Appreciating your Business Bullies
When confronted with a business bully, do you fight or flee?
Something happened this week that left me really bothered. I should note that there is a good chance the subject will read this posting, but I won’t be silenced by fear.
What started off as a collaborative conversation, quickly turned ugly. After a few minutes of friendly conversation, I found myself holding the receiver to my ear while I listened to the other party raise their voice from urgent to outright yelling in my ear. I couldn’t get a word in, and I felt myself getting angry that I was unable to participate in the one-sided conversation.
As my client veered off into a raging litany of subjects unrelated to what we really needed to discuss, I made the decision to take a deep breath, cut off the ranting and give the client a full refund.
After the call, I felt deflated. I felt tired. I felt emotionally hacked. I felt bullied.
This wasn’t the first time I dealt with a business bully. The first time was in 2000 when I was a department manager at a big box retailer. That bully came in the form of a 6-foot-4 man whose special ordered CD had not yet arrived. From the sales floor, I could hear his booming voice berating one of my staff. I walked over to take control of the situation and pull the gentleman into an area where we could have a private – and hopefully calmer – conversation.
We moved to the hallway outside the office I shared with my fellow department managers and my store manager. For the next 10 minutes, I was subjected to a misogynistic attack and called foul names, all shouted into my face from the man standing in 3 feet in front of me. While my fellow managers listened to the whole tirade from the other side of the windowed, wooden door.
About halfway through the verbal bashing, I stopped listening. All I could focus on was the finger pointed in my face and the very large fist it was attached to.
I suddenly found myself deathly afraid of this man, realizing his massive hands could easily wrap around my neck and squeeze. I simply stood there, shaking and praying that the three other mangers inside that office would come help me. Not one did. When the man finally walked away, unhappy, disgusted and swearing, I went to the bathroom and cried for almost half an hour. I returned to the office, and not one of my colleagues could look me in the eye. I left in the middle of my shift and started looking for a new job that evening.
Being bullied by customers and clients happens every day. Online, in real life, in the office.
Business bullies will make you question your integrity. They will make you look at your colleagues in a different light. They will make you feel stupid and little and afraid. That day in 2000, I learned that business bullies have something to teach us. You can learn from the attacks, the foul language, the yelling and cajoling. You have the power to choose to walk away or hang up the phone. My business bullies give me the opportunity to examine my process and decipher where things might have gone wrong. They enable me to work better, be nicer, and appreciate the clients who really matter. They show me that I won’t fight, I will flee.
And I’m okay with that.