Archive for November, 2008

How to Manage Dysfunctional and Destructive People

Friday, November 28th, 2008

Here are some tips on how to manage some types of dysfunctional and destructive people.


It is important to understand that this article is not concerned with isolated and/or one off behaviour.  Behaviour is considered dysfunctional only when there is a clear pattern of behaviour, which is systematically and well documented over time.


Passive Aggressive Behaviour


Behaviour Includes:


·         Passive resistance, covert, angry

·         Controlling, undermining, manipulation

·         Resistance, Stubborn, inertia 


 Some Tips:


·         Be careful, don’t blame yourself, use self-talk, be rational, be cool

·         Document the behaviour for yourself; including the experience of other people and/or reports

·         Don’t play the game – this means don’t allow the passive aggressive person push your buttons

·         Be assertive – try to avoid getting angry, or at least displaying anger, and make sure you get the facts right

·         If you manage the person; ensure they understand that you will not tolerate their behaviour

·         Don’t lose your cool; passive aggressives get a “kick” out of you losing control and playing into their hands

·         If they are your boss; aim to get contracts, written agreements, protect yourself!


Bullying Behaviour


 Behaviour Includes:


·         Dominance, humiliation

·         Intimidation, exploitation of power imbalance

·         Behaviour will lack empathy 


Some Tips:


·         Don’t let bullies win; report them to management

·         Talk to your peers and other people, bullies like to divide and conquer and isolate people

·         Respond in a calm non-emotional way, avoid eye contact

·         In a group just ignore the person

·         In a group, you and other members walk away; bullies need an audience; they believe an audience confirms their behaviour

·         Bullying is a complex problem; requires effective organisational policies and procedures to deal with it

·         Dismissal is the only answer for repeat offenders


Workplace Psychopathic Behaviour


Behaviour Includes:


·         Amoral, exploitative, unprincipled

·         Deceiving, dishonest, remorseless

·         Anti-social, lack of guilt

·         Narcissism – very self-centred

·         Bullying behaviour (see above)


It is estimated that 3 to 4 percent of males and 1 percent of females are psychopaths


Psychopaths are very destructive to the organisation and very damaging to individuals.


Some Tips:


·         Psychopaths do not change

·         If you identify a pattern; warn others, collect facts – as many as possible

·         Look for unprincipled patterns; but remember, one unprincipled action does not make a psychopath – it may be inexperience, immaturity, lack of knowledge about organisation policies and procedures etc

·         Don’t cover for anyone you believe is behaving in an unprincipled manner; also copy documents and ensure minutes of meetings outline concerns about decisions, advice received etc

·         Talk to a senior member of the organisation about your reservations and concerns

·         Psychopaths are successful because they “divide and conquer” – it is difficult to get the full picture; each person really only gets a “bit of the picture”. There will be many victims across the organisation.


·         Generally, psychopaths can only be effectively dealt with if they are revealed or there is a threat that they will be revealed

·         So the strategy is to take actions that reveal the unprincipled behaviour pattern

·         This needs to be followed by dismissal




The source for much of this material is “Difficult Personalities – A practical Guide to managing the hurtful behaviour of others” Dr H McGrath & H Edwards: 2000, Choice Books


Also, the following books are good for learning about psychopaths:


“Working with Monsters – How to Identify and Protect Yourself from the Workplace Psychopath”: Sydney, Random House Australia


“Snakes in Suites – When Psychopaths Go To Work”: Paul Babiak Ph.d & Robert D. Hare Ph.d; 2006, Harper-Collins


You can purchase these books at our Organization Renewal Online Store. Go to Blogroll and click onto the store.



© PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited 2008  All Rights Reserved

Reality in this 3 part series of articles, a variety of teachers who have used the model do a wonderful job of clearing up misconceptions and sharing lessons learned


Technological Change: It’s Time to Revisit Socio-Technical Systems Approaches to Technological Change

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

“There is nothing so practical as a good theory” Kurt Lewin

 Both technology and people are critical to the delivery of strategic objectives in organisations. However the balance seems to be in favour of satisfying the technological imperative to the neglect of harnessing the full potential of people to effect significant change across the organisation.

 It is time to revisit the application of socio-technical theory in leading change in organisations.

 This is the first of a series of articles on the critical role of socio-technical approaches to change in the complex modern world of organisations.

 What is a Socio-technology System?

 The free encyclopedia “Wikipedia” states:

 “ The term socio-technical systems was coined in the 1960s by Eric Trist and Fred Emery, who were working as consultants at the Tavistock Institute in London.

 In organizational development, socio-technical systems (or STS) is an approach to complex organisational work design that recognises the interaction between people and technology in workplaces. The term also refers to the interaction between society’s complex infrastructures and human behaviour. In this sense, society itself, and most of its sub-structures, are complex socio-technical systems.”

 The dictionary of sociology published by Oxford University Press in 1998 extends the working definition of Socio-technical Systems:

 socio-technical system A term devised to avoid the rather simplistic technological determinism in much mainstream organization theory. It was coined by the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in Britain, and used in the theory of organizational choice which guided their programme of applied research.Though accepting the conventional wisdom of industrial sociology and the

Human Relations Movement


that in-plant technical factors affect the quality of social relationships at work, the Tavistock researchers argued that technology merely constrains human action, rather than rigidly determining behavioural outcomes. Conscious choice can build good human relations into the technical workflow. Indeed, for any productive problem there is typically a range of technologically equivalent solutions, with differing implications for human relations.By emphasizing the element of choice, and the mutual influence of technology and the social systems of the workplace, the Tavistock researchers sought to move away from technological determinism towards greater appreciation within management of the need for consultation, innovation, flexibility, and an open mind in the design of work processes and procedures. The consultancy and action research work which led to the formulation of socio-technical systems was carried out in the coal-mining and textiles industries in Britain and India in the 1940s and 1950s, and seemed to show that work teams which operated a flexible allocation of tasks and jobs achieved higher


, lower absenteeism, and fewer accidents than work teams with a rigid division of labour and inflexible ‘segregated’ task groups.The Tavistock studies were criticized for underestimating the difficulties of reconciling economic, technical, and social efficiency. However, the idea of the socio-technical system (though not the term itself) has passed into conventional thinking about work organization, flexibility issues, and the impact of technical change. “



© A Dictionary of Sociology 1998, originally published by Oxford University Press 1998.

The Dominance of Technological Determinism

 People often feel dominated by the technological imperative. Experience suggests this is a major cause of resistance to change. Moreover they believe technological change is techno-centric – change is implemented as though the organisation exists only as a technical system – devoid of people.

 This is particularly the case where centralised IT groups, with “Expert” cultures, impose technology on the wider organisation without any in-depth engagement with the people impacted by the new technology. People are instruments for interrogating and manipulating databases. Any people work eg satisfying customer needs, is considered separate to the core work of the organisation – which is satisfying the needs of multiple and diverse information technology systems.

 In-Depth People Engagement

 There is a paradox in many modern organisations. If IT groups are asked to explain their philosophy on change the discussion will inevitably revolve around some form of socio-technical systems approach. Similarly, if the same questions are discussed by HR groups, again the discussion will revolve around some form of socio-technical systems approach to change. Yet when feedback surveys are administered across these same organisations there is often considerable dissatisfaction expressed with the way technological change is implemented. Why is it so?

 Is it possible that technological change is just so complex, coupled with significant time and budget constraints, that it is simply not possible to ensure quality engagement with the people impacted by the change? And is this compounded by the dominance of technological determinism whereby technology is King and people are mere instruments of the King?

 Can organisations continue to just pay lip service to the implications of socio-technical systems? Or has the time arrived whereby organisations have no alternative but to tackle complexity head on and undertake in-depth engagement work with people. Rather than deny complexity it is not better to work with people to capture the whole complexity – people who know can help break down complexity into manageable chunks.

 These questions and others will be explored further through references to research and the experience of practitioners in the field. Suggestions for new ways of tackling technological change within the context of the socio-technical systems framework will be discussed in future articles.

 Dallas Burgess


 © PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited 2008  All Rights Reserved

These articles offer a lot of informed insight into clicking here what to do and what not to do when flipping the course content delivery and instruction model