#askIMPACT: The Power Personality

  • Jenna was beginning to dread going to work. Her new boss was challenging and intimidated her a little.
  • He asked very pointed questions during their meetings, and while she always tried to come to meetings prepared, she got the sense that he seemed gratified knowing when he asked her a question she couldn’t answer.
  • Jenna would leave meetings feeling drained, frustrated, and sometimes a little embarrassed; she never felt like she was at her best around him.
  • Jenna would notice that her boss became visibly frustrated when he had to take time to explain things. People tended to do what he asked of them rather than voice their opinions or ideas.
  • Things in the office did get done – productivity wasn’t the problem, but people were feeling powerless and transferring to different teams, and Jenna worked in a constant state of uneasiness and insecurity.

How to work with a power personality

Lots of people work with someone who makes them feel powerless. Sometimes this person can be known as an “alpha” or even a “bully”. These kind of “power” personalities thrive on just that – power. Being in charge is a thrill and they willingly take on more power in as many situations as possible as a way to achieve complete control. Complete control can only happen when others have less power; hence why these individuals often make others feel powerless.

Power personalities are often unafraid and they relish confrontation, especially in public settings. Be wary about taking a power personality out for lunch to speak about a difficult topic. Doing so may fuel their need for control and you may notice they interrupt and ask difficult, pointed questions in a “drill and grill” kind of way. In other cases, power personalities can be more subtle, leaving you feeling ‘off centre’ and perhaps unexplainably out of your comfort zone. You may leave interactions thinking “Did I miss something?” or wondering if you should take what was said at face value or if it was somehow intended to make you feel bad. You may even find yourself agreeing to do things you wouldn’t normally do, or saying things you wish you hadn’t said.

Whether the power personality is obvious or subtle, it will leave you feeling like they have the upper hand and you at less than your best.

How do you work with a power personality? Here are some tips:

Do your homework and be ready with facts, data, and concrete examples – Power personalities are rarely interested in others’ feelings. They want to execute and they want results; they are not driven by a need to be liked. It won’t necessarily bother them if they make you feel bad. What bothers them is things not getting done. Understanding this simple fact can sometimes release you to be more analytic with power personalities (rather than emotional) to better influence them.

Don’t be afraid to challenge them – Power personalities are typically competitive and like when others rise to the occasion. Because they are less emotional, they don’t usually take things personally so likely won’t get offended if you challenge. They do usually think they are right, but can be convinced by a confident speaker with a good argument (see tip #1 and come prepared!). Remember, power personalities revel in conflict. If you stand up as opposed to backing down they will usually respect that.

Help them develop their EQ – A power personality can have an underdeveloped EQ. If you are managing a power personality and want to coach them, help them develop this skill. With the right data (i.e. a solid feedback assessment indicating their effect on people), they can learn some of these skills and rise to the challenge. Discourage their bad behaviours and set some challenging goals on new, more collaborative behaviours. Most power personalities will rise to the challenge. They like to win.

Do not lose power yourself – If you feel powerless, it is because you let yourself be powerless. Power personalities are experts at making you feel powerless but only you have control over how you feel. Don’t let the opinion of one power personality define how you see yourself. Enter each interaction by challenging yourself to feel powerful. Emitting confidence and power can be a great first step to becoming less of a target and eventually flourishing under the drive of a power personality.

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