If you are in a law firm, this person may bring in the most lucrative accounts. If you work in a hospital or clinic, this may be a surgeon who brings a lot of high cost cases to your operating rooms. If you are in insurance or financial services, this person may be super productive in bringing in new clients. If you’re in real estate, this person may be among the top sales people month after month. If you are employed at a college or university, this person could even be the president who is full of ideas and plans.
Professional Bullies can be found in dental offices, in the board rooms of corporations, on city councils, and even in non-profit organizations. They can be found in manufacturing, in drug research, in publishing, and in government. They are often productive and seem focused on the organization’s “bottom line.”
The only problem with these Professional Bullies is that they treat other people in the organization with disrespect—making outrageous demands on assistants or nurses, for example, verbally abusing or belittling those they supervise, and flatly rejecting any suggestion that they might consider modifying their behavior. They create toxic environments and can make everyone else quite miserable. When a Professional Bully takes over, morale sinks.
What is the most emotionally intelligent course of action when you realize you have a Professional Bully in your organization?
A. Avoid this person whenever possible, and keep your mouth shut whenever the bully is in your environment.
B. Complain and commiserate with other employees to feel that you are not alone in realizing that this person is a bully.
C. Take your case against the bully to your boss or to the HR department.
D. Stand up to the bully when he/she treats you or another person with blatant disrespect.
Answer: The most emotionally intelligent answer is D: Stand up to the Bully!
The Professional Bully is actually a type we’ve all known at some time in our past. The Professional Bully is simply a bully—possibly a smart, hardworking, driven, and productive person—but a bully nevertheless. And the proven best way of dealing with a bully is to speak up when the bullying begins—whether the bully is on the playground or inhabits your office environment.
It is your silence that makes you complicit in the bullying, and it is your silence that allows the bully to continue treating other people with disrespect. It takes courage to confront a bully because he or she seems to have an uncanny power to make other people remain silent, to look away, even to laugh at the bully’s victims. In addition, the Professional Bully can point to his or her financial successes to ward off criticism and keep people in line.
But the benefits that the Professional Bully brings to the organization in terms of clients and money is outweighed by the negatives—damage to the morale and resonance of the organization. This is the truth that needs to be spoken.
Standing up to a bully takes considerable emotional intelligence:
· First you need strong awareness of the self, of what you are feeling and why: This manager is being abusive, and I feel angry!
· You will also need to tap into your self-managementskills: I’m able to anticipate this bully’s out-of-control response, and I’m prepared to call a halt to this behavior.
· Your ability to be aware of the feelings ofothers and to use that awareness for a successful interaction with the bully will also be needed: I can see that you are really upset about how slow things seem to be going, but I can tell you that these staff members are working as hard as they can, and yelling at them is counterproductive for all of us.
· And finally, you will need to rely on your own resilience, your ability to maintain your own balance and equanimity even as the bully creates an atmosphere of terror and uncertainty in the workplace, causing people to remain silent or simply make an exit.
It’s not easy to stand up to a bully on the playground when you are ten years old, and it’s not easy when you face an executive bully when you are an adult, but in either case, if you remain silent, nothing will change. Developing emotional intelligence skills, such as greater self-awareness, self-management, awareness of others, interaction with others, and resilience can help you cope successfully with Professional Bully behaviors in your organization.