Peak Performance Resources for Leaders by Leaders

Everyday Terrorism

Roadside bombings, drive-by shootings, tourists held at gunpoint, we are familiar with these headlines describing terrorist activities. Desperate for a method to get what they want, terrorists resort to tactics that invoke fear in the hearts of even the most secure and confident people.

Terrorists feel totally justified in taking other people’s lives and see their victims as guilty of one thing or another. They take it even so far as suicide, and sacrificing the defenseless and clearly innocent (like children) as a means to the end of their cause.

Perhaps, more insidious than the headline terrorists are the everyday terrorists who operate in the corridors of the modern workplace. We don’t have to look to the streets of a distant city for these people.

These people hijack our businesses and our time. They covet our attention, energy, and talent. They are charmers, masterful manipulators and seemingly everyone’s friend. They are intellectuals who look very busy and have all day to talk about your feelings, but no time to talk about theirs. When the real work is being done, they are nowhere to be seen; yet, when the work is over, they take all the credit! When things go wrong, it is never their fault.

Does this describe anyone you know?

These everyday terrorists use intimidation and domination tactics so masterfully that you don’t even know they are doing it. Just like the headline terrorists, their “real” target is the strong leader, the powerful group, the successful, responsible person.

Their underlying motives are fueled by insecurity and jealousy. They bulldoze anyone who is in their way. They demand all the attention and will “take down” anyone who is taking the limelight from them.

Any kind of attention will do: positive – or – negative.

They “hit and cry,” when confronted with what they have done.  They claim they are the real victim and are innocent.

Systems are the enemy of the everyday terrorist. They hate them, and anything that holds them to account for their results, and their behaviors. These people will say “yes, yes” to your face, then turn around and do exactly what they want to do.

With the current economic crisis putting extra stress on our organizations and our workplaces, many of these people who were hidden and undiscovered are now being flushed out and are acting up even more.

Many of their colleagues describe them as being “out of control” and bullying anyone who stands in their way.

Some research has indicated that 81% of these everyday terrorists are in fact the supervisors, managers, and executives in charge! Many people think most of these characters are men… however, there are as many women as men!

Having said that, it is interesting to note that 71% of the targets of these everyday terrorists are women.

Victims live in a constant state of fear and often suffer both emotional and financial harm. Symptoms include headaches, depression, inability to sleep and feeling drained to the point of exhaustion.

You may be thinking that bulldozing is necessary to get the job done, or “the end justifies the means” (headline terrorists think this, too) or that people are easily replaceable. However, if you consider the true cost of lost productivity, the resultant absenteeism and the replacement cost of these people, you will soon realize that the cost of this behavior is very high.

According to a recent study conducted by Psychologist Michael H. Harrison Ph.D., on 9,000 federal employees, the total cost was as high as $20,000 per employee ($180 million in total.)

Under the current economic circumstances, why do some people adapt to the pressure while others use it as an excuse to behave badly? Do you find yourself having to deal with these people, or are you one of them and find it unbearable to be around yourself?

Is this an opportunity for a call to right action, or is it permission to hold others hostage to your behaviors?

The most dangerous are the ones who can keep their feelings hidden and are numb to the fact that they even have them. These people are in the denial-zone and suck the Lifeforce out of everyone around them with a smile or a stone face. You can recognize them by the behavior of the people around them. If you are reading this and think you are the level-headed intellectual who is so above having these negative feelings, then you are likely to be one of these people.

At the Goldzone Organization, we decided several years ago to create an environment that has zero tolerance for everyday terrorist behavior. The key to this is accountability and safety for everyone to report anyone – regardless of their position.

As a result, we created systems to make it easy to report and clear up incidents before they become serious and too costly. We then automated these systems and integrated them with our enterprise computer systems. We are currently in the process of making these systems available for free via an iPhone application that can be used by anyone, anytime and in any environment.

If the future success of your organization is dependent on creativity and innovation, these everyday terrorists – if left unaddressed – will destroy the synergy, passion, creativity and spirit of your team.


Financial Crisis: Expansion


Everyday Terrorist Confession (PRIVATE)


  1. Water Tay

    Just to add-on, I am still thinking about this article since last night, and lots of anger are coming up thinking about the many times that I have been made a victim from a school playmate, to good friend, from ex-boss to some present clients. And I was not able to appropriately express all that anger.

    Fear and wanting to look good and in control is the reason. A lot of times, lots of justification to Self to let it pass. This feeds the Terrorist knowing that he/she can get away from it.

    Also, I feel there are people who are also adopting this terrorist behaviour at work because the “boss/company is like that” and see it as acceptable corporate behaviour. Thus, equating a higher position and in order to survive in the jungle, allow themselves to behave similarly. Therefore it could be a learned trait as well as from early childhood formative years.

  2. Christopher Neale

    Fantastic article…. as I was reading it through I could relate to both sides of being a terrorist and being the target of other terrorists.

    It got me thinking of how a terrorist is created, because a terrorist is not born they are created through the actions and behaviors of those around them, especially in the formative years of life and career.

    And by my own actions every day am either adding more fuel to the fire or dousing the flames……

  3. Water Tay

    Wow…what an article. It is absolutely so true. I was like re-reading to check for my own symptoms 🙂 ! After all the stories I have heard, I believe that this is the No.1 reason why people leave their jobs in S’pore. It is correct to say that many of these bullies are in the leadership/management position.

  4. Diana

    Very thought provoking connecting ‘terrorists’ with the work place. It is amazing how closely related the two are terror intactics. I can relate to this article in every way. I have experienced the high cost to the individual who has been terrorized as well as the overall cost to the organization. As an executive coach for many years I have worked with many executives who have been terrorized by their “bosses” and often left the organization as the “boss” was unwilling to change. The cost for the organization with a “boss” that terrorizes is high, there is lost productivity, more mistakes, and low morale of the whole team being abused, rehiring and training the people who have left, and then without the”boss” changing his/her behavior the whole cycle will repeat itself with the new people hired. The description you have written describes the pattern perfectly in my own experience as an employee as well as I have worked for several terrorists. The worst “boss” was almost 20 years ago, when behind closed doors the CEO would scream in my face 2 inches away and threaten me, however in public was the charmer that everyone liked. When I left the organization no one could understand why and thought there must be something wrong with me. I would have loved a system to be able to work through the issue and not go through such an unpleasant experience. I appreciate that Goldzone has created a terrorist free environment to foster creativity, synergy, passion, and team spirit.

  5. Starr

    Oh yes, I totally relate to this article. Im one of those stone faced, smiley people who are numbed to feelings, bulldozing through things and creating chaos around me… a terrorist in the workplace… an awful position to take and a destructive way to behave. The impact on others is horrendous.

  6. Rowena

    Hmmm this is very thought provoking – reminds me of a few people I know! I thought it interesting how this behaviour parallels with the Terrorists we see on the news.

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