Tyrants at Work

By the time you read this Hosni Mubarek may be past tense. The Egyptian strongman has lost support of the Army and could be eyeing Baby Doc’s recently vacated pile in France for his asylum.


On the heals of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, where authoritarian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali made a hasty get-away after twenty-three years of rule by iron fist, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to review why it’s not so smart to be a tyrant.

Who would have predicted that the Arab world would be subject to such sweeping leadership changes? Even the pundits are scratching their heads about the intensity of the demand for free elections and participatory government sweeping the region.


Young, well-educated and under-employed people with internet connections to the rest of the world will no longer tolerate dictatorial regimes that impoverish and oppress them. The leaders of Sudan, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China and Zimbabwe (to name a few) should take note here. Change is coming like a freight train.


So too should the command and control autocrats of public and private corporations that are still use fear tactics to ‘motivate’ their employees.


Iron-Fisted Managers


The workplace may be the last public refuge of tyranny in the west. Many workplaces are still governed by iron-fisted managers who rule by command and control, meting out reward and punishment with impunity.


You would think that style of management died out in the 19th century, but no, it still hangs on today with the resiliency of a cockroach. Here are some of the characteristics of the Tyrant at work:


• They are controlling and manipulative;


• They have low tolerance for viewpoints or approaches that are different than their own;


• They divide and conquer, pitting people against each other;


• They employ bullies to do their dirty work;


• They lack empathy and sensitivity to the problems or needs of their people;


• They are impatient, reactive and volatile especially when things don’t go their way;


• They play favorites but will banish a favorite who becomes too popular or powerful;


• They are secretive and trust no one.


• They are arrogant and hubristic.


Not so good, right?


The tyrant is not going to change unless the Ghost of Christmas Past shows up. We kind of missed the window on that a month and a half ago.


Many people think that they are trapped in their job, prisoners of their economic circumstances. That is never true. You might have to get very creative and be very patient but there are always opportunities available to those who are alert to them.


Three Basic Needs


David Sirota, Louis A. Mischkind , and Michael Irwin Meltzer, writing in The Harvard Management Update, identify three basic needs for all employees:


“Equity: To be respected and to be treated fairly in areas such as pay, benefits, and job security.


Achievement: To be proud of one's job, accomplishments, and employer.


Camaraderie: To have good, productive relationships with fellow employees.”


At the end of the day, talented people want to work in an environment where they can do their best work and enjoy the experience of making a valuable contribution. They won’t put up with the nonsense that exists where tyrants maintain control through fear tactics.


And, if you are a petty tyrant in the workplace, remember the prophetic words of Mahatma Gandhi:


“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall – think of it, always.


© Patrick O’Neill 2011. All rights reserved.

Posted on February 10, 2011 and filed under Uncategorized.