Bias-Driven Behavior and the Malevolent Professional
The first problem for exposing the destructive behavior of MPs is that the behavioral characteristics of conscious and unconscious bias are often indistinguishable. Examples include constant interruptions, mansplaining, off-color jokes, gender-exclusive bonding, and manspreading. There are many people who conduct themselves in these ways and remain unaware of the impact they have on others. This is where it becomes critical to recognize the difference between the innocent person with unconscious bias and the MP in disguise.
Malevolent Professionals not only lack integrity and authenticity but are also generally incapable of innovation or creativity in the true senses of those words. They steal women’s ideas to get the results that benefit them strategically in their pursuit of status, power, or money. A MP is the exact opposite of the Harmonious Victor (HV) who is conqueror of the wholistic consistent success for self and others. The MPs are often disguised as a HVs. If we are not aware of how to spot them, they can ruin our careers. The table below defines the differences between the two persona concepts in five key areas:
|Key Areas||Malevolent Professional (HV)||Harmonious Victor (HV)|
|Integrity||Pretends to value||Values dearly|
|Authenticity||Fake, uses it to get ahead||Genuine, gets ahead by hard work|
|Innovation||Fraud, steals others’ ideas||Genuinely creative, innovates|
|Results||Individual gain||Work group and organization gain|
|Strategic Growth||Rises by using others||Rises via strategic partnerships|
|With Women||Exploits, manipulates, intimidates||Respects, treats as colleague|
Recognizing the Malevolent Professional
The characteristics of bullies are well known. Some bullies are more foolish and inconsiderate than hurtful. They may just be super-competitive individuals with bad “form” who do not like to lose and crave the spotlight. The addition of sociopathic behavior makes it difficult to distinguish between mere boorish behavior and a Malevolent Professional. An interesting article by Bill Eddy, author of 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life, describes a three-step process for spotting a sociopath. These steps include:
- Their words: Sociopaths tend to make extreme negative or positive comments, and their expressed attitudes are mostly false. They tend to exaggerate or simply make things up and are skilled at switching very quickly between positive and negative reactions.
- Your emotional response: It is especially important to listen to our inner selves when we are around these individuals and to assess our feelings carefully to decide whether we are being manipulated. Fear, infatuation, or excessive sympathy are common reactions to a sociopath’s behavior because sociopaths are often charming and always play the victim when criticized or challenged.
- Their behavioral style: Sociopaths always find a target to blame for any failure. A hidden story from their past (if shared) would confirm their sociopathic tendencies earlier in life. Sociopaths feed on hurting other people.
Most of these same behaviors are also typical of malignant narcissists, an overlapping type. Both pathologies are notoriously difficult to treat, and people who have them can easily become Malevolent Professionals. MPs may present and ingratiate themselves with superficially likable behaviors such as apparent friendliness, fake kindness, and exaggerated displays of effort on behalf of colleagues or the work group, but this is only for their own benefit. Behind such deceit, their feelings of arrogant superiority lead them to be merciless and vengeful and to stop at nothing to get what they want.
To spot these Malevolent Professionals, watch their behavior and look for aggressions and microaggressions. They use microaggression because it is often dismissed or described as innocent, unintentional, or unconscious bias.
Examples of Microaggressions
- Condescendingly calling a woman “sweetheart,” “honey,” and other endearments properly reserved for use by family or close friends
- Giving a woman a nickname, they believe suits her and insisting on using it despite the woman’s stated dislike of it
- Especially with women of color or immigrant women, continually mispronouncing her name and making no effort to pronounce it correctly
- Using offensive terms (“bossy,” “bitch”, “ballbuster,” etc.) to describe women who demonstrate behaviors they respect if demonstrated by men
- Thinking (or pretending to think) a woman at a meeting is the secretary or AA and asking her (and her only) to take meeting minutes and not the other male attendees.
- Assuming women are not technically competent and mansplaining technical issues to them, including in cases where the woman’s knowledge is actually superior to theirs
- Ignoring (or appearing to ignore) women’s contributions to a work process and treating them as invisible but using their ideas to get ahead without giving them credit
Displaying “benevolent” sexism
- Insisting on helping without being asked and forcing their help on the woman if she resists
- Demanding information from a woman related to meetings with others at work or outside with the justification of protecting her.
Racial/national origin micro-invalidations (typically directed at foreign-born women and women of color)
- Making comments in small talk that may be offensive. Some comments and questions shared with me that display micro-invalidations:
- “You are so articulate” or “Your English is so good, how long have you been here?” which appear complimentary on the surface but indicate condescension;
- “Did you live in houses or tents before you came to America?” or “Did you ride cars or camels?´ which are openly insulting;
- “Did you wear clothes in your country?”
The people who made these comments are not necessarily uneducated, but they seem to derive satisfaction when putting others down. This sort of remark is typical of Malevolent Professionals.
- Refer to different ethnic groups with derogatory labels: for example, “ragheads” or “hajis” for Middle Eastern people
- Don the disguise of an inclusive and collaborative person. The classic example is the person who says “I don’t see color” as a way of denying the reality of racism. People who are intolerant of other religions often start the conversation with “We don’t care what other people believe or what religion they have” and then go on to denigrate that person’s faith.
- Inappropriate touching or hugging
- Rubbing against a woman when passing her in a confined space without apology but with a smirk of satisfaction
- Manspreading (or woman-spreading): consuming more space, e.g., with papers and laptop at a conference able, ignoring others’ discomfort
- Use of sexually explicit analogies or examples during a discussion to make a point. Even when perpetrators are informed of the discomfort they cause; they do not stop.
An example of such behavior was recently shared with me by a woman working in a small company: the CEO fits the
Malevolent Professional persona 100%. In a one-on-one discussion he used sexually explicit analogies that were completely unexpected and uncalled for, having nothing to do with the topic discussed. When the female employee expressed displeasure at this type of language/behavior, his answer was as follows (exact quote):
“I know and see how uncomfortable this makes you, I intentionally use it because this makes people pay attention.”
Later, she realized that he only used these types of example with her when no one else was around in order to allow himself plausible denial—his word against hers—which meant no legal actions was feasible.
- Intimidation by Intentional use of curse-words that may be religiously or culturally offensive, especially when doing this stabs people in the heart of their beliefs, such as the use of blasphemies.
- The same individual from the example above used the f-word in every sentence when directing his team to work in secrecy. When his female Operations Director advised him not to approach his team in this manner, he ignored her advice totally and responded as follows: “It will take you years to reach my level of understanding people.” Profanity can be combined with condescension by MPs to induce a double humiliation.
- Using vulgar terms to describe their spouses. Rather than referring to the spouse by her/his given name, they always refer to them as “the B-word” if female or as “the A-hole” if male. They always attribute their children’s success to their own genes not to those of their spouse.
- This is an indirect microaggression: the probable MP is showing you that s/he can treat anyone with contempt behind their backs, even a spouse, so what might they be calling you when you are not present?