Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.

~ Mark Twain ~

The Dictator Will See You Now

June 5th, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 3 mins, 3 secs

"I'm the dicator here and don't you forget it!"

“I’m the dicator here and don’t you forget it!”

I’m not one for dictators. They make life living misery. Yet, judging by how many tin pot tyrants there are in life, they must be satisfying something right.

Take your average mid to large workplace. Somewhere amongst it lurks a person with latent tendencies to be domineering, overbearing, and – well – a downright pest.

Predictably, the dictator in the team pushes through the pecking order to assert their dominance. Displaying an air of supreme confidence, they sweep all before them (kind of like Alexander the Great, but without the elephants).

They don’t do an open, supportive approach and teamwork is only a pretense. For the dictator craves power and they don’t mind whom they have to step on to get it.

I’ve seen numerous people playing the dictator in many a workplace and in a way, it’s as fascinating as it is disturbing.  Typically, they use the command of rules to shape their play – at least, that’s what they display.

While inwardly, the dictator is determined to overcome great obstacles to achieve recognition and control. Were their agenda laid bare, people would be shocked to discover what they would be prepared to sacrifice (even bringing their organization down if they had to). Yet, to the workplace dictator it’s a reasonable price because they only play to win.

Aside from the odd organizational tyrant displaying a God complex, the average common or garden dictator is actually riddled with doubts. Outwardly, they have steely “don’t even dare question me” confidence. But inwardly, they run on high anxiety, fearing somebody will find out they’re not quite as supreme as they make out to be.

Common signs that you have a dictator infestation include:

  1. A person who repeatedly insists on getting their way
  2. Someone who dominates proceedings at meetings
  3. A person who is so deft at putting people down they leave them trout-mouthed
  4. Evidence someone is engineering themselves into an unassailable position
  5. A mixed of certainty and fear. Certainty in the sense that while the dictator is in charge “it will be done”. Fear in the feeling that you dare not cross the despot, lest you get a dose of their calculated vengeance.

Really, we could be talking about bullying, couldn’t we? But, modern day dictators are ensconced in so many positions of authority that concepts of leadership and bullying keep getting blurred.

Some say we need the dictator to get things done and maybe they’re right (if you put the tasks at hand ahead of the people doing them). But I believe what drives these people is not necessarily healthy. In a way, their internal need to reign supreme ends up driving everyone else, which isn’t exactly an open and transparent process.

Wishfully, we might want to wave the dictator in our life away. But daily reality seems to have a place for controlling folk who, usually, take the lead wherever they go.

When you’re feeling at the mercy of the latest dictator in your life, perhaps the best defense is knowing. To understand what to expect and what is driving these people not only helps you but could help them too.

Keep your standards in front of you and keep your communication brief and practical (as dictators like that). Remember their decision-making isn’t personal, it’s driven by their ambition. Stand in the way of it and you’re likely to get steamrolled by their ceaseless drive to succeed. So keep to one side as much as you can, confidently getting on with what you need to do.

Given dictators don’t do personal relationships well, they struggle to see subtlety, and you can bet your bootstraps they will leave a messy trail. Knowing this and all that you do, realize that the dictator you might be putting up with isn’t on the same wavelength. So don’t be surprised when they decide to do things you disapprove of. Just keep on being yourself, work hard, show good judgment, and support your firm and everyone else. But if your values are constantly being compromised then the decision is virtually being made for you. That’s when you need to take your hat, put on your coat, and head for new territory. Because, it’s your choice after all, and the actions of the dictator you are dealing with might not be worth your time.

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