you recognize any of the above personalities at your office, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with how bullies operate and how you can protect yourself. In fact, I’ll be writing more on this topic in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back.

Also see: How to Recognize 7 Personality Types in Office Politics.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

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Photo credits:

Evil Tegan by Brendan Crawford, a friend.

Dog peeing unknown source.

Chien lunatique by liz du canada on flickr.

  1. Trouble at work
    April 20, 2012 at 11:35 am

    After taking a promotion at work I found I was a target among others at work. There are a handful of individuals. I confronted one of them and ask” Have I done something to upset you or harm you in any way?” The reply was ” Well know you have never done anything to me” So I then asked” Then why do you spread rumors about me to other coworkers” They had no reply just stood there. I then asked” How would you feel if this was happening to you?” She started yelling how every one was talking about her and then said why. My reply was I knew nothing about that situation until you just said it.I then stated” We are not in high school anymore and we should all act like the adults. I deserve the same respect that I give you. We do not have to be friends, but you should always respect others the way they respect you”.
    Management does nothing about these kinds of people so to me they are just as bad. I gave my 2week notice after 3 years of service with the company. Sadly these few people will continue to do this to others and still keep there jobs. There will always be someone in every work place who does this to others but, I have never worked somewhere as bad as this.

  2. Deborah Glass
    August 27, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Working around negative people have a large impact on your health.

  3. Lloyd
    August 14, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Dr.-

    I was moved to Google “office personality types” after reading the following funny piece at Cracked: http://www.cracked.com/funny-4592-coworkers/

    After being on the job in my present job about a week (16 years ago) a secretary asked me what I thought about the office. I told her that everyone seemed “nice.” Her response: “You haven’t been here very long.”

    My office has some strange undercurrents. Some of the office politics personality types you analyze are present. The general atmosphere of negativity in my office is toxic.

    About a year ago I requested a cubicle move because the woman who sat across from me had a steady traffic to her cubicle of people who just wanted to complain, back-stab and gossip — and being around that was depressing for me. Moving away from that helped improve my attitude, but the problem is still there. A new employee was placed in my old cubicle and she is being drawn into the stupid drama. Management is aware of the problem, but would rather not deal with it. To make matters worse, there are warring cliques within the office’s “leadership team.”

    I enjoy my job. I think I do a good job and the work I do is interesting. Most of the time (where I sit now) I can ignore the political drama and intrigue.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say I find this stuff interesting. I will be combing through your archives, looking for insights.

    Thanks.

  4. JAMES
    May 6, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    That’s information on what happens. What can be done about it?

  5. Michael
    February 8, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Hi Tara,
    I discovered your website a month ago. Excellent article on workplace bullying. Here in the UK I used to work in theatre. Certain producers and directors exhibit control freakery all the time. It’s horrible being on the receiving end of that. Thank you for these articles. Not only will I be checking back, but I’ll recommend your site to everyone I know. Keep up the good work

  6. Lee
    February 1, 2010 at 2:21 am

    Hi Tara,

    This is amazing. I discovered bullying on the Web a couple years ago because I was the target of it, by co-worker AND incompetent management. I’m still dealing with a mad dog. Thank you for these articles. I’m going to keep reading!

  7. joyeux2646
    December 13, 2009 at 10:59 am

    I experience that every day and now the situation has escalated.

  8. February 5, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Enjoyed your analysis. Tweeted it in less than 140 characters:

    “Quit barking at me! Analyzing office bullies, territorial dominance, etc through the lens of dog behavior” [Link was inserted.]

    • shrink4men
      February 5, 2009 at 3:25 pm

      Oh my gosh! Thanks, Franke. I love your Twitter description–very cool. I can’t believe you checked out my blog. I’m chuffed. Helping people become aware of bad office behavior and the emotional and psychological effects of bullies is a pet project of mine (speaking of dogs).

      Thanks again for reading, commenting, and tweeting.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr T

  9. tunabdulrazak
    February 4, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    Funny, but seems right

    • shrink4men
      February 5, 2009 at 12:11 am

      Funny because it’s true, which also makes it a little disturbing, too.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m such a blog geek that I get a little thrill whenever I see a comment notification, so thanks for my second peak experience of the day!

  1. December 17, 2010 at 6:32 pm
  2. March 16, 2009 at 10:26 pm

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