Stop Bullies and Jerks At Work With This One Question

The bullies and jerks at work are people who are running scared. They attack and try to keep you off balance so that you don’t notice that they are off balance and insecure as all hell. They are wounded and they don’t understand it or why they feel the way they do.

It is not your job to fix them but it is your job to set your own boundaries (think of boundaries as STOP signs) and standards of how you choose to be treated and how you will treat others. It is also your job to respectfully call out those who do violate your boundaries and standards. But be careful here. Do it according to your own values and standards of civility. The jerks and bullies gain power and momentum when they trigger you and you respond just like them. You might feel entitled to lash out because people like this have shown complete disregard for your values. But all you do when you react instead of respond is let the jerks win the day.

The most effective leaders practice and exercise self-management. They know what triggers them and who triggers them (self-awareness) and they have well-developed ways to neutralize the trigger so that they can respond from a place of balance. (self-management) Their measured responses teach the bully and others present how things should be done.

Try this. Approach with genuine curiosity and the desire to inform and correct, not slam back.

Next time someone is being a jerk to you or someone else, respond right away (don’t wait or let it go on because it builds strength). Simply ask in a strong and balanced voice “Excuse me, but do you hear how hostile and degrading your words and tone of voice are right now?”

Wait for them to answer.

If they don’t answer, follow up with, “Seriously, I am genuinely asking you, can you hear it?”

Wait for them to answer. 

If the answer is “No” then say what is true for you. Something like, “Well you’re being harsh and using language like (insert language) that is insulting and it is impossible to hear anything constructive in your message. I would appreciate you taking that language and tone out of it and tell me what you are really trying to say.”

If they answer “Yes” then ask for the same thing. Something like, “Good. Please stop it. I am willing to hear what you have to say but I need you to say it with respect.”

The reason bullying and being a jerk at work is getting to be an epidemic is because those who act this way spur our anger or embarrassment or whatever and we go into defensive mode. The second this happens we have lost our power and influence and most important, our ability to stop the behavior.

Whoever has the strongest momentum wins. Shift the momentum to respect with your response and behavior and the jerks and bullies lose their power.

Sheila Madden is CEO of Madden Coaching & Consulting. If you like this blog and want to receive more like it, please sign up on the right of this page.
Copyright 2017, Sheila Madden. All Rights Reserved.