Tackling the "tanks" in your workplace

Sherman Tanks have an insatiable need to be right all of the time. Here is how to deal with them — without getting trounced

Do you have an overbearing coworker who is wreaking havoc in your worklife? You could be dealing with a Sherman Tank, a personality type characterized by an insatiable need to be right all of the time. In fact, Tanks know that being overwhelming and aggressive will often get them exactly what they want. 

Still, there’s no need to let a Tank trample through your workday. Edmonton-based consultant Vik Maraj, who speaks about dealing with difficult people to audiences around the world, offers these tips on how to keep the Sherman Tanks in your life in check.

  • Keep your expression neutral and your tone bold and firm, because the Tank preys on the meek. Don’t nod your head in agreement unless you agree.
  • Maintain eye contact and if standing, get the Tank to sit down by slowly seating yourself to make the situation seem less aggressive. (If the Tank doesn’t follow suit, slowly get back up so as not to appear weak.)
  • Listen attentively and reiterate what the Tank has said to prove you understand. (Interrupt the Tank if he or she is not giving you an opportunity to speak.) Then try marrying the Tank’s point of view to what you have to say.
  • Keep everyone else out of the conversation and present any points as your own (otherwise, the Tank will go to these colleagues and coerce them into the conversation).
  • Don’t expect anyone’s support. Most people don’t want to be involved because they are anxious about dealing with the Tank.
  • Question the Tank without being antagonizing. One example is to say: "I understand what you’re saying. I also have an idea. Let’s discuss both."
  • Expect the Tank to befriend you if you survive the interaction. He or she will see your assertiveness as worthy of respect.

For more tips on how to deal with other common difficult personalities, go to CPA Canada’s webinar Dealing with Difficult People: Tanks, Clams, Know-It-Alls and More.