Alex was moving through his project, his team was humming along and he was in a good mood. Then he heard his boss rolling forward down the hallway. It was as if the pot plants started trembling. Suddenly his boss rounded the corner to his office and pointed at him. His co-workers quickly dived for cover.
Alex was suddenly in the cross hairs and had no time to raise a white flag.
“Alex, you’re two weeks behind on your schedule, what is the matter with you? Are you incompetent or just lazy?! This project is vital to the company and you’re holding it up. I am sick of hearing your excuses! Now listen to me, this is what you’re going to do…” boomed his boss.
Alex was paralysed with fear. Then, as quick as the attack had been launched, it was over. His boss had left. As the dust settled his co-workers came out of hiding speechless.
Alex had just experienced being managed by what could be best described as “The Tank” style.
“The Tank is confrontational, pointed and angry, the ultimate in pushy aggressive behaviour.”- Rick Brickman and Dr Rick Kirschner
For those aware of the DISC behavioural profile, this is the HIGH D or driver under stress.
They necessarily aren’t bad people or psychopaths.
They are driven by “Getting It Done”. They show their love by completing tasks.
When speed humps appear in their projects they get frustrated.
Their biggest fear is failure.
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda
So how does one not just survive the Tank, but thrive in their ranks?
The irony is that it is not personal.
The Tank just wants the job done.
The more this is thwarted, the more controlling the Tank becomes.
Watch your emotions.
Three things you should NOT do when attacked by a Tank
3. Withdraw / Shut Down
You might win the battle, but next day the Tank will return with an alliance against you.
The tank has no interest in hearing your excuses, they don’t solve the problem.
Showing fear may inspire the Tank to show no mercy.
- Hold your ground
Silently look the Tank in the eye, do not move at all. Take a deep silent breath.
While you are composing yourself, let the Tank blow off some steam with a few rounds.
Once he is out of ammunition, you can calmly respond with, “Well then, I’m going to get back to work now,” and then walk away.
The subtle message here is that you are focused on work and he is the distraction. If that doesn’t work, then we should escalate to the next step.
- Interrupt the Tank
Say their name firmly and repeatedly, until they stop attacking. It may take five or six repetitions.
They may raise their voice or tell you to stop interrupting, nevertheless, persevere until he stops.
Speak assertively, calmly and not aggressively.
Aggressive people like assertive people, as long it is not perceived as an attack.
- Backtrack to their main point
“You know, I understand that there is no room in this outfit for goofing off or incompetence.”
- Aim for the bottom line and fire
“I understand that you think the project should be finished by now, from what I can see, the time I am investing now will save time and money in the future.”
“I hear that you have a problem with the way this project is being done. But I am not willing to discuss it, if this is how you are going to talk to me. When you are ready to speak to me with respect, I will take all the time you want to discuss this.”
In a customer service environment:
“I understand that our service hasn’t satisfied you, your satisfaction is our goal. So, that I may help you quickly, I’ll need some more information, and you can help me to help you by answering a few questions.”
- Make peace
Never slam the door to the Tank. They will take this as a challenge.
Find a way to offer them the last word, but you should decide when and where.
“When you are ready to speak to me with respect.”
“When I am through with making my presentation, I’ll be more than happy to hear your feedback.”
These actions may seem like a nuclear war to you, but to the Tank, it amounts to no more than “give-and-take” between people.
It gives them a chance to see what you are made of, as they measure your character and commitment.
Don’t expect them to surrender.
They will fire off a parting shot and move on.
Don’t be surprised if your assertiveness wins them over as your ally.
Perform Zone runs leadership workshops that teach you how to spot different types of natural behavioural profiles and how to tailor your communication style to get the best from them and minimise the arguments.
Sit our free DISC questionnaire to see what the DISC model tells you about your behavioural profile.