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Bullies in Business & Reader Response to Obama’s Prize


I guess the warning I put on my last post and e-mail didn't work; tons of people read anyway and boy, my inbox practically burst in to flames, starting on Friday and going on in to the weekend.

Surprisingly, it was NOT full of nastygrams at all; it was mostly readers agreeing or their opinions on the matter.

There were one or two people who vehemently disagreed with me but, from the tone and content of those messages, it seems that it wasn't my position they didn't like; it was the fact that I questioned Our Fearless Leader (OFL) in the first place.

Yes – one person even busted out the "R" word – as in racist.

You know you are doing a good job when your detractors revert to name-calling.  Keep those love letters coming.

Which brings me to today's topic of: Bullies in Business.

Last week, I was talking with my accountant about end of year tax planning, along with strategies for next year, when he stopped the conversation and asked me for some help.

He told me that right before I called, he had been on a phone consultation with a client that had not gone well.

In fact, by the end of the call, he told me that there was yelling involved, along with accusations and threats of legal action.

Apparently, this client got my CPA on the phone under the assumption that she needed some advice and strategy with a business transaction; during the call she started off very friendly, but then started to disagree and tell the CPA why he was wrong and she couldn't do what he was advising.

Which led to "The Ambush".  That is when the bully starts off friendly to put you at ease, then launches a surprise attack when he senses your defenses are down.

The Ambush was when the client handed off the phone to her husband, who proceeded to rip in to the CPA about his fees, his business practices, how he should be ashamed of what he charges and how he is taking advantage of his wife and so on.

Not only was he challenging the CPA, he was doing what we used to call in the Marines, "speaking in a loud tone" – also known as yelling.

My CPA told me that he tried to remain calm during the call, but his heart was racing and he was getting madder and madder the more this guy was yelling and accusing him of things that weren't true.

In the end, my CPA stuck to his guns and told the client's husband that if he and the client were not happy with his services, the would be happy to meet with them to negotiate something to keep all parties happy.  Then, he ended the call.

He asked me, "What do you do when you are in a situation like that?  I didn't want to offend him, but at the same time, I didn't think it was right to be spoken to in the manner.  I also don't want to lose the client because in this business environment, every client is crucial.  How do you deal with this?"

I told him that it was a great question and the situation he found himself in was not unusual for people in business.

I congratulated him for handling the situation as well as he did – and then I shared with him some tips.

The first tip I told him was that it was perfectly normal to get upset, have your heart start to race and get upset when in a confrontational situation.  It is what happens to your body when subjected to stress and to never judge himself for feeling that way.

I shared with him that when ambushed like that, you have to act like I was taught in the Marines and in the martial arts – you have to charge right at the attacking parties.

When you are caught in an ambush, the enemy has laid a trap and you have walked in to it.  If you stay in what is called the "Kill Zone" – the center of the target area – you are well and truly done for.  The only way you have a chance is to get out of the zone and attack head-on.

In this situation, that would have meant stoppng the conversation immediately – right in its tracks – and letting the other party know that speaking to you in that manner was unacceptable and, if they wanted to continue the conversation, it was going to have to be in a different tone.

After you have done that, if the behavior continues, you remove yourself from the situation entirely.  I like to use what I call "The Happy Strategy".

The Happy Strategy is when I say something along the lines of, "I can tell you are unhappy and that is part of the reason you are talking to me this way.  I am a happy person and only deal with people who are happy; since you are unhappy, I am going to end this conversation. When you are happy again and can converse in a normal manner, feel free to call me back."

Then I get off the phone.

This brings me to the last point I helped him with – and this one is the most important.

One of the only reasons he stayed on the call as long as he did and allow the other party to "beat him up" was out of fear of losing the client's business.

Fear was calling the shots – not the CPA.

I told him that if you removed the fear of losing the client and their money – and replaced it with the belief that both himself and his business would be better off without clients with that kind of energy, AND that he would replace that client with a NEW one that behaved properly and would happily pay his fees, the entire situation would lose all of the negative energy and stress.

I told him that I have a rule in business that I never do business with people like that; at the first sign of that kind of behavior, that client is fired.  Immediately.  No matter what the financial impact.

Why?  After almost twenty years in the retail service market, dealing with corporate politics and coaching adults from every socioeconomic background and profession, I can recognize problem children and bullies from a mile away.

And, just like bullies in school or on the playground, if you don't cut off the behavior at the first sign of trouble, it just grows and grows.

He thought about what I had said and started laughing. He told me that just thinking about calling the client back and firing them made him feel better.

Then he asked me if I had ever thought of putting my expertise and experience with people and the subject of bullying in to a program for businesspeople.  

He asked because he did podcasts for his clients and was interested in me recording with him, interviewing me and having me give advice and coaching to his clients.

I told him yes, I was working on that very project and was giving a talk called, "Bully Proof Business Skills" to a group of professionals this very week.

We agreed to do the recording and he agreed to let me share it with you.  I will let you know when you can go online and listen to it as soon as it is done.

Bullying isn't just something that happens at school.  It is a state of mind and set of behaviors that people use to get there way, especially in business.  The reason  people use bullying tactics is because they work; most people don't stand up for themselves and call the bullies on their behavior.

You can stop bullying in its tracks any time you want – if you have the courage to take back your power and stand up to the bully.

In business or your career, that means having the guts to stand up for yourself, even if it means losing a client or getting in trouble with your boss.

If you let fear run the show, you'll never stand up for yourself and the bullies will continue to act however they want to.

Take back your power, stand up for yourself, and don't let fear run the show.

Be Bully Proof – in business and in life.

To your best,

Sensei Harrison Huff

P.S. – My first program, "Bully Proof Kids" shares 9 Tips that parents can share with their kids to keep them Bully Proof and teach them what to do if they are the target of a bully.  You can pick it up at http://www.bully proofkids.com/index1.html.


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