I have been lucky in my management career and with my directs. I have recently though found myself in a situation I feel ill equipped to handle and it has me questioning if I am in the right job.
One of my directs does not work well with me and is showing borderline narcissistic behaviour. They have a controlling nature, manipulative and I find myself constantly on guard for what manipulation might be next. I am in a constant state of awareness and my working day is making me ill.
Does anyone else have experience with this and how did you stop yourself from throwing all your cards in the air.

mrreliable's picture

First of all, you're the person who is in control of how you react to someone else, no matter how they behave. They're clearly pushing your buttons, but they are your buttons. That's not to excuse the direct's behavior, but if the behavior is throwing you off your game, you need to solve that problem internally first.

I saw a video of a management seminar where the speaker asked for a volunteer he could harrass and harraungue, all in fun. A woman in the audience raised her hand. He smiled, said it was all in fun, and started berating her for being such a lazy employee and messing projects up so bad. Periodically he'd laugh and say it's all in fun. She was having a hard time to keep from laughing herself. Then the speaker went into a diatribe about how she should stick to making coffee and cleaning if she wanted to be of any value around the office. The volunteer's demeanor changed and it wasn't a bit funny any more. The point was the speaker found her button, and the button would likely be different for a different person. The fact she reacted to that particular insult was about her, not about the person making the insults.

Stick to behaviors. Avoid characterizations. You can define behaviors and deal with them. Reading your description a specific person I know came to mind, and I agree it can be aggravating. You just have to communicate, document, give feedback.

"When you finish other people's sentences it projects a dismissive attitude toward what they have to say and it comes across as disrespectful. Could you work on being a better listener?"

Another suggestion is to look at this person as a challenge. If you can turn this situation around, you can work with anybody, right?

Ms Spade's picture

Thank you, this is good advice.  I did once see the challenge but now I find I avoid this person which makes my day nicer. 

I am currently reading up more on having awkward conversations which is helping. This person would really benefit from some good feedback (if only to reinforce I am not to be manipulated or played with) and I need to handle it well if I am to make a break through. 


brianr5's picture

You mentioned reading up on having awkward conversations. If you haven't read it yet, the book Crucial Conversations helped me out a lot with this. There is a Kindle version that has some video examples included in the book too.

duplicate_account_MarkAus's picture

I know it is a common tactic to avoid such people - if they're not someone I need to do my job, I tend to do that myself. However, IMHO, as this person's manager you're making a big mistake by avoiding them. It may make your day nicer, but it'll blow up on you eventually.

I've dealt with the type of person you're describing and the only advice I would give is that you can not be manipulated if you take control of the situation.

The Manager Tools trinity gives you the tools to do this. Have your weekly O3s, set measurable goals with deadlines, and then give feedback. Set objective measures and get them to agree that those measures are achievable. You need to hold this person's feet to the fire. Don't take excuses. Make them do what they say they'll do when they say they'll do it.

People who manipulate always screw up and get caught in their lies. Reducing ambiguity means you (and others) will see these behaviours quicker and easier. Then you start collecting data. If the performance doesn't improve you can work to get rid of them and they'll have to excuses to hide behind.

None of this is easy of course. But you can't ignore them, give them occasional feedback, and expect permanent change.

Good luck.