Beverly Smallwood

Article Summary:

How to deal with a bully at work - or in any other aspect of your life!

Dealing with a Bully At Work

I've just read Sam Horn's new book, "Take the Bully by the Horns: Stop Unethical, Uncooperative, or Unpleasant People from Running and Ruining Your Life." I'm excited about this new resource for those of you who want to do just that.
Sam shows readers how to defuse difficult people in both their work and home life. She gives lots of real-life strategies that show you how to do such things as:

  1. refuse to play the blame-shame game;
  2. protect yourself from petty tyrants;
  3. convince unkind co-workers, customers, or relatives to stop bothering you.

I want to zero in on one chapter of "Take the Bully... ", entitled "Police Your Puh-lease" because, from your communications with me, I believe that many of my readers are paying "the price of nice." You want to keep everyone happy (lotsa luck) and you want people to like and approve of you. In fact, if someone doesn't like you, you're likely to search for what you "did wrong" and adapt to try to get back in the other person's good graces. (See yourself? I do. Read on.)

Bullies, who come in both aggressive and more manipulative styles, gravitate to pleasers. They need people to control, and pleasers fulfill that role well. If you seem to attract these people in your work life or your personal life, here are some practical strategies to help you maintain a healthy balance... putting responsibility where it belongs, and respecting your own rights while respecting the desires of others.

1. Recognize that you can't please everybody all the time.
Winston Churchill said, "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile - hoping it will eat him last."
Realize that you will never please a bully. Bullies are invested in keeping up the cycle of your never obtaining approval and therefore working harder to get it. Through their aloofness or aggressiveness, they maintain control. Don't get caught up in "keeping the please."

2. Evaluate who you're trying to please and why.
The next time you are about to say yes to a request or give in to a demand, ask yourself these questions. Am I doing this because...

  1. I owe this person a favor and it's a fair exchange?
  2. It's a tangible expression of my love or respect for this person?
  3. It's my job and I'm required to do it?
  4. I really want to do it? I'm doing it willingly and without coercion?
  5. I'm trying to buy this person's approval?
  6. I don't want this person to get mad at me?
  7. I have a sense of obligation and feel I should say yes?
  8. I don't know how to say no?
  9. I don't want to hurt this person's feelings?
  10. I'm afraid this person will cause a scene if I don't give in?
  11. I habitually agree to do what people want?
  12. I don't have the strength, clarity, or courage to not go along?
3. Learn how to respectfully refuse; gain some "no" power.
  1. Take time to make your decision.
    Tell the person you need to think it over. Get away from the person, giving yourself some space so you can get perspective and determine if saying yes is in your best interest.


  2. Review this person's rights/needs seesaw history.
    Are you the one who habitually gives in this relationship? Is this individual typically over the top with requests and demands?
  3. Determine if saying no is what's required to keep a balance of power.
    Understand that it's your responsibility (not the other person's) to see that your needs are met and your rights respected. It's time to refuse this request if the pattern is that you are always the "down" in a "one up, one down" relationship.
  4. Keep it brief or they'll give you grief.
    Be succinct in your refusal. Go into a long-winded explanation of the why's of your refusal and you simply give them more ammunition to shoot down your answer.
  5. Don't get drawn into debating your position.
    Manipulators will try to make you feel bad for refusing their requests. Simply repeat what you have said and don't get drawn into defending your positions. Remember Mark Twain's wise observation: "It is easier to stay out than to get out."

Beverly Smallwood is a licensed psychologist who has worked with Fortune 500, healthcare, and other organizations around the world for over 20 years. Her specialties are leadership development, employee retention, and personal resilience. She's often featured in such national media as MSNBC, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, FOX, and New York Times. To contact her about speaking, consulting, or coaching, call 877-CAN LEAD (226-5323) or visit her website Magnetic Places, where you can also sign up for her free email newsletter.

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