Yesterday at the airport, I had an interesting experience of domination which later provided much food for thought — and interesting parallels with workplace domination..
In a queue, the guy behind me was huge. Those who’ve met me know that I am not exactly small, but this man was massive, at well over six feet and I’d imagine around 25 stone (160 kg). As we stood in line, he used his bulk to begin intimidating me with his physical presence. Quite why I can only guess, but there were many little nudges from his belly, horse play with his tribe of minions and even the occasional breathing down my neck.
Whatever his reasons, I wasn’t going to budge or appear intimidated (even though, I’ll admit, it made me feel very uncomfortable). Occasionally, after a nudge I would slowly turn to make it clear I was irritated, and I’d catch him not quite looking at me, but ready should I choose to challenge — perhaps waiting for me to make the first move. As the queue progressed I became increasingly concerned for the small boy who should have been between us, but had been pushed to the sidelines, looking very anxious.
As I reflected later, it seemed clear that this chap was making his physical superiority abundantly clear to everyone around him although stopping short of overt aggression. He was using a variety of non-verbal acts to convey this. When I link this to the personal power sources and the components of power, he not only had clear physical assets, but was also putting them into action with force in an attempt to intimidate/influence others. Yet he also appeared to be heavily (excuse the pun) reliant on his physical assets. This left him exposed if his primary source failed — while also creating potential enemies! Those who rely on dominating others in the workplace are often similarly exposed, even vulnerable.
The other point which struck home to me was how it is possible to succeed with these characters if you apply a little intelligence and resist the “flight” response. Once I had got my food, I turned and found him blocking my exit. With a level gaze and calm, firm voice, I simply said, “Excuse me” — not please, just “excuse me”. He almost jumped out of my way and I strode through. Phew!
Using the parlance of the Personal Power Diagnostic, he was using Physical and Force power sources. I made use of Force, Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, Impact and a little Physical to influence him out of my way! Fortunately, the little boy used an alternative approach and went around the mountain, which is just as valid when you act in awareness.
The point here is that when you have to deal with overly dominant people, you need to have lots of other power sources to call into action. The more you can develop these assets and skills, the more useful they will become and the more successful you will be.