Workplace Bullying: GateKeepers

The ability to effectively confront bully behaviour requires understanding their behaviours.  The Workplace Bullying Institute has identified four Bully archetypes.  I never like to label or categorize individuals but there is value in understanding the patterns of behaviour bullies demonstrate.  Many bullies are hybrids of the four archetypes.  Like a one-person show, they can change costumes quickly and pivot to the behaviours that inflict the most harm and best serve their dark agenda.  Meet The Gatekeeper.

The Gatekeeper likes to establish control quickly and establish superiority to others.  Everyone is a slave to their needs and they keep others subservient by controlling all the resources needed for others to succeed.  It’s their way of maintaining control and keeping others in a perpetual state of captivity.

The resources they withhold are wide-ranging and include time (lack of people resources), training, budgets, information, supplies, equipment, positive feedback, approvals and access to other collaborators.  They often limit and control decision making.  Like the centre of a bike wheel, all spokes lead to the  Gatekeeper who ensures all information and decisions flow through them.  Their most powerful weapon is controlling communication; excluding the target creating feelings of loneliness and isolation.   They prey on the number one need of all humans; the need to belong and feel included.   When Gatekeepers feel slighted they are quick to act in passive/aggressive ways.  They make up their own rules and are triggered when threatened or feel disrespected.

Signs to Watch  For:

  • Treating others coldly; ignoring them or giving the silent treatment
  • Withholding or tightly controlling resources needed for success
  • Restricting access to information and key meetings
  • Refusing simple employee accommodation requests
  • Acting punitively  if the target attempts to blow the whistle
  • Deliberately sabotaging others by setting traps for them to fail

Don’t fall into the trap of trying to understand this archetype.   That’s not your role; they are responsible for their own behaviour and aren’t worthy of your sympathy.  Remember that the key to differentiating a bully from an ineffective leader is gaining insight into their intentions.  Bullies have dark intentions and are calculating and deliberate when they pursue a target. 

Begin keeping detailed records of their behaviour; dates, actions, witnesses, situations, times etc.  Be specific in the event you need to blow the whistle on their behaviour.  Don’t let them know you are keeping a record because the element of surprise is always kryptonite when and if you decide to confront them or report their behaviour to others.  Later in the week, we’ll be providing some insight into confronting bully behaviour.