How to Manage Dysfunctional and Destructive People

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


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