A Guide to Dysfunctional Management and the Evil Workplace
November 3rd, 2012 by William

Yippee Ki-yay

Comic author Dave Barry observed, “If you had to identify in one word the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’

Meetings truly can be the most worthless undertaking in business not because they aren’t well-intentioned, but because of the people and personalities who attend the meeting.

In her May 16, 2012 Wall Street Journal article “Meet the Meeting Killers,” Sue Shellenbarger describes spot-on the different personalities that are found in your average business meeting.

“The Jokester – assault with a deadly punch line

The Dominator – greatly overestimates value of his/her personal views

The Naysayer – premeditated negativity

The Rambler – inflicts death by boredom

The Quiet Plotter – practices passive-aggressive insubordination”

While any of the above personalities can derail a well-intentioned meeting, in my book, Puttin’ Cologne on the Rickshaw, I detail the horrid meeting phenomenon where the organizational Cowboys (Shellenbarger’s Dominators) take control of meetings and make the atmosphere little better than a rodeo.

I’m sure some of you may have been to a genuine rodeo. It’s a sport that arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in the United States’ West and is based on the skills required of the cowboys to effectively control the herd. Today it’s a sporting event that tests the skill and speed of the cowboy. The rodeos of today let the most skilled of cowboys show off their roping, riding, and other talents. Being a rodeo cowboy is an exciting occupation, where the strongest are the ones who take home the victory.

In a real rodeo the spotlight is on the cowboy who rides the bull or the bronco to the screams of his adoring crowd. Just like a real cowboy, organizational cowboys will exhibit their (people) herding and roping skills in the myriad meetings, which plague the modern workplace landscape. They’re surrounded by a multitude of sycophants who are there to support their theatrical performance.

But instead of real riding and roping, they use mind games to do some metaphorical riding and roping to manipulate a meeting agenda and force their will on the unsuspecting cattle.

Most, if not all, rodeo events are performed by a single cowboy, much like most meetings are dominated by a single person. However, there is one event−team roping−that is noteworthy. This is when two cowboys team up to rope and subdue the helpless steer. Meetings also have the equivalent of this team-roping event. Should you be the unlucky target of sociopathic cowboys in a meeting, you’ll feel much like the poor steer, as the cowboy and one of his sycophantic henchmen double team their attack on you.

When a sociopathic cowboy is allowed to dominate a meeting, he dominates through the games I describe in my book; “Stump the Dummy” and the “Divide and Conquer” being his favorites. But he’s not averse to using the “double bind” or “gaslighting” to quell any opposition. As such, a meeting becomes a typical place in which to find you’ve, all of a sudden, been thrown under the bus. His aggressive style includes diatribes, criticizing other’s opinions (even when they’re based in fact) and the most common, interrupting and talking over others.

Cowboys, like all sociopaths, love meetings; their equivalent of the rodeo. While meetings are held for any number of valid serious reasons, e.g., project status meetings, or meetings in which a decision must be made on some issue facing the organization, cowboys especially enjoy the regularly scheduled meetings that have no purpose other than to provide them a bully pulpit. The most common of these meetings is the infamous and dreaded staff meeting.

Today’s management culture is infatuated with the regularly scheduled staff meeting. Staff meetings are usually held under the guise of building teamwork, but in reality all they offer is the perfect opportunity for management cowboys to practice their command and control techniques over their sycophants.

While all of Shellenbarger’s meeting personalities are dangerous, the dominator (the cowboy) is the personality that makes meeting so dreaded and a waste of time.

Do meetings at your company generally feel like a waste of time? Are they dominated by workplace bullies and cowboys using it as a forum to rant, rave and manipulate? Are people intimidated into silence? Do meetings at your company have vague objectives and no pre-published agendas? If you answered yes, then you’re in an organization with dysfunctional management. In an environment like that, when there are no clear objectives, and ineffective management, it can be tough to determine what’s important and what isn’t.

In his book Claw your Way to the Top, Dave Barry tells us that the modern corporate meeting can be compared to a funeral, in the sense that you have “a gathering of people who are wearing uncomfortable clothing and would rather be somewhere else. The major differences are that most funerals have a definite purpose and reach a definite conclusion, whereas meetings generally drone on until the legs of the highest-ranking person present fall asleep. Also, nothing is ever really buried in a meeting. An idea may look dead, but it will always reappear at another meeting later on.”

Speaking of things that are dead and should be buried, the worst outcome of any meeting is to be assigned an “action item.” In my next post we’ll tackle this most dreaded task that you’ll face in your career.


5 Responses to “Yippee Ki-yay”
  1. Anonymous says

    Nice post. Intriguing subject and approach. I’ll be coming back some time within the not too distant future.

  2. Anonymous says

    Best wishes! Your blog is very good!

  3. Anonymous says

    Very good. Thanks

  4. Anonymous says

    Very good.Thanks

  5. Shierrach says

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