Many of us have been taught to ignore putdowns. It’s considered morally superior to rise above them. That’s a big mistake. Respond quickly when someone attacks you.
For example, Sybil continually put down her peer, Henry, in private and public. Each demeaning comment might have been mere insensitivity. But taken together they represented a hostile pattern.
To read the rest of this article from the Philadelphia Business Journal, see: When insulted by a co-worker, don’t turn the other cheek http://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/stories/2008/08/11/smallb3.html
Sybil harassed and abused Henry in meetings, in front of the bosses and in the hallways. Henry tried to defend himself against her negativity with facts, logic and excuses. But he never mentioned the obvious hostility in her attacks. His arguments didn’t stop her. He felt defeated and gave into despair.
Henry obsessed on her demeaning comments. He continually complained to co-workers, family and friends. Then, he’d be angry at himself for getting enraged. He wished he could let Sybil’s cracks roll off his back. He didn’t know how to make her stop bullying.
I convinced Henry he was taking the wrong approach. He shouldn’t ignore Sybil’s assaults. By allowing her to continue whacking him verbally, his confidence, self-esteem and credibility were undermined. His staff saw him as likeable but weak.
Henry had some common, self-imposed rules that keep him from acting:
- “It’s just the way she is. I should forgive her. Since I can’t change her, I can’t do anything.”
- “The nicest, most reasonable people should tolerate bad behavior, rather than ask the most difficult, hostile person to change.”
- “If I’m nice and reasonable, people will respect me and change.”
- “If I’m angry, if I can’t think of the perfect, polite way of acting, I shouldn’t do anything.”
Henry believed in the Golden Rule. His psychological explanations for Sybil’s narcissistic behavior also kept him from acting. He decided she was simply jealous of him and thought he should forgive her.
I disagree: Just because someone was a victim when they were young or feels hurt now, doesn’t give them a free pass to hurt other people.
- When he stopped taking the attacks personally, he stopped obsessing and began planning effective responses.
- He acknowledged that he should have responded rapidly to Sybil’s initial attacks. The more he allowed them to pass by unchallenged, the more bold she became.
- He committed to protecting himself. He’d had enough and it was time to say, “No!” And he promised himself that if his first tactics didn’t succeed, he wouldn’t go back on his commitment. He’d simply try different tactics.
So what did Henry do? He tried an escalating set of responses, increasing in firmness at each new step. When he got far enough up the staircase of firmness, Sybil finally showed him what was enough. She stopped. The rest of their team now saw Henry as strong and smart. Their respect for him increased
Don’t be a Henry and ignore insults outwardly, while they tear you up inside. Don’t be a conflict avoidant manager. Immediately, counter any attacks from the Sybils in your life. Use Henry’s method of escalating firmness to stop bullies.
Learn what you can do to eliminate the high cost of low attitudes, behavior and performance.