The nondescript email flagged me down like a stranded motorist on a deserted highway.
“It could take at least an hour just to get through the background and resolving the problem.”
My curiosity snapped to attention. An hour? Must be a humdinger of a gnarly mess.
“I don’t know what to do, but I know I can’t punch her in the face.”
Holy Toledo! This is serious. I reached for the phone and punched in the number.
A wobbly voice picked up on the first ring. In less than sixty seconds, I was up to my ears in an episode of Bully Impossible.
For months this mild mannered, fun-loving, conflict-avoiding Ms. Type B had been savagely harassed by a Type A Pit Bull in Pearls over trivial office tidbits. To stop the blood thirsty beast, Ms. Type B had tried all flavors of apologizing, avoiding and attacking, but nothing worked. The assaults continued to escalate. Now, reeling from the latest snarling rampage and fresh out of ideas, Ms. Type B was wavering between collapsing in a nervous breakdown or serving up a knuckle sandwich.
Have you ever felt this way?
I’ve got good news. You can stop the bully without losing your face, your marbles or your cool. But I’m jumping ahead.
Let me share a little more of the story because I bet you’ve been caught in this same conundrum.
Seems Ms. Pit Bull had been the CEO’s administrative assistant until a corporate merger sent her boss packing. Rather than terminate her position, the company assigned Ms. Pit Bull to be a floater and help out wherever she was needed. That’s when Ms. Type A Pit Bull morphed into Bully Impossible.
The first time Ms. Pit Bull went into a snarling rage over some itty bitty snafu, the peace-loving, conflict-avoiding Ms. Type B apologized profusely for the imagined wrong. The apology was like waving a bloody bone under Ms. Pit Bull’s snout. She smelled an easy kill. She wanted more.
The second time Ms. Pit Bull attacked, Ms. Type B apologized again, but this time the apology only served to escalate the frenzied onslaught. Baffled by the failure of her apology to appease the beast, Ms. Type B began avoiding Ms. Pit Bull. Like a blood hound in hot pursuit of a tasty T-bone, Ms. Pit Bull continued sniff out every opportunity to pounce on Ms. Type B.
After a few months of this, feeling bewildered, beaten down and desperate, Ms. Type B finally fought back and then, as her gentle nature would dictate, she apologized for her attack. That is exactly what the power hungry, pugilistic Pit Bull wanted. A real fight and a surrender.
The attacks became even more vicious, frequent and public. Ms. Pit Bull began copying the top dogs on her overblown email accusations. It was at this point that Ms. Type B sent me the SOS.
Here’s the secret to stopping a Bully Impossible.
Bullies play for power and fighting is their sport of choice. They want to keep you off balance and on guard so the power shifts to them. They want to control your reaction.
Since bullies play for power, it was not surprising that Ms. Pit Bull morphed into Bully Impossible when she was re-assigned to a new job. Think about it. Ms. Pit Bull was used to being top dog. Now she was just another canine in a cubicle hunting for something to do. Without a permanent job assignment and the power and prestige of her previous position, she had to find another way to elevate her status in the pack. That’s when she went looking for a fight and fur started flying.
Ms. Type B’s reactions to the attacks – apologize, avoid, attack, apologize – gave Ms. Pit Bull exactly what she wanted. This led to the escalation of Ms. Pit Bull’s pugilistic shenanigans. Ms. Type B was unwittingly playing Ms. Pit Bull’s game.
To stop the bully, don’t choose to play the game. If there’s no game, the bully will get bored and move on.
Sidestep the fight, walk the high road and stay grounded. It’s as simple as that.
Seven Steps to Stop Bully Impossible
1. Be very factual, positive and professional in all of your communication no matter what. This decreases the chance that you may inadvertently give Bully Impossible another bone to chew on.
2. Stop attacking. When you attack, you justify Bully Impossible’s next attack.
3. Stop avoiding. When you avoid, you’re telling Bully Impossible that you are afraid and she has the power.
4. Stop apologizing or saying “I’m sorry.” That signals weakness and invites another attack.
5. Shift the focus away from nitpicky complaints and blaming onto larger, more important shared goals that you both can agree on. “Excellent service from our IT department is important to keep things running smoothly.”
6. Assume agreement about these common goals. “You and I both want IT problems to be addressed.”
7. Finally, when Bully Impossible lobs that next grenade your way, choose not to play. Just smile, say “No Thanks.” and go on about your business.
Want help dealing with a Bully Impossible? Give me a call.