Surviving Alpha People

LeeAnn Bailes Foster

We are made to thrive. Well, if you have thrived while dealing with Alpha People, please give me a call. You are a superhero. 

Merely surviving Alpha People is a win! However extroverted and people-loving you are, dealing with Alpha personalities is draining and often times defeating. What is an Alpha Person (AP)? An alpha person has a dominant personality. An AP is usually outgoing, ambitious, and straight-forward. 

In article by Mary Wright in Curious Mind Magazine describes Alpha People as follows:

Alpha People love being alone. They say what is on their minds without holding back. They do not care what others think about them. They are not pushovers. The speak with their actions, not with words. They are protective. Their passion is often seen as bossiness. They have strong beliefs and are perfectionists. They are very hard workers. They only do things that they love. 

Does Ms. Wright’s description bring anyone to mind? It brings two people to mind for me, one male and one female. During my 30-year career, these two people, let’s call them Deanna and Jude, behaved very poorly while interacting with our employees. Both were peers of mine. My other teammates and I survived. The situation was not pretty at times. We could have been so much more productive and a much higher functioning team. 

Deanna was the type that always had her phone in her face during conversations and meetings. Her time was much more important than anyone else’s. She never greeted a person first. You had to speak first or be ignored. She stomped throughout the office, busted into conversations, and pulled a chair up to many tables where there was no room. 

Deanna’s boss was highly intimidated by her; therefore, she had no coaching regarding her poor behavior. She prided herself in being the office “B.” Her team members always agreed with her to her face but spoke their honest opinions to each other after she left the meeting. She did not play well with other females. She repeatedly positioned herself between the President and others. 

I never stood my ground with her. I was passive and agreeable. I was intimidated. Sadly, I did nothing to help her grow. Nothing! I have very few regrets looking back over my career, but this relationship is one of them. Deanna needed boundaries. She needed someone to care enough about her to be honest with her. 

Now for Jude! Jude blew into the organization like a tornado. And – he left a lot of damage. He was really a mean man. He bullied everyone, even the CEO. Jude would say many times per day that one of our employees was “stupid.” He constantly insinuated that no one worked but him. He would call all hours of the day, even on Sundays. If you didn’t answer his call, you would get it!

This guy had no idea what he was doing. He changed his plan repeatedly. No vision. No mission. No nothing. The organization was broken soon after his arrival. However, this time I stood up to the AP. I pointed out the confusion and dysfunctionality. I could not change his behavior, but I changed mine. I stood strong. I was confident. I was assertive. I got so much more done because I would not stop until I got the attention I needed for my initiative. It felt good. 

The ten tips below (from HR Zone) will aid you in moving from surviving to thriving when in the presence of an Alpha Person. 

  1. Clearly inform the AP regarding the impact of his behavior. Let him know how it makes you feel when he raises his voice. For example, “When you raise your voice with me. I just get defensive and feel resentful. I would prefer it if you could lower your tone and we could talk about this properly instead of arguing.”
  2. Plan what you are going to say. Use “If, Then” statements. If she does this, then I will say that. Practice! Be clear, concise, and direct. Do not get into long arguments. Make your points clear. Make sure that you sound convincing.
  3. Be powerful in stating your case by using “I” statements. “I think/I believe/I feel, etc.” This shows that you are entitled to your opinion.
  4. Always respond to the AP even if he is being aggressive. Show that you recognize his views. Doing so will help build rapport. 
  5. Do not be apologetic for any reason. Repeatedly apologizing will make you sound passive. People will be less likely to notice you.
  6. Be aware of your tone, volume, and pace. Do not whisper, whine, falter, or speak too slowly. You do not want to come across as nervous, unconfident, or uncertain. The AP will ignore you if you sound like a pushover.
  7. Be keenly aware of your body language. Stand straight, firm, and maintain eye contact. 
  8. Challenge the Alpha Person’s behavior. Do not allow her to talk over you or interrupt you. 
  9. Use the Broken Record technique. Repeat your point over and over again until you have the impact you desire. Doing so shows that you are no longer going to accept being ignored. 
  10. Do not let him take advantage of you. Say No! Again, do not feel the need to apologize. Stand your ground. Give the reason you must say “no” and explore alternatives. Do not be passive and stand your ground. Your agenda is as important as his. 

Assertiveness is not a natural state. It is a skill that has to be learned and practiced. To ‘act’ assertive, it really helps to ‘think’ assertive. That means changing your beliefs, thoughts, and feelings to increase your self-esteem and confidence. Look at it this way, it is much easier to convince other people that you deserve to be treated with respect if you truly believe it yourself!