Behavioral Scale Deep Dive: High Dominance

Dominance: The desire to take control whenever and wherever possible.                    

We all have had a friend or colleague who always dominates conversations and meetings. They’re not afraid to speak their opinion and are determined to be in charge. Although this is not inherently a bad thing, like we have seen in all of our behavioral scale deep dives, there are always two sides to the coin. If somebody is always dominating situations, other less confrontational people can feel intimidated to engage and share their own opinions which can stifle collaboration and hurt morale. On the flip side, someone with a high dominance score can also make a great leader and encourage others to stay focused on tasks because they’re not afraid to be in charge and can influence others. Let’s take a deeper look at the characteristics of someone with a high dominance score, how this can both help and sometimes hurt them and others, and ways you can help bring balance.

High Dominance 

Meet John. John is always the first one to speak up at meetings and is always adamant about getting his point across. He is confident in his own opinions and is able to easily influence others. He always tells people if they’re bothering him or if he disagrees with them and is never afraid of confrontation. Because of this, he often finds himself leading conversations or taking up a leadership role and people look to him for decision making. He’s always up to tackle the next big project, and always approaches it with determination and speed.

John is an example of someone who likely has a high dominance score. He:

  • Needs to be in charge
  • Tends to be strong, forthright, determined, and able to influence other
  • Is powerful, and others realize this power  
  • Tends to be impatient and moves very quickly.

Tips for Managing High Scorers:

For a team, the behavioral traits of someone with a high dominance score can have many advantages:

  • They can make strong leaders, especially during stressful times
  • Their strong determination and take-charge tendency can encourage other team members to stay focused on their own tasks and projects. 
  • They are usually willing to take on new challenges and can handle heavy workloads.
  • They aren’t afraid to take risks.

However, when this power and need for control gets out of control, it can overshadow concern for others. This self-centeredness can create in others feelings of intimidation, fear, mistrust and being “bullied.” Other team members may find it annoying and difficult dealing with their dominant colleague, creating interpersonal conflicts within the workplace. Additionally, less assertive employees may feel uncomfortable sharing their opinions and can be dominated in group settings, resulting in the loss of potentially good ideas and a slow manifestation of passive aggressive frustration among those employees. Here are some tips for managing someone with a high dominance score: 

Be Direct  

When working with a high scorer in dominance, you have to approach them on their level. If you try to suggest something in a meek manner, they’re going to walk all over you. Although it may go against your own natural tendencies, you must be confident, direct, assertive, to the point, and brief in order to be effective. Focus on tangible points and talk about “what” instead of “how”. Focus on business and try to be results-oriented. Make suggestions for how to achieve the goal instead of talking about why it won’t work. 

Call them Out (Nicely) 

High scorers in dominance move quickly and can tend to be impatient, sometimes interrupting while other employee’s are speaking. By calling them out directly (i.e; “I know you want to say something, but we need to hear everyone’s opinion first)  it can help them become aware of when they’re doing that, and help avoid frustration from other employees.

Engage them with Fast Paced, Challenging Projects

Being in charge and moving at a fast pace motivates high scorers in dominance. By giving them challenging projects, you can keep High scorers in Dominance engaged and working toward a rewarding goal, while also showing them that you’re invested in their professional growth. 

Focus on the Big Picture

When working with a highly dominant person, it’s important not to focus too much on the negative aspects of their idea or the small details. They are big picture thinkers and may perceive you as negative and not respecting their ideas if you do so.  They will likely offer innovative and progressive ideas and systems, but will need someone else to break down the project and work with the specifics. They may ignore potential risks, not weigh the pros and cons, and not consider the opinions of others.  However, by pairing them with someone that is more detail oriented but is aware of how they work and respond, projects can flow and grow.

Encourage them to value other people’s opinions 

If you’re leading a meeting and one employee is completely dominating the conversation, redirect the conversation and call on other employees by name to give their thoughts. One technique is to use something they said as a jumping off point and spin it positively. For example, cut in and say, “John, I like what you said about _____.  Sarah, what do you think?”  This will help the more submissive, less dominant employees feel valued and discreetly remind the dominant employee that their team’s opinions matter too. Additionally, this can take the anxiety of initiating the expression of their own opinions away from less dominant employees if you lead the way.  

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