HOW TO HANDLE THE OFFICE BULLY OR INTIMIDATING CLIENT AND APPEAR CONFIDENT

How do you appear confident and in control when the office bully or the intimidating client gets to you? Setting boundaries can help you to manage them whether it’s a boss, or just the nasty girl in the sales department. 

The Harvey Weinstein allegations in Hollywood has thrown a rather unpleasant look at intimidation and sexual abuse in the workplace. 

If something doesn’t feel right (e.g. you don’t like the vibe that someone is giving you) trust your instincts. YOU KNOW WHAT DOESN’T FEEL RIGHT.

Trust your instincts around the office bully, and if you feel uncomfortable – TELL SOMEONE.

Office bullying is not acceptable, and you don’t have to put up with unacceptable behaviour. If someone is making you miserable, you don’t HAVE TO STAY in the job, you can find another one, and you will be happier. 

The working world can be a minefield of egos, and people that we wouldn’t normally choose to associate with. Spending 40+ hours with someone that makes us feel uncomfortable or uneasy is tricky, particularly when they’re the boss!

Now I’m all for you being your own boss, and escaping the 9-5, but I also realise that it’s also a case of doing the day job to make the side job fly.

If you have to spend time with this person alone, try and see if you can get someone to go with you to the event or thing. I once refused to go to cover a conference with the office sleaze who had a reputation for bringing prostitutes to his hotel rooms while we were away working on a story! I complained about his behaviour, and he made my life very uncomfortable and I eventually moved offices.

That awful sleaze is probably the reason that I found personal development in the first place in 2005 because he made my life so uncomfortable. I learned how to manage my reaction to the situation. 

My boss would sometimes kick the rubbish bin down the entire length of the office at Classic FM. He was a very unpleasant man to many of my colleagues, but I never allowed him to bully me… I’d learned my lesson at school.  

HOW THE BULLIES AFFECTED ME:

I encountered my first bully when I was 11 years old. I’d just arrived at a boarding school, and was incredibly homesick.

I was a very sweet, and shy person, and incredibly intimidated by many people. Life at a boarding school was an incredible culture shock for an introvert like me, and I was thrust into dealing with situations that I was utterly ill-equipped to deal with.

The bully had her own issues going on, and today she would most likely be excluded and sent to a school for kids with behavioural issues. 

Thirty years ago, her parents shipped her off to boarding school, and left it to a bunch of 11-year old girls – her “dorm” mates – to deal with the consequences. 

Most of the time, I was on the receiving end of her abuse, and I was left to deal with the consequences. She would mentally abuse me on a daily basis. If she ate the food addictive E102 (also known as monosodium glutamate) it would trigger a violent rage, and then she would attack me. 

Often she would go to the shops and deliberately buy sweets with E102 to have an excuse to beat me up. On those occasions, she was just waiting to beat me up… She pulled me off the top bunk bed by my foot when I was hiding from her – I landed on my back and I was so badly winded I couldn’t move. She once strangled me (another girl had to pull her off me when I couldn’t breathe and was so red in the face with bruises around my neck). She punched me several times and verbally abused me on a regular basis.

I had no escape route, this was a daily occurrence for the next 5 years, and there was no “home” to escape to – this was my home. 

I spent my whole time treading on eggshells, and in fear of being beaten up, and abused. My only escape was getting on a plane after 3 months, and flying home to my parents who lived in Cyprus. 

RELEASE MY INNER B!*@H: 

My first proper job out of university was at a radio station in Nottingham. I was in my early 20s, shy, and overweight.

I had spent much of my teenage years learning that the only way to survive was to be sweet and and polite to everyone, and hopefully everyone would be nice back.

I soon realised that not everyone was sweet back, but I didn’t know how to stand my ground, and still be professional. 

I had to learn to release my inner b!*@h. 

Rae and I worked together in the copywriting department, and she encouraged me to stop being sweet to everyone – and release my inner bitch. 

She didn’t mean to be bitchy to people, but she did encourage me to say what I thought. Rae was the first friend that I could be truly honest with – to this day I can say, “Shut up Rae,” which I would NEVER EVER say to anyone else.

She taught me to vocalise my feelings, and express whether I was happy, sad, lonely or frustrated and how I wanted things to change. 

Rae and I also worked together, and I learned that it was okay to express my emotions, and actually say how I felt.

In this safe friendship I learned how to professionally manoeuvre difficult people in the office, and negotiate around them, but I also learned to STAND UP FOR MYSELF PROFESSIONALLY…. which she liked to call: RELEASE YOUR INNER B!*@H.

I see it now with my clients, and encourage them to release their inner bitch in the workplace to ensure that they politely and firmly are not taken advantage of. 

OFFICE POLITICS: 

Remember that BULLYING is NOT ACCEPTABLE in the workplace, and you don’t have to put up with it. 

The trick is to set some parameters of acceptable speech, and if they cross the line, you have to subtly tell them they were being unpleasant.

Speaking with a calm confidence and looking them directly in the eye can be very intimidating for the bully, because very often the bully is using you to claim some power that they are missing from somewhere in their life. 

PRACTICE SAYING WHEN A SITUATION IS UNACCEPTABLE

I see this now with my two year old son. He’s shy, and gentle and lets the other kids take his toys. 

If another child pushes him over, I have just taught him the words to say: “No, I don’t like it.”

Yesterday we were at the zoo, and it was very busy, and a man was pushing and squashing him in his enthusiasm to show his daughter the tigers. I didn’t realise how much he was hurting Ben until he told me afterwards.

We had a conversation, where I said if someone hurts you or it feels uncomfortable, you say: “OWWWW, that hurts.”

This morning when I picked him out of his cot, his first words to me were, “OWWW, that hurts. That man hurt me.”

Unless we LEARN to voice our unease in a situation, and stand up for ourselves, no one is going to stand up for us. 

What parameters can you set for your boss or the person who intimidates you? 

It took me a long time to learn how to stand up for myself, but these are few tips that I’ve learned. 

  • Stand tall
  • Your body language matters – have your shoulders back.
  • Look someone in the eye
  • Smile, it can disarm them
  • Remember to breathe. 
  • You can choose how you react the the situation – you can choose to be intimidated by them, or you can choose to find a different way of seeing the situation. It’s hard to do this when you’re in the midst of the moment, so practice keeping calm and breathing deeply (see my post on body language). 

For more on this, check out my next post which is all about CONFIDENCE, and how to APPEAR CONFIDENT WHEN YOU’RE INTIMIDATED.