Many workplace bullies are hybrids of four archetypes. The second bully archetype may be familiar to you. Meet the Constant Critic.
A trademark of the Constant Critic is their preference to operate behind closed doors; there are no witnesses to their abuse and they can deny allegations. The Critic is a negative, nitpicking, fault finding liar. They hide their own insecurities by demeaning others and making them feel small. Their targets lose confidence which increases the Critic’s inner self-worth and makes them feel more powerful. Critics often have good relationships with Senior Management because their targets are forced to perform at levels that can’t be sustained long-term.
The Constant Critics satisfies their control needs by systematically eroding their targets confidence and self-worth. This emotional abuse and harassment leads to long-lasting emotional, physical and psychological wounds affecting all aspects of the target’s life.
Signs to Watch for
- Insulting putdowns and belittling comments
- Glaring, sighing, frowning and other nonverbal signs indicating their displeasure
- Falsely accusing others of wrongdoing and fabricating errors
- Setting absurd deadlines and unrealistic work loads
- Shifting priorities and goals to create confusion and chaos
- Condemning aspects of the target’s personal life; appearance, family, life choices
- Nitpicking and criticizing every aspect of the target’s work
- Cross-examining others to belittle and confuse
Don’t confuse the Constant Critic with a requiring Manager. The Constant Critic has dark intentions. They hide behind the statement “I just want high performance from my team” but their intention is to make others feel small in order to prop up their own self-worth. When their self-worth is threatened their behaviours will accelerate and intensify as they struggle to control their inner fears and public outbursts (explaining why they prefer private, closed-door meetings).
Trying to understand the Constant Critic is a waste of time. Being under their thumb for a long period of time is a real threat to the emotional, physical and psychological wellbeing of the target.
Blowing the whistle on the Constant Critic requires careful planning. Keep good notes on their behaviour including dates, witnesses, documents, condescending emails, transcribed voice messages etc. Building a strong case supported by real evidence will position you to defend your position if and when you decide to blow the whistle. Look for opportunities for others to witness their rants and raves. Be cautious and don’t tip them off that you are building a case; keep your facts at home. Remember that the Constant Critic generally has good relationships with Senior Management – they frown down but kiss up.
In a future post, we’ll be providing some insight into confronting bully behaviour.