What Are Backup Styles and How to Avoid Them

By Darrell Hammond, November 21, 2017

Have you ever struggled to keep your cool when team members or attendees on-site respond unfavorably to you? If this is happening frequently, you may be going through a sour season. This causes you to act in what I like to call a backup style: a negative, often subconscious reaction to when we run out of energy, patience or feel like something is not worth it. When people revert to a backup style, it prevents them from being their best professionally or at home.

Let’s explore one study’s perspective of backup styles. Researchers at Professional DynaMetric Programs, alongside leading behavioral scientists, sought critical scientific research from working adults about how people respond in situations and seasons when energy and patience are low.

The study found that when people are tired, stressed and energy is depleted, we become irritable and irrational. Operating through a lens of one or more backup styles prevents people from reacting, responding or performing in the way we should.

When challenged with keeping your cool and maintaining a high performance in the face of stress and depletion, the goal should be to avoid being overtaken by one of your backup styles. Have you ever caught yourself reverting to one of the following?

The Dictatorial Steamroller

When all else fails, you begin to overpower others with force, a disregard of feelings or by barking orders.

The Verbal Attacker

You give exhaustive explanations if you feel cornered, ignored, unappreciated or undervalued. Extreme responses include interrupting, talking too much, overpowering with persuasion and launching verbal attacks.

The Conflict-Avoider

Not only do you ignore conflict, you have a get-you-later attitude. The danger is by bottling your emotions up, you risk reaching a bursting point, unloading on peers and burning bridges.

The Know-It-All

You silently collect the proof and bury everyone with facts. In extreme circumstances, you might show inflexibility with words and body language, become alarmed with what might go wrong, or hinder and/or stop workflow.

Preventative Measures

Reverting to any of these backup styles can emote all kinds of bad juju to those around you. Being mindful, alert, and open to direct and indirect feedback can help you know when you might be demonstrating one or more of these styles. Taking part in active performance coaching can help you learn, grow and recover from these outbursts and reactions to prevent personal and/or professional derailment.


Darrell Hammond Backup StylesFounder and executive coach at Higher Ground Consulting, Darrell Hammond’s 30 years in human resources led him to serve many years in executive positions. He has more than 15 years of experience as a master trainer and executive coach, and is known for his high energy, humor, analogies and straight-talking style. Hammond completed a degree in business management and traveled around the world playing exhibition basketball (won a silver medal for Team USA), keynote speaking and providing custom training.

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