Don’t be Intimidated by the Attempted Intimidation of Others


from “If You’re Not Making History, You Are History” by Bob MacDonald


Intimidation is a fact of life. It joins death and taxes as one of the few certainties in life. If someone tells you they have never been intimidated by someone or something, they are lying. Like a Stephen King horror story, intimidation comes at us in many forms and faces. As long as intimidation is going to be part of our lives, we might as well learn how to deal with it, resist it, and even use it against the intimidator. The key to doing this is to understand the dynamics of intimidation and the motivation of those who attempt to wield it.

Intimidation comes at us from many quarters, but the typical corporate environment is an out-and-out incubator for intimidation. The use of power, authority, position and status to intimidate workers into compliance is considered to be one of the most effective of management’s bag of coercive tools. Respect for authority, position and status is fine, but using them to intimidate others into submissive acquiescence is quite another thing.

Intimidation in the workplace can be blunt and blatant or it can be subtle and surreptitious. Finding the right approach to neutralizing intimidation may at times seem counterintuitive, but it is important to do so. Knowing how to react to what, in essence, is bullying will go a long way toward determining just who or what will control our lives and careers.

The basis of intimidation is fear. The natural inclination to workplace intimidation is to be cowed and fearful, but that is the wrong reaction because it fails to differentiate between real fear and the feeling of fear created by intimidation. Fear is a natural and primordial reaction that is intended to warn us that the threat of bodily injury is imminent. Intimidation, on the other hand, is a tactic used by a weak bully-manager to create an artificial aura of fear that something bad might happen. When we understand that, we are much better positioned to confront intimidation.

There is another reason why war should be declared on office intimidation. When intimidation is used as a tool of management it is counterproductive and destructive. Intimidation cowers the employee in a way that limits their ability to act independently, resulting in wasted time, talent and creative opportunity. The idea that you can command people to do things because they’re afraid of you makes the use of intimidation a pretty tempting commodity for the weak and insecure manager. However, this approach is the antithesis of effective leadership and detrimental to any hope of achieving success.

Those who suffer from the application of workplace intimidation become overly fearful of offering their ideas or sharing their concern. (Ever had that feeling?) They are wary of taking the initiative and, accordingly, their doubts become self-fulfilling. Even worse, those who succumb to intimidation become little more than frustrated drones, mindlessly carrying out a sort of genetic blueprint drawn by the intimidating figure from on high. It is sad to see how many people suffer through their career intimidated by the bullying of others. It causes them to fear any attempt to do what they dream to do; and instead are forced to play by the rules of others.

When it comes time to face the demons of intimidation – and it will happen – you will be well served by recognizing intimidation for what it is and by exhibiting a confidence that will never allow it to consume you. This may seem to be difficult, but it is the only way to avoid the feeling of being chained to an oar of a slave-galley; otherwise known as the corporate world.

Fighting Intimidation with Intimidation

So the first step to dealing with intimidation in the workplace is to recognize that it is thrust upon us from a sense of insecurity and weakness, rather than confidence and strength. Once we recognize the purpose of intimidation, we are well on our way to thwarting its impact. This understanding gives us the power to rise above the situation and turn it against the intimidator. This is the embodiment of the old saying, “Fight fire with fire!” That is, creating a “back-draft” that turns the intimidation back on the intimidator.

The person who consciously uses intimidation in an effort to gain control is like the schoolyard bully. They will keep pushing so long as they believe they can get away with it. On the other hand, as soon as the intimidator realizes you will not be intimidated, then the whole relationship will change. You may be thinking that challenging the intimidator is easy to say, but that it is Pollyanna thinking and not realistic in the real world. It is true that standing up to the intimidator may, in and of itself, be intimidating and career-threatening, but as long as we hold to this attitude we are, in effect, validating the power of intimidation.

There is a revealing scene in the movie Zero Dark Thirty when Maya (Jessica Chastain), who is a junior member of a team of CIA operatives, charged with finding Osama bin Laden, stands up to her boss. Constantly intimidated by reminders of her low position on the team, lack of experience, the power of the system and a “station chief” more concerned with his resume and fear of failure than accomplishing the objective, Maya finally takes a stand. Using his insecurities and ambitions against him, Maya reflects the intimidation back at her boss, and he backs down. From that time forward Maya is treated with respect and her ideas are taken seriously, ultimately resulting in finally tracking down OBL.

At the very least, understanding intimidation and the motivation for some to use it will enable us to better deal with it. But we can actually do more than that. We can use the understanding of motivation to intimidate the intimidator; exorcising it from our lives and allowing us the freedom to achieve all that we have the potential to achieve.

And the moral of the story …

Trust me, I know intimidation sucks and it is often difficult to confront. It creates an artificial feeling of fear that inhibits its victims from performing to their potential. But intimidation is a cold fact of life – especially in the workplace – that can only be conquered when confronted. The way to neutralize the impact of intimidation is to understand it and recognize why it is being used. When we identify intimidation as a desperate tactic of a weak and insecure manager, it loses its fearsome influence and can, in fact, be used against the intimidator to nullify it.

When we conjure up the vision of the business intimidator as nothing more than a schoolyard bully and comprehend that the only way to stop them is to stand up to them, we will have discovered the only antidote to intimidation.

Have You Decided Who You Will Vote For? The Choices Are Deplorable!


from “If You’re Not Making History, You Are History” by Bob MacDonald


For the first time in history, more people will vote against a candidate for president, than will vote for a candidate. It’s not even a decision to vote for the “lesser of two evils.” There is a large group of the electorate who, while they see Trump as unqualified, so dislike and distrust Clinton they will express that feeling by voting for Trump. Likewise, there is a block of voters who, while they are turned off by Clinton, are so fearful of Trump’s antics, they will vote for Clinton. This year’s election is a little like the condemned man being given the choice between execution by hanging or firing squad.

There are those who will argue that there is another option – maybe the best one – and that is to vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee. But that is not much of an option either. Johnson is more like the reincarnation of Alfred E. Newman of Mad Magazine. You may not be old enough to remember the, “What me worry?” mantra of Alfred E. Newman, but Johnson blithely wanders through the campaign demonstrating a total lack of awareness of the world around him and sees no reason to worry about it.

As bad as they are, let’s explore the options we have …

Hillary Clinton may be the luckiest person to ever run for president. If Clinton were pitted against anyone other than Donald Trump, she would have little hope of winning. As it is, despite all her real deficiencies, it is highly likely that she will be the next president.

Among Hillary’s many problems is that she is the embodiment of the status quo, at a time when people want change. A vote for Clinton signals satisfaction with the way things are and a willingness to accept the same in the future. Nothing underscores this more than her cozy relationship with and support of the moneyed elite in the country. Want evidence of this? Just ask yourself: When was the last time you saw the Republican big money, the banks and Wall Street line up to support the Democratic presidential nominee? They would not do so if they were not confident that Clinton would support the status quo.

But there is are even more compelling reasons to vote against Clinton, even if you don’t like Trump. Clinton lacks the ethical principles of effective leadership and has exhibited the propensity to say what she has to say and do what she has to do to further her career. Clinton is the type of politician who is for something till she is against it. Over and over Clinton has demonstrated the willingness to change her views in order to tack into the winds of political expediency. The best example of this attitude was the way she has responded to the long string of sexual indiscretions by her husband. Rather than maintain her own self-respect, it is apparent she reached an “arrangement” with her husband that allowed her to remain on the public stage. It was one thing to “reconcile” with her husband, but to attack the women he was involved with was intended simply to protect her political ambitions.

The long string of controversies and scandals that follow in the wake of the Clintons are evidence that they have always operated in the dark gray area of ethics. Maybe their actions have not been illegal, but they have certainly been smelly and sleazy. When you put all this together it is easy to see why so few voters are inspired, motivated or happy to vote for Clinton; except to vote against Trump.

As for Trump, aside from Clinton, he is the luckiest person ever to receive the nomination for president. If he were running against any other Democratic nominee, he would have little hope of winning. All too often, people will say, “I am not all that comfortable with Trump, but I just hate Hillary.” Trump is the living caricature of the bombastic, boorish, egomaniacal, ethically challenged business entrepreneur. He has an overactive libido for doing the deal – no matter what it is. No rational, thinking person can, with a straight face, claim that Trump is qualified to be president of the United States; at least by the definition used up till now. The only qualification favoring Trump is that he is viewed as a “change agent” at a time when people are hungry for change.

Trump has intuitively struck the cord of change that has been magnified by the fact he is running against an anti-change candidate. This would normally be a winning strategy for a candidate, but while Trump has talked of change, he has failed to identify the specifics of change and how it will be accomplished; both of which are essential, if a change agent is to be successful bringing about change.

The final decision as to whom to vote for comes down to two options: Are you willing to vote for someone you don’t like or trust, but you know their election will continue the safe sameness of the past? Are you willing to vote for someone you don’t like, but you know their election will bring about change; even if you don’t know what that change might be? The truth is there are no good choices as to how to vote.

But there is a strong clue to the outcome: While people clamor for change – especially when things don’t seem to be going well for them – in the end they accept the status quo – even if it is not in their best interests – rather than face change that is unknown.

The Secret to Creating an Entrepreneurial Culture in a Bureaucratic Business World

from “If You’re Not Making History, You Are History” by Bob MacDonald


Without a doubt, we live in a bureaucratic business world. For those chasing success, it’s a constraining and frustrating world defined by ever expanding rules and regulations. In a bureaucracy, progress is subservient to process and performance is trumped by procedure. And while many seem to snuggle up in the lap of the certainty and security of bureaucracy, there are others — maybe just like you — who chafe under its constrictions and yearn for a more enterprising way of corporate life.

The generally accepted antidote for bureaucracy is an “entrepreneurial culture” and many of those frustrated with bureaucracy wistfully talk about the value of building this type of environment. But behind the talk lies a very real challenge: When you’re mired in the bureaucratic trenches, it’s difficult to believe you have the power to fight bureaucracy by building an entrepreneurial culture. Why? Because many are handcuffed by the mistaken belief that being an entrepreneur is a prerequisite for creating an entrepreneurial culture. But it is a myth to believe that being an entrepreneur and crafting an entrepreneurial culture are conjoined as steadfastly as Siamese twins; that you can’t have one without the other.

Such a restrictive mindset prevents many from even attempting to build an entrepreneurial culture. Believing that they are not and can never be an entrepreneur, they give-up and give-in to bureaucracy. But that’s not the way it needs to be. Not only is it possible, but also fairly easy to build an entrepreneurial culture in a bureaucratic world, even by those who are not actual entrepreneurs.

The first step on the road to bureaucratic freedom is to rid yourself of the belief that the traits essential to being a successful entrepreneur are the same as those that form the basis of an entrepreneurial culture. That’s not the case and they can be very different.

For example, while intuitively it seems likely that an organization led by an entrepreneur will have an entrepreneurial culture, the reality is that more times than not, this is not the case. The seldom acknowledged truth is that while the culture of an organization led by a strong entrepreneur may not be bureaucratic, it is apt to be more autocratic than entrepreneurial.

What really constrains the creation of an entrepreneurial culture – especially in large organizations – is a matter of semantics. For lack of a better term, we have fallen into the trap of identifying an entrepreneurial culture as one led by an entrepreneur, and this creates more confusion than understanding. Instead, we should focus on the attributes of an entrepreneurial culture which are: transparency, openness, accountability, a sense of urgency and shared reward.

If we can just clear our minds of the accepted idea of what an “entrepreneurial culture” is supposed to be and instead, think in terms of an “open culture,” it will enable us to look at culture building from a completely different perspective. And while we are at it, let’s also cheat on the traditional rule that says only those at the top of an organization can determine its culture.

Over and over people will chant, “I am just a small cog in a large bureaucratic organization. How can I bring about cultural change?” The answer is to ignore the larger bureaucratic culture and think of creating a distinct culture within your span of control, such as a team leader, department head or division leader. Remember that culture for the group is defined by the style of the leader at any level.

So if you are willing to open our mind and suspend the rules that inhibit the creation of an entrepreneurial culture in a bureaucratic world you can built an “open culture.” What would such a culture look like and how would it function?

  • It would be a culture with a strict adherence to a core set of values.
  • The culture would constantly focus on clearly defined objectives along with continuous support for members of the group and free flowing transparent communication.
  • It would be imbued with a sense of urgency as an operating lifestyle.
  • Stress accountability where risk is clearly encouraged and accomplishment rewarded.
  • When the group is successful, all of those within the group share a sense of ownership, participation and rewards for the success achieved.

There is nothing in this concept of an “open culture” that can’t be adopted by any leader, at any level in any size organization – even the most bureaucratic. Don’t believe it? Are you going to suggest that within your span of control you can’t have a core set of values? That you can’t clearly define the objectives of the group you lead? That you are not allowed to have constant communication with members of your group? That just because you are not an entrepreneur, you can’t create a sense of urgency among those you supervise? The truth is that you don’t have to be an entrepreneur or CEO of a company in order to build an “open culture” in your area of leadership and control.

It comes down to this attitude: Just because you work in a bureaucracy, it doesn’t mean you have to be a bureaucrat.

And the Moral of the Story …

While virtually everyone sings the praises of an entrepreneurial culture, there is also a universal belief that only an entrepreneur can create an entrepreneurial culture. It is this misunderstanding that leads to the conclusion that it is not possible to create an entrepreneurial culture in a bureaucratic world. If we continue to cling to the traditional beliefs of culture building, the bureaucratic world will always win. But if we are willing to open our minds to what the culture is really all about, instead of what it is called, then it is possible to build an “open culture” in a bureaucratic world. And those who are willing to adopt this approach by implementing the concepts of an open culture will ultimately achieve success and recognition that will be the envy of any entrepreneur.