top of page

Navigating Challenging Behaviors and Cultivating Impactful Leadership

In the fast-paced and competitive world of business, effective leadership and positive workplace dynamics are crucial for success. It is essential for leaders to navigate and address challenging behaviors to foster a healthy and thriving work environment.

In this article, I will explore strategies for both confronting difficult personalities in the workplace and avoiding these behaviors in our own leadership styles. By understanding and managing challenging styles such as the Kiss-Up/Kick-Down, Credit Stealer, Bulldozer, Micromanager, and Gaslighter, leaders can create a culture of fairness, collaboration, trust, and open communication. Let us delve into these strategies and cultivate impactful leadership practices that promote personal and professional growth.

Strategies for Managing Difficult Personalities in the Workplace

As new professionals, we often find ourselves ill-prepared to handle these situations, which can lead to frustration and a sense of uncertainty. In her book, "Jerks at Work: Toxic Coworkers and What to Do About Them," Tessa West sheds light on five specific difficult personalities commonly encountered in the workplace. While each "jerk" may exhibit different behaviors, they all share a common psychological trait - they threaten our sense of certainty and control.

  • The Kiss-Up/Kick-Down: The Kiss-Up/Kick-Down personality is known for ingratiating themselves with higher-ups while treating subordinates poorly. To address this issue, it is crucial to gather information and build a network of allies within the organization. Reach out to well-connected or seasoned workers who can provide insights into office politics and the reputations of other employees. By understanding the extent of the problem and identifying potential victims, you can approach your boss with concrete evidence and foster a supportive environment.

  • The Credit Stealer: Dealing with a Credit Stealer requires a proactive approach. Before attending a meeting where credit stealing may occur, collaborate with your peers and develop a plan. Make a pact to amplify each other's contributions and ensure credit is given where it is due. By collectively highlighting individual achievements, you create a supportive network that combats the Credit Stealer's behavior while promoting a culture of recognition and fairness.

  • The Bulldozer: To prevent being bulldozed by a dominant personality, it is essential to establish your authority early on. Take on leadership roles within your team, such as spearheading a project or leading a presentation. These small acts of leadership will help solidify your reputation as an authority figure among your colleagues. Once you have earned this label, your actions and behaviors carry more weight, making it difficult for the Bulldozer to dismiss your ideas or opinions.

  • The Micromanager: Confronting a Micromanager requires finesse. Rather than directly addressing their micromanagement tendencies, initiate a conversation about aligning on the big-picture goals. By shifting the focus to broader objectives, you can subtly address the issue without causing defensiveness. Present your thoughts on how you believe more autonomy and trust will improve productivity and outcomes. By framing the conversation around shared goals, you create an opportunity for constructive dialogue and potential change.

  • The Gaslighter: Gaslighters thrive on manipulating situations and distorting reality. To counter their tactics, it is essential to document everything. Keep a record of conversations, emails, and any other interactions with the Gaslighter. This evidence serves as a powerful tool to hold them accountable and prevent them from altering the narrative later on. By forcing them to confirm things in writing, you limit their ability to manipulate and control the situation.

Navigating difficult personalities in the workplace is a common challenge faced by professionals at all levels. By understanding the inner workings and weak points of these personalities, we can develop effective strategies for managing them. The strategies outlined above - building a network, collaborating with peers, establishing authority, initiating constructive conversations, and documenting interactions - can help maintain a sense of control and certainty in the face of challenging individuals. Remember, personal and professional growth often stems from our ability to navigate difficult situations, and by mastering these strategies, we can thrive in any work environment.

Effectively Confronting Leaders Exhibiting Challenging Behaviors

Confronting a leader who exhibits challenging behaviors can be a delicate task, requiring a thoughtful and strategic approach. It is essential to address these behaviors in a respectful and constructive manner to foster positive change and maintain a healthy work environment. Below are effective ways to confront leaders who display styles and behaviors such as the Kiss-Up/Kick-Down, Credit Stealer, Bulldozer, Micromanager, and Gaslighter.

  • The Kiss-Up/Kick-Down: hen confronting a leader who exhibits the Kiss-Up / Kick-Down behavior, it is crucial to gather evidence and build a case. Document specific incidents where the leader has treated subordinates unfairly or engaged in favoritism. Approach the conversation with a focus on maintaining a positive work culture and fostering inclusivity. Present your concerns to the leader, providing specific examples and expressing how their behavior is negatively impacting team morale and productivity. Offer suggestions for improvement and emphasize the importance of fair treatment and equal opportunities for all employees.

  • The Credit Stealer: Confronting a leader who steals credit requires a tactful approach. Begin by privately addressing the issue with the leader, expressing your concerns about the lack of recognition for team members' contributions. Share specific instances where credit was not appropriately attributed and highlight the negative consequences, such as demotivation and decreased trust. Offer a solution by proposing a more collaborative approach to acknowledging individual and team achievements. Suggest implementing regular feedback sessions or establishing a recognition program that encourages a culture of giving credit where it is due.

  • The Bulldozer: To confront a leader who exhibits Bulldozer behavior, it is essential to assert yourself and establish boundaries. Schedule a one-on-one meeting with the leader and calmly express your observations about their dominating style. Use specific examples to illustrate how their behavior stifles creativity and inhibits team collaboration. Recommend alternative approaches that encourage open dialogue and incorporate diverse perspectives. Emphasize the benefits of a more inclusive leadership style and how it can lead to improved team dynamics and better outcomes.

  • The Micromanager: Confronting a micromanager requires finesse and a focus on building trust. Approach the leader respectfully, expressing your desire for greater autonomy and the opportunity to contribute fully to the team's success. Highlight the negative impact micromanagement has on productivity, creativity, and employee morale. Propose a plan to establish clearer expectations, regular check-ins, and open communication channels that foster trust and allow for more independent decision-making. Frame the conversation around achieving shared goals and the leader's role in empowering their team members.

  • The Gaslighter: Confronting a leader who engages in gaslighting behaviors can be challenging due to their manipulative tactics. Before confronting them, gather evidence of their gaslighting behavior, such as documented conversations and emails. Approach the conversation calmly and assertively, presenting the evidence and expressing your concerns about the impact of their behavior on your well-being and professional growth. Request clarification and confirmation of expectations in writing to prevent them from distorting the narrative later on. Seek support from trusted colleagues or HR if necessary to ensure a fair and unbiased resolution.

Effectively confronting leaders who exhibit challenging behaviors requires a thoughtful and strategic approach. By addressing these behaviors in a respectful and constructive manner, we can encourage positive change and foster a healthier work environment. Whether dealing with the Kiss-Up/Kick-Down, Credit Stealer, Bulldozer, Micromanager, or Gaslighter, it is crucial to gather evidence, express concerns, propose solutions, and emphasize the benefits of improved behaviors for the team and organization. Remember, effective communication and a focus on collaboration and growth are key to confronting challenging leaders and fostering positive change.

How to Avoid These Styles and Behaviors in Your Own Leadership

As leaders, it is crucial to reflect on our own behaviors and strive to create a positive and supportive work environment. By avoiding challenging styles and behaviors, we can foster trust, collaboration, and personal growth within our teams. Below are strategies to help you steer clear of styles and behaviors such as the Kiss-Up/Kick-Down, Credit Stealer, Bulldozer, Micromanager, and Gaslighter, promoting a healthy and thriving workplace culture.

  1. Foster a Culture of Fairness and Equality: To avoid the Kiss-Up/Kick-Down style, establish a culture of fairness and equality within your team. Treat all team members with respect and ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute and be recognized. Encourage open communication, transparency, and collaboration. By valuing diverse perspectives and providing equal support and opportunities, you can create a positive and inclusive work environment.

  2. Embrace a Culture of Recognition: To avoid becoming a Credit Stealer, make it a priority to recognize and acknowledge the contributions of your team members. Create a culture of recognition by openly appreciating and celebrating individual and team achievements. Encourage peer-to-peer recognition and ensure that credit is given where it is due. By sharing credit and highlighting the accomplishments of others, you foster a sense of camaraderie and motivate your team members.

  3. Emphasize Collaboration and Empowerment: To steer clear of Bulldozer behavior, prioritize collaboration and empowerment within your team. Encourage open dialogue, active listening, and the sharing of ideas and opinions. Create opportunities for team members to take on leadership roles and contribute their unique expertise. By empowering your team and valuing their perspectives, you foster a culture of inclusivity and drive innovation and creativity.

  4. Trust and Delegate: Avoid falling into the trap of being a Micromanager by trusting your team members and delegating responsibilities effectively. Clearly communicate goals, expectations, and deadlines, and provide the necessary resources and support. Empower your team members to make decisions and take ownership of their work. Regularly check in on progress, but refrain from micromanaging every detail. Trusting your team members builds their confidence, promotes autonomy, and enhances overall productivity and job satisfaction.

  5. Cultivate Open and Honest Communication: To avoid Gaslighter behavior, prioritize open and honest communication within your team. Create a safe space for team members to express their thoughts, concerns, and ideas without fear of judgment or retribution. Encourage feedback and actively listen to understand different perspectives. Regularly communicate expectations, provide constructive feedback, and address conflicts or misunderstandings promptly and respectfully. By fostering a culture of open communication, you build trust, strengthen relationships, and prevent gaslighting behaviors.

As a leader, it is essential to be mindful of our own behaviors and strive to avoid challenging styles that can negatively impact our team members and work environment. By fostering fairness, recognition, collaboration, trust, and open communication, we can cultivate positive leadership and create a supportive and thriving workplace culture. Remember, leadership is a continuous journey of self-reflection and growth, and by embodying these strategies, you can set a positive example and inspire your team members to reach their full potential.


Navigating challenging behaviors and fostering positive leadership practices are essential for creating a healthy and thriving work environment. By effectively confronting difficult personalities, such as the Kiss-Up / Kick-Down, Credit Stealer, Bulldozer, Micromanager, and Gaslighter, leaders can address these behaviors head-on. Additionally, by avoiding these behaviors in our own leadership styles and interactions with team members, we can cultivate a culture of fairness, recognition, collaboration, trust, and open communication. Remember, effective leadership and personal growth stem from our ability to navigate difficult situations and continuously strive to be better leaders. By implementing these strategies, we can create an environment that supports the success and well-being of both individuals and the organization as a whole.


Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



bottom of page