9 Ways to Handle the
by Toni Lynn Chinoy
every person has experienced the debilitating effects of engaging with a bully. There are many reasons you
cannot allow it to continue.
controlling, abusive people generally continue to be bad, no matter what rules are in place.
also tend to make decisions which reflect their lack of respect for the rules. This can be dangerous for the
organization and is often how corrupt choices get made. How many times did the executives of Enron assume that
they were the rule makers?
they get away with it?
many reasons tough personalities are allowed to take an organization down destructive paths. Often they have the
rank and others are reticent to take them on because it might seem disrespectful to do so.
there is the perception that any questioning of the Bully's right to rule will end in a difficult and fruitless
confrontation. Individuals will often determine that little progress will be made and, as a result, choose not
to initiate the confrontation.
when the Bully is not the highest ranking person, others wait for their ranking Leader to take on the Bully and
contain his or her behavior. In this circumstance, you will often hear the others complain about how ineffective
their leader is in addressing this issue.
often forgotten, amid all the excuses, is that allowing a Bully to get his or her way usually causes the problem
to escalate over time. The Bully is reinforced for bad behavior and the style of forcing others to his or her
will through obnoxious, disrespectful conduct, becomes habit.
an assumption that you must be clever rather than forceful. If the situation is already out of control, you may
be dealing with a personality much more comfortable with street fighting behavior than you are. Never attempt to
arm wrestle with a Gorilla.
that you have decided that it is time to take on this "bad boy" or "bad girl", there are some general rules
which will be very helpful.
Rule: Stick to the issue at hand. The most effective way Bullies manipulate others is by diverting any
discussion away from the issue to something divisive and insulting to you. Calmly bring the discussion back
repeatedly to the issue you would like addressed.
Rule: Stick to the principles and values you believe in. A key to managing a Bully over time is to strongly and
consistently assert your sense of right and wrong at the most basic level. The more they assume that you are
weak regarding what you believe in, the more they will press into your boundaries.
Rule: Have a vision for the outcome for any and every issue. If you know where you want to go, and why, you
leave the Bully less room to maneuver.
Rule: Make the right things easy. Make the wrong things difficult.
Example: "I am sure that you too agree that we do not want to do something that would make us look like we were
taking advantage of the organization's current weakness!" This kind of statement makes it difficult for the Bully
not to do the right thing. Bullies like to think that no one sees them when they are being really bad. If you make
a statement that states what "bad" is, you have just made them visible.
Rule: Don't give away your power. Whining about how bad it is, is giving away your power. If you are the victim,
the first and most difficult thing to recognize is that it is not the bully who must change. He or she is less
likely to change than you are.
Rule: Never underestimate how "low" the Bully is prepared to go. Do not be surprised or become emotional. That
is naive. You will lose ground when you get caught up in "how dare he?" He dares. Expect it!
Rule: Never allow anyone to hold you hostage because of his or her power or knowledge or influence. The bully
will escalate his or her ability to frustrate you the minute you back off. Be prepared to risk it all, early. He
or she will rarely take you up on it.
Rule: Take on the behavior early, not late. Be ready to be firm, not ugly in order to move through an issue.
Bullies are cowards. Did you ever know a truly confident person who had to bully others to get his or her
Rule: Strong personalities hate weakness. Bullies bully because they can. If you are a victim, the bully is a
reflection of your insecurities. Sometimes, otherwise nice people, turn into bullies when they are turned off by
a person's weak or needy behavior.
Chinoy has written multiple texts on leadership, bullies, power games and more. She is the founder of
Harlan-Evans, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in effective organizational change and coaches senior leaders on
how to respond to crisis. Her book, Handling Critical Moments with Grace which takes the reader through many
examples of how to handle critical, life defining moments with GRACE, can be found, along with her other books
on the Harlan-Evans, Inc. web site leadership books.