Workplace Bullies: Sign Up for Bully-Proof Insurance. You’ve Never Heard of “Bully-Proof Insurance?” Read on…
If you have experienced workplace bullies as a target, you know how difficult it is to respond to a bully’s criticism. Your first response is not necessarily the best one. You may be more emotional than you want to be, or you may not have all the facts you want in front of you to adequately respond.
Instead of trying to craft a response when you’re on the spot, why not carry bully-proof insurance? While you can’t buy it, you can learn to respond to workplace bullies so that you can have some breathing room, much like car insurance gives a driver a financial cushion.
Your bully proof insurance comes in three parts. Part one: Expect an attack. Part two: Know some ready-made responses. Part three: Practice your responses ahead of time before the pressure is on.
Part One: Expect an Attack
Workplace Bullies are good at manipulating a relationship. They can be charming for a while—then strike when you let your guard down. Recognize the bully for who she is. Expect the bully to attack and ABR (Always Be Ready).
Remember, the bully only has her own interests at heart. She’s not interested in a relationship of equals. She wants power. When you accept a rationalization for her behavior or get emotional and argue with her, she has won. Instead of excusing her behavior or allowing her to engage you, proceed to part two.
Part Two: Know Some Bully-Proof Responses
Train yourself to listen critically to a bully. When you hear the words of her attack—usually couched as criticism, blame or self-justification—fall back on your response. Very simply, excuse yourself with one of the following bully-proof responses and walk away.
- Excuse me, I have a meeting to go to.
- I have something I have to attend to. I’ll get back with you later.
- Pardon me, I was just heading out. Can we talk tomorrow?
- Let’s talk later (this afternoon). I have some thing that can’t wait.
- (non-defensively) Do you think so? Maybe you’re right.
- I don’t agree, but I’m sure we can talk about this another time.
Part Three: Practice Your Responses
Left up to chance, it’s likely that you’ll fall into the bully’s trap. That is, you’ll take the bully on before you’re ready because it’s natural to respond to a comment or question with an answer.
Athletes know that the key to being ready is practice, practice, practice. You can also adopt that strategy when dealing with a bully. Here’s how:
- Decide on your bully-proof responses, the ones you’ll find easiest to say. Choose ones from the list above or invent your own.
- Imagine a situation in which the bully attacks. Say your response out loud.
- Repeat with another situation. Again, say your response out loud.
- Write out the response five times. The next day, write it out ten times.
- Practice every day at the same time.
Your goal is to make the response automatic, something you don’t have to think about. This is one time that thinking will get you in trouble. Instead, you want to respond before you think.
After you have had a chance to cool off, you can approach the bully. You are calm and can deal with the bully’s complaint. Now you have the upper hand. Your bully-proof insurance has paid off.
Valerie Cade, Founder
Bully Free at Work