Danger: Chronic Confrontationitis, part 1

June 2, 2011 — 4 Comments


Is there someone at work who seems intent on drawing others into a state of constant confrontation? Does he belittle, embarrass or even disrespect people on a regular basis in order to goad them into engaging him?  Maybe he is overly critical or micromanaging, attempting to intimidate or control everyone in his path? If this behavior is blatant and habitual, this person is likely afflicted with a dangerous and difficult to cure disease – Chronic Confrontationitis.

An individual with Chronic Confrontationitis is persistent in his attempts to force others to comply with his will. His methods are subtle – disguised with all the right behaviors. People respect and trust him, and he quietly betrays their trust whenever necessary to fuel his addiction. He must always be right, using confrontation to prove his point because, to him, the end always justifies the means.  And if he is particularly good at this, no one except his targets notice the betrayals. In some lethal workplaces, he may survive for years, or even become a high-level executive.

To make matters worse, our chronic confrontationitis victim usually has the dedication, focus and business acumen to create success, or at least the appearance of success. He is held up as an example of a company-centric leader, despite his underhanded tactics and inability to lead. He is rewarded, while the frustration builds among the targets of his bullying, intimidating, backstabbing and manipulating behavior.

A skilled, clever victim of the disease displays an elaborate, complex set of behaviors to exploit people around him and draw them into open confrontation. Habitual patterns of intentional, socially inappropriate behavior are indicative of the disease, including the subtle tactics of deceit, distortion, misrepresentation and misdirection.

Our clever, misdirected casualty has self-serving goals with a complete lack of respect or caring for others, whom he never considers as equals. Among these moral and intellectual inferiors, he feels free to use any means necessary to gain compliance – with deliberate confrontation being his favorite.

Those afflicted with Chronic Confrontationitis are highly confrontational people with high conflict personalities. The disease has become a large part of who they are – incorporating a life-long pattern of thinking, feeling and behaving. This began before they encountered you and is likely to continue long after your association with them is over.

There are typically four personality types most often afflicted by the disease. Each depicts a method of trying to overcome a sense of weakness or fear within, although individuals are usually not aware of this (you would be wise not to try to point it out to them!). They are unconsciously driven to find and confront targets, because this helps them briefly feel powerful and in control. The four faces of Chronic Confrontationitis are:

The Superiority Complex type:

They are addicted to trying to prove to themselves and others that they are superior beings. They are really afraid of being seen as inferior, and they show frequent disdain and disrespect towards others. This is most often reveals itself through verbal confrontation, but they may engage in covert tricks or maneuvers to provoke the confrontation  – hoping to make others look and feel inferior, while making themselves look or feel better. This is automatic behavior and they may not even recognize their propensity for confrontation.

The Revenge Seeker type:

These individuals often seek revenge for perceived rejections from others. They retaliate by openly instigating confrontation. Even if an individual did nothing wrong, they don’t check for facts – instead they act. They may spread rumors or make claims that others are extremely uncaring or unethical in order to draw out the perceived offender. The means of the confrontation is to ensure they make others believe they are right. They have a lot of all-or-nothing thinking, they jump to conclusions, and they firmly believe that “You are either with me or you are against me.”

The Dominator type:

These afflicted individuals go beyond just wanting to appear superior. They enjoy hurting other people. They fear being dominated, so they believe that through confrontation they can dominate. As long as they are attacking someone else, they feel less vulnerable. They may say hurtful things, but they also do hurtful things to intentionally draw the confrontation.

The Distrustful type:

These people are highly suspicious of others and may believe that others are taking advantage of them, without having any reason to believe so. They bear a grudge and will attack before (they believe) others attack them. They often create high conflict situations because of their excessive fear of everyone else.

All of these personality types reside as subcategories of Chronic Confrontationitis. Those afflicted believe that their targets are a danger to them in one form or another, creating their justification to attack – enjoying the momentary feeling of being in power.

In summary, individuals are usually overwhelmed, especially because those with the disease appear to have the active or passive support of their employers. Therefore, a comprehensive approach may have the best chance of success for a company or organization attempting to address this problem. Understanding that Chronic Confrontationitis is primarily a disease that affects the unconscious mind and is based on long-term personality patterns may help organizations and individuals develop strategies to eradicate the disease more effectively. Most victims afflicted with the disease are highly confrontational people with high conflict personalities. Realizing this helps us understand that the problem is:

  • Of a long and persistent duration and will not just go away on its own.
  • A deep and serious problem that can affect entire organizations if not recognized and controlled.
  • A problem that must be solved at the community level, rather than allowing the disease to fester and spread on an individual basis.
Do You Have Chronic Confrontationitis Lurking In Your Organization?
Please engage the discussion and let us know how you control Chronic Confrontationitis and stay tuned for Part 2 next week, when we will discuss what you can do to assuage the disease in your organization. Feel free to contact me at  Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back soon for the next post on Leadership Across Boundaries and Borders.


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Sheri is The Global Coach, founder of Luminosity Global Consulting Group, Global Executive Coach, Speaker, Writer and Global Business and Cultural Expert.

4 responses to Danger: Chronic Confrontationitis, part 1

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