How to deal with a colleague who's drunk on power - Michelle Gibbings

I spoke to HuffPost recently about the difficulties associated with working with people who are drunk on power. These are the people who make everything about themselves, ensuring they look good and using whatever power they have (whether real or not), throwing it around recklessly.

There are warning signs that somebody might be drunk on power and there are ways to deal with them. Read the full article here to find out how.

It’s not much fun working with a colleague who is ‘drunk on power’ — when their behaviour ranges from showing little concern for others, to thinking their rights outweigh those of everybody else.

Everything they do is about making themselves look good and whatever power they own, real or imagined, they usually throw around with glee.

Careers expert Michelle Gibbings told HuffPost Australia there are certain warning signs that somebody might be drunk on power.

“They usually strive for outcomes that are all about their own needs, they stop listening to the ideas and opinions of other people and they believe they are the smartest person in the room and therefore ignore feedback. Sometimes they will start to lie or cheat so they always come out on top,” Gibbings said.

“To have a healthy, thriving work environment it’s essential to have a balance of power. This is a culture where power is shared and distributed, and no one leader dominates over others.”

Gibbings cites the book The Power Paradox by Dacher Keltner, who writes that power is something we acquire by improving the lives of other people in our social network.

“In this way, power is granted to us by others. However, Keltner notes that often our very experience of power destroys the skills that gave us the power in the first place,” Gibbings said.

“His research has found that people who feel powerful are more likely to act impulsively. For example to have affairs, drive aggressively, communicate in rude of disrespectful ways or lie. Over time, by behaving in this way they lose power.”

Rowdy McLean, international keynote speaker and author, said if a colleague or boss is drunk on power it will take a massive reality check for them to learn that they need to pull their heads in.

“If you’re a close friend, you should help them try to see that they are driving everyone insane and the consequences are good. However if you’re not close to them bringing to their attention will only put you in the firing line,” McLean said.

“The power hungry invariably get brought back to earth with a thud. The end of a career, removal of benefits, pushed out of a role. History is littered with the hollow shells of the power hungry who just took too long to realise they had become way too big for their boots.”

Gibbings believes the best way to deal with a power hungry colleague is to start a conversation about how you’re working together.

“Encourage them to focus on how the team works together as well, as healthy team dynamics can dilute any impact. If they have a fixed mindset and are therefore closed to feedback, it is about finding a way to work around them and to ensure that their behaviour doesn’t rub off on you,” Gibbings said.

“In this situation it’s important to have a network around you that will support you.”

But what if you are the person who is drunk on power? McLean believes you need to ask yourself a few telling questions and give some thought about how you behave.

“Are you always putting yourself ahead of others? Do you take all the glory when others have done all the work? Are you saying yes to your superiors to keep in the good books? If so, you are going to hit the wall and when you do, it won’t be pretty,” McLean said.