Bullying at Work: “Why?” “How?” “When?” — Use Questions to Challenge the Bully
You always have a choice when dealing with bullying at work. You can descend to his level and get emotional. Or you can plan a response that includes questions. Whenever the bully is answering your questions, he can’t think of his own.
Questions are a powerful tool in responding to bullying at work. Watch any crime drama on television and you’ll get a clue about how effective questions can be. We have all seen this scene on television a hundred times: When the police have a suspect, the suspect sits “in the hot seat” across from the police detective. The detective asks:
- How well did you know the victim?
- Where were you on the night of (the crime)?
- Who were you with?
- Who can back up your story?
- Why were you there?
- What were you doing?
And on, until the person being questioned either breaks down, or the detective has to let the suspect go.
Why are questions so powerful?
They establish who is in power, and they give the questioner an opportunity to clarify the situation.
A bully puts his target in the “hot seat” when he criticizes his target. If you want to regain your power, learn from the detective. Turn the tables on the bully and use questions to regain control.
First, set the tone:
- Be calm and direct.
- Listen carefully to his responses. They will give you clues about what to ask next.
- Look him in the eye. Don’t let him back down.
- Ask more questions if he falters.
- Why do you think that?
- What would result if we did that?
- What effect would that have?
- How do you think things would be different?
- When do you propose we start?
- Who should be involved?
- What should happen if this approach fails?
Wear the bully out with your questions. Better yet—like the detective—wear him down. You’ll soon learn how effective questions can be in responding to bullying at work.
Valerie Cade, Founder
Bully Free at Work