The Bully in the Corner Office

It isn’t rocket science to realize that people who bully their way through their childhood and in their personal life will bring these same techniques to work.  Dealing with a bully takes a good deal of emotional intelligence and a lot of inner strength.  You have to have a healthy amount of self-regard, assertiveness, impulse control, optimism and emotional self-awareness to weather the storm of an office bully.

In the book, Bullies, Tyrants and Impossible People:  How to Beat Them Without Joining Them, the authors, Ronald M. Shapiro and Mark Jankowski, outline strategies for dealing with people who make others miserable.  These strategies have one thing in common for your success—keep cool.  The authors stress that bullies act in ways to cause us to react—thus losing our cool.  Reacting can sometimes mean losing control of the situation and ourselves. 

While you can’t control the emotions or actions of a bully, you can try to control the encounter.  It is imperative in any run-in that you make a solid connection with him/her.  Establish eye contact, use the person’s name, and pay attention to what s/he is saying.  Good listening allows you to slow yourself down, open your mind to opposing views and rather than blurting out what comes to mind, you reflect before you speak. 

Another way to control the encounter is to use empathy.  You may be able to begin to diffuse the situation by a carefully worded “I can see why you would think that.”  Your job then is to introduce ideas that make the bully feel as if s/he has the freedom to select from possibilities to solve the problem.  This makes the bully feel like s/he is still in control.

However, when you are under attack stay focused on the issue at hand.  Ask a question.  Take a breath of air.  Relax as much as you can.  But most importantly, switch the tape in your head from “Why me?” to “I can handle this situation” or “I’m good at what I do so I will figure this out.” Affirming statements in your mind can help you regain confidence in your voice and manner.

Lastly, learn from the bully.  Yes, you can take something away from an ugly encounter—how not to treat others—and instead work to build trusting relationships.